I often use footnotes in my writing. When I compile to a paperback format, I want those displayed at the bottom of the page. However, when I compile the same document for Kindle, footnotes tend to not work very consistently across devices, so I’d like to have the footnotes display basically like inline annotations do.
The Plaintext format has the exact set of options I want (Embed Footnotes Inline and Enclosing markers for footnotes).
Is there a way to use these options in Kindle and/or ebook formats?
What sort of inconsistencies have you encountered with Kindle readers and footnotes? In my experience there are two different behaviours here, which one should find consistent within the device they use:
- Modern devices: the content of the footnote appears in a dynamic overlay of some sort, suitable to the context. In this mode of operation you can seamlessly read the content of the footnote and then tap outside of it to return to reading the main content.
- Older devices: the embedded hyperlinks act as physical navigation to wherever the notes file is stored in the book, with a return link that gets you back to the footnote marker when you’re done (and of course all devices have a Back button). This is how footnotes were read in ebooks for around two decades, before tech got to the point where the above was possible. It may be some of the budget models still use this approach for lack of resources, I don’t know. It’s not as nice as the above, but readers know their way around it.
The important thing is that from the reader’s point of view the experience on their device is fairly consistent. The only lack of consistency comes from poorly made or old ebooks that do not use the now conventional method of signalling footnotes. And that point there supports the argument for following standards: as technology continues to evolve and improve the display of ebooks, those using standard footnote notation at the technical level will benefit from these evolutions. Say in five years, end of page footnotes become a reality. All of those books using the modern footnote notation standard will very likely benefit overnight from such an improvement. Anyone forcing the issue for matters of personal preference will most likely not.
Design ideals aside, there really is no way to adjust the behaviour of footnotes in ebooks (you can find all of the options in the Footnotes & Comments compile option format pane), assuming you are stuck on using the stock ebook generator and the dedicated footnote feature in Scrivener. The best solution I can think of is to not use footnotes and instead use Styles or Inline Annotations. (Potentially there may be an approach if you switch to using Markdown to write, and install Pandoc to integrate its ePub generator with Scrivener, but I’ve never tried to force Pandoc to do something with footnotes other than make footnotes, so you’d want to research that before investing any time in it, if you’d be inclined to go that route at all.)
Thanks for the reply. For some situations, what you’re suggesting would certainly work, but in my writing I often use footnotes as a sort of comedic subtext (if you’ve ever read the Bartimaeus books, or Cosmic Banditos, you’ll get the idea of what I’m referring to).
In paperback form, this works well, as the reader can just dart their eyes down to the bottom of the page as needed, or wait until the reach the end of the page to read the subtext. However on kindle devices, it becomes tedious to tap every time you want to read the footnotes.
In my book, Half Worlder, I got around this problem by manually converting the footnotes into bracketed text in the main body of text, which worked decently, but was tedious to do by hand.
The best workaround I can see so far is to duplicate the footnote text in an annotation and have annotations left in the ebook version, and footnotes removed, then do the reverse for the paperback compile.
I’ll go ahead and post this over in the wish list forum and keep my fingers crossed, but I appreciate you taking the time to answer. If you think of another workaround, please let me know.
Scrivener already has a mechanism for converting footnotes to comments and back—no need to duplicate text!
Before compiling for ebook, put your text into Scrivenings view, and place your cursor in the body text. All your footnotes should show up in the Inspector sidebar. Now select all your footnotes and right-click on one. In the context menu, select “Convert to comment”. All your footnotes will convert to comments and you can compile with them as you want. Before compiling to print, reverse the process (see screenshot attached.)
P.S. For information only, the ebook versions of Terry Pratchett’s works, which use a similar comedic convention, all use the “tap to footnote, tap back to text” mechanism. While I understand wanting to provide a better experience for your readers, if in fact your readers are already accustomed to the way footnotes work in ebooks, they may find bracketed text irritating. OTOH, no one knows your readers better than you.