Answered By: Darcy Gervasio
Last Updated: Jul 18, 2019     Views: 228327

The answer differs depending on which citation style you are using (APA, MLA, Chicago, etc). Below are instructions on citing e-books without page numbers in APA and MLA style. For other citation styles, visit the Purdue Owl or see Purchase College's general Citation Guide for more information about citing your sources correctly.

In-Text Citations:


The APA Citation Guide from Purdue University (Purdue Owl) suggests the following for citing electronic books without page numbers:

"When an electronic source lacks page numbers, you should try to include information that will help readers find the passage being cited. When an electronic document has numbered paragraphs, use the symbol, or the abbreviation "para." followed by the paragraph number (Hall, 2001, ¶ 5) or (Hall, 2001, para. 5). If the paragraphs are not numbered and the document includes headings, provide the appropriate heading and specify the paragraph under that heading. Note that in some electronic sources, like Web pages, people can use the Find function in their browser to locate any passages you cite."  

Example 1: According to Smith (1997), psychosomatic symptoms can be alleviated with cognitive behavioral therapy (Mind over Matter section, para. 6).

Example 2: The author claims psychosomatic symptoms can be alleviated with cognitive behavioral therapy (Smith, 1997, Mind over Matter section, para. 6).



The MLA Handbook suggests using chapter or paragraph numbers when no page numbers are available, but only if the chapter or paragraphs are explicitly included in the original text. If there are no page, chapter, paragraph, or section numbers in the original text, then no numbers should be included in the citation. Never count pages or paragraphs yourself or invent your own numbers. 
The following explanation is taken from the MLA Handbook, Eighth Edition (2016):
"An e-book (a work formatted for reading on an electronic device) may include a numbering system that tells users their location in the work. Because such numbering may vary from one device to another, do not cite it unless you know that it appears consistently to other users. If the work is divided into stable numbered sections like chapters, the numbers of those sections may be cited, with a label identifying the type of part that is numbered."  (MLA Handbook 123)
Example 1: According to Hazel Rowley, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt began their honeymoon with a week's stay at Hyde Park (ch. 2).
Example 2: Austen begins the final chapter of Mansfield Park with a dismissing "Let other pens dwell," thereby announcing her decision to avoid dwelling on the professions of love made by Fanny and Edmund (vol. 3, ch. 17).
"If your source uses explicit paragraph numbers rather than page numbers...give the relevant number or numbers, preceded by the label par. or pars." (MLA Handbook 56)
Example: There is little evidence for the claim that "Eagleton has belittled the gains of postmodernism" (Chan, par. 41).
"When a source has no page numbers or any other kind of part number, no number should be given in a parenthetical citation. Do not count unnumbered paragraphs or other parts." (MLA Handbook 56)
Example: "As we read we...construct the terrain of a book" (Hollmichel).

Citations in your Bibliography:


When creating a full citation for an e-book for the bibliography at the end of your paper, you may choose to cite the entire e-book, in which case, no page, paragraph, chapter, line, or section numbers are required. 

However, if you only consulted one chapter or section of an e-book, you may want to cite just that specific part. This is especially helpful if your e-book is an anthology, collected works, or collection of essays with many different authors and you plan to cite two different authors/chapters from the same e-book within your paper.  

References List in APA:

Here's how to cite a chapter/paragraph/section from an e-book without page numbers in your Reference List in APA style:

Format:  Author, A. A., & Author, B. B. (Date of publication). Title of article, essay, or chapter. In A.A. Editor (Ed.), Title of book or larger document (chapter or section number). Retrieved from Name of E-book Database or Platform.


Example 1Gates, R. (2013). Keepin' it reality television. In B.E. Smith-Shomade (Ed.), Watching while black : centering the television of black audiences (Ch. 9) Retrieved from ProQuest Ebook Central.


*URL is required if e-book is retrieved from the Internet/web. URL is optional if e-book is retrieved from a library database or online e-book platform, but it is still highly encouraged.

See additional examples under "Chapter/Section of a Web Document or Online Book Chapter" on Purdue OWL:

Works Cited in MLA:

Here's how to cite a chapter/paragraph/section of an e-book without page numbers in your Works Cited List in MLA style. In MLA, you use the same format for citing a work within an anthology or collection in print-- just make sure to add the e-book source and URL. Remember: only use paragraph, chapter, or section numbers if they are explicitly provided by the original text. Do no invent your own numbers.
Format:  Author, Name. "Chapter, Essay, or Section Title," Title of E-Book, edited by Name Q. Editor, Publisher, Year, chapter/section/paragraph number. E-book Database or Source Name,

Example 1: Gates, Raquel. "Keepin' It Reality Television." Watching While Black: Centering the Television of Black Audiences, edited by Beretta E. Smith-Shomade, Rutgers UP, 2013, ch. 9. ProQuest Ebook Central,
*MLA accepts common abbreviations such as "ch." for "chapter," par. for "paragraph," and "UP" for "University Press."
More examples of citing entire e-books and chapters within e-books (with or without page numbers) can be found from Columbia College: and Purdue OWL under "A Work in an Anthology, Reference, or Collection":

Comments (5)

  1. This is very useful, and nicely presented, detail about citing "print-like" electronic sources without page numbers.
    by Mark Richardson, ABAC on Apr 13, 2017.
  2. Comment from gissela ( on Jul 03, 2018:
    Thank you for the answer. But in the references list should we put the parapraphs that we used in our work?
    by gissela on Jul 03, 2018.
  3. Great question, Gissela!

    If you consulted only one chapter/section of the entire e-book, you can cite it in your Works Cited (bibliography) as a book chapter/essay/part.

    If you consulted several paragraphs/chapters/sections within a single e-book, you may cite the entire e-book instead, in which case, no paragraph or section numbers are required in your bibliography (you would only need these numbers in your in-text citations).

    In MLA, you can follow the guidelines for citing one essay/chapter in a "collected works" or anthology. In this case, you can include whatever chapter, section, or paragraph numbers you used in your in-text citation. Remember, you should never invent your own numbers! Because it's an e-book, you should also include the URL and e-book platform in your bibliography.

    Smith, Sally. "Chapter, Essay, or Section Title." Title of Entire E-Book in Italics, edited by John Q. Doe, Publisher, Year, chapter/paragraph number. E-book Database or Source Name in Italics,

    And here's how to cite a chapter/paragraph from an e-book without page numbers in your Reference List (bibliography) in APA style:

    Author, A. A., & Author, B. B. (Date of publication). Title of article. In Title of book or larger document in italics (chapter or section number). Retrieved from

    See for more.
    by Darcy Gervasio on Jul 09, 2018.
  4. What do you do if you are paraphrasing the quote on a page with no number? Is it the same thing?
    by Jarald on Dec 11, 2018.
  5. Paraphrases must always be cited, just like direct quotations. You would follow the same rules described above.
    by Darcy Gervasio on Dec 12, 2018.

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