What to do with footnotes has been a problem since Gutenberg. To some they are an aggravation on par with elevator music and cable company service. To others they are the glory of the published word.
For those who want to be able to follow an author’s sources, and for authors who want to make comments that don’t interrupt the flow of the main text, notes are indispensible.
Two main categories of solutions hold sway: Put the notes at the foot of the page (so, footnotes) or at the end of the book (thus, endnotes). The advantage of footnotes is the information is right there for the reader. No turning pages; no disruption. But it can be distracting for those who don’t care. Footnotes can be also make a book look intimidating–too smart for me.
The alternative is endnotes. No disruption, no intimidation, but it is more of a nuisance to find them at the back of the book if you are curious. As a result, academic books tend to use footnotes and general market books more often use endnotes. Keeping in mind the needs of the primary reader in each case is key.
But there is a third solution which is the worst of both possible worlds. That is end-of-chapter notes. With endnotes, at least a reader knows where to find them relatively easily. Not so with end-of-chapter notes. Readers have to flip forward, flip back, flip forward, flip back, until they find the notes–and even then readers may not be sure if they are at the end of the right chapter or not. Running heads only help if you remember the name of the chapter!
And yes, even for a man who loves the feel and smell of print and ink, I must confess that linked notes in an ebook is an elegant solution. Easy navigation back and forth. And I’m glad that IVP was one of the first publishers to routinely offer this feature in its ebooks.
IVP has stopped using a fourth option–“hidden” endnotes (without numbers) for two main reasons: ebook production and reader usability. Yes, it can be a cleaner reading experience without numbers embedded in the text, but readers may not realize that there are notes until they get to the end of the book. And for the ebook versions, with no note numbers, you’d have to tag some piece of the text itself, which has to be done manually and can delay ebook release.
So footnotes? Sure. Endnotes? That can work too. Linked notes? Sounds great. End-of-chapter notes? Never.