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Further to my post earlier today about the anti-scholarly use of DRM (Digital Rights Management) in ePub documents; it’s become an issue how to include citations from them.

After spending the afternoon happily reading my target chapter from the ePub document, on my iPad, now blissfully stripped of the evil DRM and its anti-scholarship ways, I noticed that if I turn from landscape to portrait mode it re-paginates the text and re-calculates the page numbers. I guess PDFs have a standard pagination that’s viewable in a standard PDF reader. But ePub? If I view the document inside the hated Adobe Digital Editions I can see that down the right side it prints what I assume to be page numbers; but are these standard? Of course not. It’s just the iPad’s iBooks way of dealing with things. One can easily assume that any different device with a different resolution would end up with a completely different set of page numbers.

There’s a lot of discussion about this stuff that’s online, including this article at the Chronicle, but not using a Kindle, first of all, and I’m also expected to adhere to a particular standard. My university department has a guide, last revision as recent as June 2011, as to the exact formatting research students are expected to use in their theses. While it includes bibliography examples of “Articles/Chapters in Online Editions”, blogs, even podcasts, however, it does not include a guide bibliography or referencing of items from ePubs and DRM’d PDFs.

As Classical Scholars we already know this problem and have already dealt with it in the best possible way: the standard book/chapter/section/paragraph/sentence structure that we use to reference our ancient texts (or, say, line numbers for poetry, and so forth). For any non-classicists reading this blog; we refer to for example Ovid Fasti 1.709 (poem 1 line 709) or Livy 22.5.8 (book 22, chapter 5, section 8), based on “standard editions” of the particular text which everyone usually refers to. The whole concept of “page numbers” is of course tied to a particular printing technology that we can see dying before our very eyes. I would wager that in my lifetime all actual printed books will be either second hand, cheap print-on-demand numbers, or hugely expensive limited editions. It’s kind of stupid to refer to something existing on “page 284” of something that flows down the screen or reformats to particular device you’re reading it on or even it’s orientation. Whereas, for any given edition of a text, chapter, section, paragraph and sentence numbers remain fixed regardless of device it’s displayed on (even in print), and it also has the advantage of a higher precision. Let’s hope that e-readers, after they are done removing the anti-scholarly DRM from their formats, address referenceability using schemes such as those, next.