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MLA Referencing - Citing an e-Book

MLA Referencing – Citing an e-Book

MLA referencing can seem confusing if you haven’t used it before, especially with the updates introduced in the eighth edition of the MLA Handbook. And referencing an e-book can be doubly baffling, as it depends on how you’ve accessed the book.

So to clear things up, we’re going to explain the basics of how to cite an e-book in an essay.

In-Text Citations

Citing an e-book is the easy bit, since this uses the same rules as citing any other source. To be specific, you need to give the author’s surname and a page number in parentheses:

Compared to other spirits, ghost cats are kind and well-meaning (Cox 146).

Spooky, but cute. (Photo: anyjazz65/flickr)
Spooky, but cute.
(Photo: anyjazz65/flickr)

If the author is named in the text, the page numbers are usually given in parentheses at the end of the sentence:

Cox says that it is better to ‘subtly patronise’ a cocky kitten than to mock it openly (155).

If you’re citing an e-book that has section or paragraph numbers instead of page numbers, you should use these in citations. If no numbering system is given, MLA does not require a pinpoint citation, but you might want to specify a chapter title for clarity:

Kittens can be led astray due to peer pressure (Cox ‘Advice for New Kitten Owners’).

Works Cited: Books Accessed via an e-Reader

In the ‘Works Cited’ list, e-books accessed via an e-reader are treated as specific editions of a book. As such, the details of the edition should be given after the title:

Surname, First Name(s). Title. Edition. Publisher, year.

The Kindle edition of the book cited above, for example, would be listed as:

Cox, Tom. The Good, The Bad & The Furry: Life with the World’s Most Melancholy Cat and Other Whiskery Friends. Kindle ed. Sphere, 2013.

If the book wasn’t downloaded for a specific device, it can be cited as a generic ‘E-book’.

Feeding kittens wine is not recommended.
Feeding kittens wine is not recommended.

Works Cited: Books Accessed Online

Some books are available online. These aren’t technically e-books, but you might still need to cite them in your work. If so, they should be listed with details of where they were found online, including a database (if applicable) and a DOI/URL:

Surname, First Name(s). Title. Publisher, year. Database, DOI/URL.

A date of access is not compulsory, but you may want to include one anyway (especially if your style guide suggests doing so). In practice, this would look something like this:

Ross, Charles H. The Book of Cats: A Chit-chat Chronicle of Feline Facts and Fancies, Legendary, Lyrical, Medical, Mirthful and Miscellaneous. Griffith & Farran, 1868. Project Gutenberg, Accessed 28 Feb. 2017.

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