Answered By: Darcy Gervasio
Last Updated: May 04, 2017     Views: 20371

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.



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 Because such numbering may vary from one device to another, do not cite it unless you know that it appears consistently to other users.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).

Comments (1)

  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.

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