Smarter book and chapter reference management?

I apologize if there is an elegant way to do this already, but I would love to see a smarter feature for keeping track of books and their chapters. I’ve never used a reference manager that did this in a smart way, and I think it would be a great feature. What I would love to have is a way to have book items that then have chapters as child items, and the child items inherit the relevant reference info from the parent book in an automatic way.

I find that, currently, I create a lot of “book chapter” items by manually duplicating other entries and then editing them, and then I have to edit all of them one by one if I change something in the book’s reference info.

Anyway, just a thought. Thanks!


I like the idea.

One question, do these chapters you are talking about have different authors and do they have titles or is it just “Chapter 1”?

The reason why I’m asking is because you can cite different chapters in a book without creating individual entries by setting the chapter attribute. I just wanted to let you know about this feature in case you missed it:

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That is fantastic to know, thank you. In many of my cases, the chapters do have both names and different authors, however, so those cases are relevant to me, too. Many medical textbooks are in this format, where the book authors are more like editors and each chapter has a name and a set of chapter authors. Thanks for the attention.

I guess your use case is also related to this thread here about batch editing of multiple items:

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I agree; it is related. Maybe both scenarios could be accommodated by a generalized model where library items may optionally follow a parent-child categorization, where child items inherit whatever data their parents have. Such as:

Book (including book name and publisher)
– Chapter 1 (inherits book name and publisher, then has individual chapter name and authors)
– Chapter xx (inherits book name and publisher, then has individual chapter name and whatever else)

Conference (including date and conference name)
– Paper 1 (inherits conference info then has paper name and authors)
– Poster 1 (inherits conference info then has poster-specific info)
– Paper 2 (etc)

Journal (including journal name and date)
– Paper 1
– Editorial 1
– Paper 2
– etc

Anyway I think you get what I’m saying. It would be different than any reference manager I’ve seen, but it might be a very elegant generalized solution to this type of problem across many types of resources (books, conferences, journals, etc). It could also obviously be entirely optional, so that it would be there if you need it but wouldn’t confuse people who just want a flat library file without any parent-child associations.


Big thumbs up to this, been wondering why bibliography management software doesn’t offer this kind of functionality.

Some do: Papers 3 and Bookends for Mac for example.

Another interim quick fix for this would be to link the “book title” in each chapter reference to the “title” of the book. As it is, the title of the book is hyperlinked in green, but on click, it only lists other chapters in the same book, not the whole book entry. In this scenario, I have a reference holding the PDF for the whole book. Chapters (each with different authors and titles) are added as references but with no PDF. I just put a comment to look for the book reference. This is cumbersome at best, but it would be great if at least the “book title” field in the chapter reference would like to the “title” field of the book. The ideal solution here, as mentioned, is to be able to add chapter references as a child of the book reference.

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I find this omission very frustrating.

Stefan - can you explain why clicking on the book title (in green) does not bring back the entry for the whole book along with the chapter entries? The use case described by Kelapa is quite common.


We have a list of hundreds of features requested by our users. Pretty much everyone finds something frustrating. It’s just not possible to implement everything at once.

I certainly understand that, it’s just that in this case it is closer to a bug than a feature request. As the book title is a hyperlink one would expect a click on it to return the entry for that book. Thx.

The links work as follow: If it’s an article you get all articles from the journal. If it’s a book you get all books from the publisher, and if it’s a book chapter you get all chapters from this book. So it’s the intended behaviour.

I’m ok calling it a bug but I’m afraid that does not change the priority or available resources we can allocate to this issue.

One issue here is that it is very common to cite book chapters in the social sciences and the humanities, but it is hard to pull book chapter data from Google Scholar or other sources. This means one often ends up adding a book from Amazon or Google Books to Paperpile and then manually adding the chapter information. Unfortunately, the process of doing this is a bit awkward at the moment. For one thing, changing the “type” from book to chapter moves the title and author of the book to the chapter fields, which is not what I want to do at that moment (so I have to manually copy and paste them back). I understand why the behavior is like this, and I understand that this is not a high priority right now (I’m eagerly awaiting the mobile beta myself!) but I thought I’d leave this hear for the record.

As you say, edited books where each chapter is by a different author and has a distinct title and topic are very common in Humanities and Social Sciences but probably unknown to (Physical) Science people. Some bibliographic databases also fail to supply citation information for edited chapters. Nevertheless citing these is a fundamental bibliographic requirement for many academic disciplines.

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