Is there a need for page numbers in ebooks?
Ebooks are searchable, are hyperlinked, and have location numbers. Isn’t this enough? For the reading experience, we think it is. Most devices also show what percentage of the book has been read, and some even estimate how long it will take you to finish the book. Some people have noted that this does not take into account references and notes at the back of a book which is a fair comment, but isn’t this a small price to pay for the flexibility of being able to read the book your way? If a text is only available in ebook format, then we feel there really is no need for page numbers at all, but some colleagues noted that if a text is available in both pbook and ebook format and is used in an academic context, this could be problematic. For example, if a professor says “look at page 61”, students with an ebook version might be disadvantaged. We will be posting a future blog entry on how to use ebooks effectively in academic contexts, but the short response to this dilemma would be for the professor to simply read out part of the quotation or heading and students with the ebook version can refer to the same part of the text just as quickly by using the search function.
Are there devices and apps which allow publishers (or readers) to insert page numbers?
The short answer seems to be “no”. For a while some versions of Kindle ebooks contained page numbers which corresponded to the pbook. Contributors to the LinkedIn discussion and other groups seem to think that this was a feature only available for limited time and for limited texts. There seems to be no information on the Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing website for publishers on this matter. A group called ASI DTTF (American Society for Indexing Digital Trends Task Force) are working on a project to create “Smart Indexes” for ebooks. We will be keeping our eyes on these developments as these will greatly enhance an academic ebook.
How do you cite ebooks?
One of the main issues for academics is how to cite and reference an ebook text.
The official APA website and a related blog has some guidelines here:
Guidance is given on the MLA website here:
Purdue Online Writing Lab (our preferred resource when we have referencing queries http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/) gives the following instructions:
"...Use the following format if the book you are using is only provided in a digital format or is difficult to find in print. If the work is not directly available online or must be purchased, use "Available from," rather than "Retrieved from," and point readers to where they can find it. For books available in print form and electronic form, include the publish date in parentheses after the author's name. For references to e-book editions, be sure to include the type and version of e-book you are referencing (e.g., "[Kindle DX version]")."
To save academics the trouble of looking all of this up, ebooks could contain instructions for readers who wish to cite the work. Jo has just been involved in publishing an academic ebook for IATEFL and the editors include the following helpful statement about referencing in their introduction:
"How to reference this e-book: To give an ‘in-text’ reference to part of a chapter in this e-book (where there are no page numbers), you can paraphrase the selected part of text and avoid the need for a specific page reference. Alternatively, you can use the names of the major sections in which the cited text occurs, e.g., ‘… seeing them in terms of discourses of power and ideologies lets me acknowledge the heterogeneous nature of cultures and places agency strictly on the actors’ (Course, Lamb & Aoki, 2013, Part 2, Simla’s story continued, para. 8)."
So, the reference for the above article in the Kindle version of this ebook would be as follows in an APA reference list:
Course, S., Lamb, T., & Aoki, N. (2013). Action research: Promoting teacher/learner autonomy and improving praxis. In A. Barfield & N. Delgado Alvarado (Eds.), Autonomy in language learning: Stories of practices [Kindle version]. Canterbury, UK: IATEFL. Available from http://amazon.com.
We actually don't see any point writing "Available from..." in the reference as APA guidelines suggest. Surely this is obvious and anyone can do a quick Google search for the title. It is a bit like stating the name of the physical bookshop for a pbook – as far as we know, we have never had to do this. APA are assuming ebook files are the same as websites. The manual is clearly in need of an update. We also think there's no point saying what kind of Kindle you read it on as the text will be the same. In fact, the text is the same in the ePub version too, so why the need to mention the device/reader at all? Of course, there is the need to mention that it is an e-book as this explains why no page numbers are listed as in a typical APA chapter reference. It also helps someone to find the ebook.
What do you think? Do we need page numbers? How are you citing ebooks? Let us know by replying on the blog, Facebook, or Twitter.