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Old 12-21-2012, 06:23 PM   #1
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Footnotes in epubs

Hi all...

I'm a complete noob in terms of actually fooling around with the epub files themselves, so I have a question.

I've noticed that books with footnotes (at least the ones I've gotten) have the footnotes all end up at the very end of the book, rather than at the bottom of the page (or at the end of the chapter, depending on the author), like normal books do.

This is a TOTAL PAIN in the patookis, especially for books where reading the footnotes in the moment (such as John Connolly's "The Gates" or "The Infernals") is integral to the flow of the story.

Is this just an ebook formatting thing, and one we'll have to wait for it to evolve and get better? Or can this somehow get fixed?
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Old 12-21-2012, 06:44 PM   #2
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This is an ebook design thing.

The well-paid design experts at the major publishers don't actually read ebooks, especially not on ereaders. Because, well, they're ebooks and not real books. And such things are just not done by proper people!


Actually, this is a deliberate design decision. However, I think it is made worse by the following facts (which may not have any relationship with reality):
  • Ebook design is done on real computers, so flipping around the text and the footnotes is fast and easy.
  • The designers are testing the ebooks on tablets, like the iPad, so flipping around the text and the footnotes is fast and easy.
  • The designers may even be using automated tools that harvest the footnotes. So they just end up at the end of the book.
  • For flipping around purposes, it really doesn't matter if the footnotes are at the end of each chapter or at the end of the book.
  • Due to the flowing nature of ebooks, the designer doesn't know where the end of the page is. Yes, if the tags existed and the rendering code handled them, the ereader could figure out that a footnote belonged at the bottom of the current page, and would render the page as such. I don't think that these tags exist (a quick check shows that they don't).
  • Footnotes in ebooks are just HTML links. So really, they aren't footnotes, they are just another chuck of text you can jump to and jump back from.
  • My favourites are the ebooks with the jumps to the footnotes, but missing the jumps back to the code.
  • Another favourite thing is that the footnote indicator (in the text) is usually superscripted so it is small. And being one character, it makes a challenging target for a finger that is many characters in size.
When I reformat a book with footnotes, I generally move them to be after the paragraph that contains the footnote, formatted in a way that makes the footnote look different (smaller text, different font, blockquoted, bordered).

Luckily, most of the books I read don't have footnotes.

I think that the 'rules' for formatting ebooks haven't settled down yet, so many designers are using the physical books rules modified for flowing text and just not getting it right. And there is definately missing technical stuff as far as HTML and CSS is concerned.
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Old 12-21-2012, 06:49 PM   #3
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Ah, thanks. That's very enlightening, actually.

I didn't really notice it until I started reading "The Infernals" on my Kobo, which--as I mentioned--has the footnotes as an integral part of the reading experience. I got so frustrated I just gave up and decided to buy the physical book.

Which, really, is not the experience you want people to have as an ebook publisher. But as you said, perhaps they're not really focusing on the readers as such, at this moment in time.

But thanks for the response!
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Old 12-21-2012, 07:05 PM   #4
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I think that few publishers, and especially not the big ones, are spending much effort in ebook design.

They seem to just be trying to get the physical book into a sellable electronic format with as little cost as possible.
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Old 12-21-2012, 07:55 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by murg View Post
I think that few publishers, and especially not the big ones, are spending much effort in ebook design.

They seem to just be trying to get the physical book into a sellable electronic format with as little cost as possible.
That is very obvious when I see the stupid spelling/grammatical errors - a lot are obviously the result of unchecked OCR of a paper document - in books for which you pay the premium prices. Disappointing really...
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Old 12-21-2012, 09:10 PM   #6
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The Kobo readers support returning from a note. When you press the link, it takes you to the note. After that, when the bottom menu is opened, there is a "Back" link. That should take you back to where you came from.
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Old 12-21-2012, 09:18 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by davidfor View Post
The Kobo readers support returning from a note. When you press the link, it takes you to the note. After that, when the bottom menu is opened, there is a "Back" link. That should take you back to where you came from.
I'll have to try that--it didn't occur to me that the footnotes were actual links, to be honest. Thanks, davidfor.
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Old 12-21-2012, 10:37 PM   #8
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I'll have to try that--it didn't occur to me that the footnotes were actual links, to be honest. Thanks, davidfor.
So you weren't tapping the footnote number? If not, then you'll probably find that it works pretty darn well. If it's not a really long footnote (<5 or 6 lines) it will bring up a preview "window" on the screen pretty much instantly with the footnote in it. If it's longer you can tap on "see more" in the window and it will take you to the full footnotes pages at the end. From there you can do as David said or just tap the same footnote number and it will take you back. The see more is a slower process, but 9 times out of 10 the preview will get what you need.
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Old 12-22-2012, 08:36 AM   #9
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So you weren't tapping the footnote number? If not, then you'll probably find that it works pretty darn well. If it's not a really long footnote (<5 or 6 lines) it will bring up a preview "window" on the screen pretty much instantly with the footnote in it. If it's longer you can tap on "see more" in the window and it will take you to the full footnotes pages at the end. From there you can do as David said or just tap the same footnote number and it will take you back. The see more is a slower process, but 9 times out of 10 the preview will get what you need.
For the preview, I take it you are refering to kepubs?

On my Touch and Glo, traversing footnotes on side loaded EPubs is next to impossible (I tap on the footnote link, and it just advances to the next page).
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Old 12-22-2012, 08:41 AM   #10
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So you weren't tapping the footnote number? If not, then you'll probably find that it works pretty darn well. If it's not a really long footnote (<5 or 6 lines) it will bring up a preview "window" on the screen pretty much instantly with the footnote in it. If it's longer you can tap on "see more" in the window and it will take you to the full footnotes pages at the end. From there you can do as David said or just tap the same footnote number and it will take you back. The see more is a slower process, but 9 times out of 10 the preview will get what you need.
Nope--embarrassingly enough, I honestly didn't realise they were an actual link. I'll have to go back and give it a try, now.

Learn something new every day...
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Old 12-22-2012, 03:32 PM   #11
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For the preview, I take it you are refering to kepubs?

On my Touch and Glo, traversing footnotes on side loaded EPubs is next to impossible (I tap on the footnote link, and it just advances to the next page).
Yes, when I play with it the preview is only in kepubs. Footnote links DO work in epubs, just not all of them. Obviously something different the coding between epubs that allows some to work and others not. In the case of epubs it takes you to the page of footnotes at the end of the book. If you have a fairly small font size you do have to hit the footnote number pretty precisely or it will change page as you suggest (or if it's one where the links don't work it will just change page).
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Old 12-22-2012, 03:57 PM   #12
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Footnote links DO work in epubs, just not all of them. Obviously something different the coding between epubs that allows some to work and others not. In the case of epubs it takes you to the page of footnotes at the end of the book. If you have a fairly small font size you do have to hit the footnote number pretty precisely or it will change page as you suggest (or if it's one where the links don't work it will just change page).
I read only epubs, and I can tell that footnotes/endnotes links are working in less than 10% situations. Even if I increase the font size, I have to tap the footnote number several times (and by several I mean at least five times) in order to work. It is so frustrating .
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Old 12-22-2012, 05:02 PM   #13
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I read only epubs, and I can tell that footnotes/endnotes links are working in less than 10% situations. Even if I increase the font size, I have to tap the footnote number several times (and by several I mean at least five times) in order to work. It is so frustrating .
Exactly! Doesn't it seem unlikely that it is epub "coding" if you can't reliably tap it?

And for me, my font size selector is a little above half way, which makes it well above "fairly small".
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Old 12-22-2012, 06:26 PM   #14
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Exactly! Doesn't it seem unlikely that it is epub "coding" if you can't reliably tap it?
OK, I'm referring to when there are footnote numbers that just don't work at all (rather than sometimes working). I have encountered that in a few. I have looked at one that works in Calibre, but doesn't work at all on my Kobo.
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Old 12-23-2012, 07:50 AM   #15
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OK, I'm referring to when there are footnote numbers that just don't work at all (rather than sometimes working). I have encountered that in a few. I have looked at one that works in Calibre, but doesn't work at all on my Kobo.
What makes you think it doesn't work on the Kobo? I just had a heck of a time trying to use a footnote. I must have tried about 20 times, going from a medium size to the largest font size, and wasn't able to activate it until the 20th try (largest font size, second try). I gave up trying to tap the back link after 5 tries failing (on the largest font size).
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