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Old 11-27-2012, 09:11 AM   #1
John123
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Footnote/Endnote debate

Hi All,

I have noticed a few discussions regarding this question.

It would seem that we all have our personal preferences. So this is a "general" opinion from someone who has been in the commercial typesetting trade for over 40 years.

Footnotes:
On the paper product. Should be at the foot of the page where the footnote explains/expands an idea or word expressed on that page, usually with an asterisk, dagger, double-dagger, etc. The readers eye can quickly access that information, and aids the reading experience. On Ebooks, in my humble opinion, this type of footnote could easily be inserted into the text using, say brackets "[ ]" or parenthesis "( )" so long as they are not overly long expansions, then it would become obtrusive. Longer explanations could be put at the end of the paragraph on which they appear, perhaps using the asterisk, etc. model, but not "clickable". After the first use of this convention the reader would very quickly realise this is the way footnotes have been treated on their Ebook. Unless the reader is extremely fussy, both practices mentioned above, would not be overly obtrusive and should not detract from the reading experience.

Endnotes:
This type of note will contain academic information such as, publication, date, publisher and folio, to which that piece of text refers, perhaps a quote or an idea expressed from that publication. Researchers would want to access this type of information in the course of their investigations. So on the Ebook it should be made clickable. For the general reading experience, though, it is not necessary to have this type of note "to hand". If this type of note has an expanded explanation of the text being referenced, then in my opinion the note/text is not well written.

This argument will rage for years. Academes, by their very nature, will want to have a "weighty" academic looking book in their hands. But Kindle's all look the same, mostly, whether your reading a novel or getting your head round the intricacies of rocket science.

To sum up: Ebooks are in their infancy . . . "What!" You may say. "I've been doing ebooks for years!" We'll, with reference to the paper/papyrus product, they very much are, I'm afraid. Author's and publishers will need a new set of conventions regarding ebooks, not just cobbling the paper product into an electronic format.

Just to reiterate, this is my humble opinion and is a very general stroke of the brush. Make of it what you will.

John.
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Old 11-27-2012, 10:07 AM   #2
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ePub 3.0 promises real footnotes, at the bottom of the page (with HTML5), except that they won't work on the vast majority of e-readers that have already been sold...

There was a study that showed that 8 or 9 (out of 10) people do not bother with endnotes when reading a book, but almost all will read them if they're on the same page.
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Old 11-27-2012, 10:58 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by DSpider View Post
There was a study that showed that 8 or 9 (out of 10) people do not bother with endnotes when reading a book, but almost all will read them if they're on the same page.
Which doesn't mean they appreciate having reading them

Sometimes footnotes have "useless" information for the casual reader, such as bibliographic references, a plant's scientific name, or a simple "sic". It is, however, hard to restraint oneself from looking at the bottom of the page to see what the footnote says, especially when other footnotes are interesting.

In general, I agree that more useful footnotes (e.g. those providing translation of foreing phrases) should be kept in page, and other more scholarly (and often longer) ones are better moved elsewhere.

In ebooks, however, where it is currently not possible to have proper footnotes, I prefer to have all of them at the end. Adding shorter footnotes inline in brackets or after the paragraph is, in my opinion, not a very good idea, at least not in narrative works, since they disrupt the normal reading experience. In more technical or reference works they are probably OK.

In any case, it's important to use appropriate markup, so they can be easily converted if/when needed.
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Old 11-27-2012, 06:32 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DSpider View Post
ePub 3.0 promises real footnotes, at the bottom of the page (with HTML5), except that they won't work on the vast majority of e-readers that have already been sold...

There was a study that showed that 8 or 9 (out of 10) people do not bother with endnotes when reading a book, but almost all will read them if they're on the same page.
Actually when I read the ePub 3 spec they were advocating using the title ability to enter a foot note and expected readering devices would likely use pop up windows to display the footnote. I think that is likely better than the bottom of the page/screen.

Dale
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Old 11-28-2012, 05:52 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DaleDe View Post
Actually when I read the ePub 3 spec they were advocating using the title ability to enter a foot note and expected readering devices would likely use pop up windows to display the footnote. I think that is likely better than the bottom of the page/screen.

Dale
Now that would very useful. To have a "clickable" reference which popped up a window at the foot/top of the screen.
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Old 11-28-2012, 09:42 AM   #6
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Old 11-28-2012, 02:05 PM   #7
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Oh, come on.... ePub 3 was released more than a year ago! What the hell is the industry doing? They should be issuing updates for every device that they already sold. Yeah... except that they all have a "wash, rinse, repeat" business model. Why would they keep supporting older e-readers with new firmware updates that would support newer revisions of the ePub standard? Fricken society... There aren't nearly enough trash piles with consumer junk on this planet?

I would be interested in an Android e-reader (e-Ink screen). That way I wouldn't have to worry about ePub 4.0 or 5.7 or whatever comes out after that.
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Old 11-28-2012, 02:25 PM   #8
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The reason we don't have ePub 3 yet is because of all the multimedia garbage tossed into the spec. Most devices running ADE are eink devices and are not going to work well with all that multimedia garbage. Most people just want to read. ePub 3 would mean a lot of eBooks would be apps and not actual books. What we really need is to take ePub 3, remove all the mutimedia/javascript stuff, put in what works and come out with an ePub 2.5 while dumping ePub 3.
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Old 11-28-2012, 02:32 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DSpider View Post
Oh, come on.... ePub 3 was released more than a year ago! What the hell is the industry doing? They should be issuing updates for every device that they already sold. Yeah... except that they all have a "wash, rinse, repeat" business model. Why would they keep supporting older e-readers with new firmware updates that would support newer revisions of the ePub standard? Fricken society... There aren't nearly enough trash piles with consumer junk on this planet?

I would be interested in an Android e-reader (e-Ink screen). That way I wouldn't have to worry about ePub 4.0 or 5.7 or whatever comes out after that.
The trouble with Android is that you would still have to worry as OS upgrades are mostly non-existent and Apps are typically only targeted at the latest OS. To me this is the biggest drawback of Android.

Dale
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Old 11-28-2012, 04:31 PM   #10
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Hyperlinks change the game. They make the difference between foot- and end-note largely irrelevant. Until such time as those hyperlinks pop-up a "window" above/beneath the referenced text, they (hyperlinked notes) remain—in my opinion—the most unobtrusive method of including ancillary or anecdotal information in ebooks.

The "bottom of the page" is gone, for all practical purposes. Reflow took it away. We traded it for the ability to choose any font and/or text size our little hearts desire. Any notational method that attempts to shoehorn the extra information into the normal narrative flow of the text is obtrusive, in my opinion, and therefore unacceptable.

If hyperlinks would have somehow been available to typesetters 100s of years ago, we wouldn't be having this debate today. There would simply be no such thing as a "foot"note. Effort was the main difference in the physical medium. Less effort for foot-notes ... considerable effort for end-notes. Hyperlinks have equalized that difference in effort. And for the most part, minimized it.

Keep in mind that even in the physical, typesetting world of books, readers were still able to to make up their own minds about how/when—or even if—footnotes interrupted their reading. A reader who just wasn't interested could read a book chock full of footnotes and never stop to look at one of them if they didn't care to. I say give E-readers the same latitude as P-readers. Stop trying to micromanage the reader's experience and just slap a link in there for those who are interested. They'll figure out what to do with it.

Last edited by DiapDealer; 11-28-2012 at 04:38 PM.
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Old 01-30-2013, 05:53 PM   #11
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There is no reason why e-readers couldn't offer different options to display the footnotes, now that the EPUB 3 standard has the footnote semantic attribute.

Some people will prefer hyperlinks, others will prefer to have them displayed at the bottom of the screen like paper books. Imo having to click and to change the page to read "footnotes" is frustrating...
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Old 01-30-2013, 07:40 PM   #12
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There is no reason why e-readers couldn't offer different options to display the footnotes, now that the EPUB 3 standard has the footnote semantic attribute.

Some people will prefer hyperlinks, others will prefer to have them displayed at the bottom of the screen like paper books. Imo having to click and to change the page to read "footnotes" is frustrating...
ePub 3 is not supported. So all we have is ePub 2.
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Old 01-30-2013, 11:50 PM   #13
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ePub 3 is not supported. So all we have is ePub 2.
Please don't tell either my Kobo Glo and Kobo Touch that. I wouldn't want them to think they could slack off and not show me any ePub 3 books I find. They don't support video or audio of course, but they seem to do a good job of everything else.
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Old 01-31-2013, 06:23 AM   #14
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But do you really want footnotes that will only work on the Kobo? If you want a portable file, you have to stick with hyperlinks.
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Old 01-31-2013, 07:44 AM   #15
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Well, as I have Kobo ereaders, it will work well for me

But, it was really a comment on Jon's "no support". I named two ereaders, and they have a third, that already support epub3. So, Jon's statement is wrong. If he had said "little support", I wouldn't have commented.

Having said that, if it was my job to create an ebook right now, I wouldn't use epub3. Unless I really needed the function. Or someone was paying me to do it that way.
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