I am writing a research paper using MLA style. One of my sources is a book via Google Books. According to the MLA style, part of citing this online source includes giving the "overall website". Would I say "Google Books" or just "Google"?

Google Books is the main site for the books, yet Google is the main site of all Google sites. Which is correct?

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    As 'A Child of God' do you need to consider the morality of citing something you obtained only using Google Books? I know it is convenient, but is Books supposed to give people an idea of what is in a book so that they can then buy it because it fits their needs, or is it meant to be a means for people to avoid paying for texts? If you are writing a research paper you might also consider whether your institution has already paid to access the text. Apr 19, 2017 at 20:30
  • @S.Mitchell the help site for google books says "On Google Books, you can read books and magazines, download them for later, cite them and translate them." I don't see the issue with doing this. Apr 20, 2017 at 0:15
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    Why would you not cite the actual book? Instead of the platform you read it on?
    – user18397
    Apr 20, 2017 at 1:49
  • @ A Child ... I looked at what it said on your link. However, they are still publishing copyright books without paying any royalties. Yes, they may have obtained the rights to some books, but I know that they don't have rights to others. If they did have the rights they would publish the whole books instead of selected pages. Apr 20, 2017 at 20:28

2 Answers 2


Short answer, you wouldn't.

You are referencing the book that had the information in it, not the platform you've used to read the book.

The confusion appears to lie in what you are deeming an online resource. A book or journal is its own resource, regardless of what platform or media you read it in. If referencing a book, it doesn't matter if you bought it direct, used a library or read it on a e-reader, all the relevant information is included.

This is a useful guide put out by the University of Sydney that provides multiple examples of how to reference based on multiple source types.

Online resources refer to articles/blogs that are published online only, and not a book that you have read in an online format.


Citing google books or google in general as your source is a lame way out of giving real credit where it is due. It pretty much negates the point of citing to begin with. For papers, why not just cite google and say everything I found was here? Because that's not the POINT of citing nor it is what google is used for. It would be no different than say... Citing a library building, or citing Barnes N Noble. There you can "read books, download them, and cite them." The whole point of citing is to give credit for the body of work you are using. Saying where you found it is not the same as giving credit to the author.

Here is another way of looking at it... you have a tool you are using to build something say a hammer... but when a person asks you what this tool is, you say oh, it's a Home Depot. They would look at you funny and then you clarify that it is where you GOT it. It still doesn't tell the person what it is though and that is the whole point of citing.

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