Will the E-Book Kill the Footnote?

The New York Times recently published an opinion piece positing that the formatting of text in e-readers rings a death knell for footnotes. A passage we found interesting here at the library:

“The e-book hasn’t killed the book; instead, it’s killing the ‘page.’ Today’s e-readers scroll text continuously, eliminating the single preformed page, along with any text defined by being on its bottom. A spokesman for the Kindle assured me that it is at the discretion of the publisher how to treat footnotes. Most are demoted to hyperlinked endnotes or, worst of all, unlinked endnotes that require scrolling through the e-reader to access. Few of these will be read, to be sure.”

We couldn’t help but notice the reference to scrolling and wondered, are we coming full circle? Are we reverting back to the scroll? One of the main advantages of the codex (the traditional book with printed pages, a spine, index, etc.) is its “browseability” and the ability to include additional information, like footnotes, as a part of the format. E-readers can act much more like ancient papyrus scrolls, requiring the user move through continuous text to arrive at a section of information. E-readers do have the ability to jump to other sections of a text, but we, like the author of the article, think the ‘page’ still holds some real advantages, the inclusion of footnotes being an excellent example.

What’s your experience with e-readers?


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