I use the following to record my digital book sources. Should I include anything else?

  • Author
  • Editor
  • Title
  • Publication Place
  • Publisher
  • Publisher Year
  • Page
  • Format
  • Website URL
  • 1
    Exactly what do you mean by a 'digital book'? Do you mean an e-book that was published digitally, or a printed book that has been digitised and made available online?
    – Sue Adams
    Nov 27, 2012 at 12:17

3 Answers 3


Again, I would suggest you take a look at "Chicago-Style Citation Quick Guide". My notes from this site suggest that an electronic version simply adds "access-date" and "URL" to the format for the printed book.

This begs a couple of questions:

  • Do we need "access-date"?
  • Which URL - the URL of the site (i.e. the entry point) or the URL of the electronic document?

This probably gets a bit personal-preference. "Access-date" is usually added to stuff from a web-site because it is the de facto equivalent of "publication date". So if you want to be consistent across all your web-site sources, stick it in. Arguably, though, if you have a PDF (say) of the original - why does it matter? It's as if you were looking at the original carbon-based format, where no-one cares when you looked at it. Well, there is one good reason (apart from consistency across all web-site sources) - if you looked at it 6y ago, then it serves as a warning that, in all honesty, the URL is probably as much use as a chocolate tea-pot.

In a similar fashion, one can debate the usefulness of the URL of the electronic document. It's probably changed, so supplement it by a description in plain text of what collection it's in.

OK - this Brit will now stand back and let the American experts argue!


Don't forget the ISBN number as that should be present with the book and should never change whereas things like url's probably will.

  • Books (particularly digital books) do not have to have an ISBN.
    – user104
    Nov 27, 2012 at 8:50
  • If digital books are properly published they should have a digital ISBN. You cannot, for instance, publish on either Smashwords or Amazon without an ISBN.
    – Colin
    Nov 27, 2012 at 11:52
  • You can however publish and sell (or give away) an ebook in very many venues without an ISBN. Amazon and Smashwords do not constitute between them "proper publishing". There's also the question of old books re-published electronically as PDFs by e.g. Family History Societies and e.g. Archive CD Books.
    – user104
    Nov 27, 2012 at 13:17
  • Why are you so anti recording the ISBN? Surely if it exists it should be a valuable additional reference to the book.
    – Colin
    Nov 27, 2012 at 19:53
  • The only thing it's useful for is helping somebody to buy some modern (post 1970) books. Sure, go head and record it if you find it useful but the vast majority of book sources won't have one.
    – user104
    Nov 28, 2012 at 11:14

[This is very similar to my answer at What Source detail should I include for a printed book but is repeated to make this answer self-contained.]

The answer to this depends on why you are recording the source detail. Best practice in genealogy suggests that you record the source detail to enable you and others to consult the exact same source again, as well as assessing the quality of the source and the information and evidence that you've derived from it.

For the fullest possible citation in a list of sources, for a digital book, which may be available online, on a CD (or the latest new-fangled digital storage technology), you need:

  • Author
  • Authors Role (did they write the book? Translate it? Compile it? Edit it?)
  • Title
  • Format (e.g. CD-ROM, Ebook)
  • Publication Place
  • Publisher
  • Year
  • Edition (some books went through multiple editions in a single year, and the content may vary between editions)

If you're directing attention to a particular piece of information in the book in support of some deduction that you've made, you need to add Page (or Pages) or some other marker that will allow the piece of information to be located (in some ebook formats, page isn't meaningful so you may need to devise an alternative e.g. Chapter and maybe Sub-Heading, that will help somebody navigate to what you're pointing them to even if they're accessing the book in a different format).

If, however, you just want to be able to locate the book in your own collection for your own purposes, Author and Title would be sufficient (assuming you don't own multiple editions of the same book). I would gently encourage you to go for the fuller version, and if you want to delve deeper into the subject, recommend Evidence Explained by Elizabeth Shown Mills. (I'm not sure if she's caught up with the latest ebook technology as I haven't bought the latest version of the book).

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