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I'm asking this since I've already found myself in two minds a couple times about how to refer to a book when answering a question.

I've seen many people link to Google Books previews, when available, to show specific passages of a text. I've also seen people link to Amazon. By the way, it looks like Amazon links get automatically reformatted by the SE software.

If the work is freely available online, like Hatcher's or Milne's books, then I would definitely link to the author's web page. Similarly for articles on ArXiv. But otherwise, how should I refer to a book or an article?

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For an article that is available online, if the article has an associated DOI link, then you should use the DOI to link to it. If not (e.g. stuff on arXiv, CiteSeer, or on personal home pages), then just provide a direct link to the paper itself, if feasible.

For books, I prefer linking to Google Books, whenever possible, since it allows you to link to a specific page of the work. (With some tweaking of the link, you can also have a link where keywords are appropriately highlighted.)

If a book is freely and legally available as a PDF/DjVu/whatever, then one might prefer linking to that instead of the Google Books link.

If nothing else, then you could probably use Amazon instead; the idea is that if there is no legally accessible version of the book anywhere, you can at least point users to where they might obtain it.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks, I didn't know about DOI links. $\endgroup$ – A.P. Apr 13 '13 at 12:36
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    $\begingroup$ Google Books link, alas, don't always work: different countries have different copyright rules, and more often than not page-specific links to Google Books don't show for me. If you provide such a link, please also state page/theorem number, so those of us who cannot see the content on Google Books still stand a chance of going down to the library. $\endgroup$ – Willie Wong Apr 14 '13 at 5:33

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