Footnote Protocol

Why do publications ever collect footnotes at the end of a chapter, or, worse yet, and the end of the book? The latter involves flipping back to the footnote section, finding the section including the page you are on, finding the footnote in the section, then (typically) flipping back, with one finger stuck there, to where one was reading, because by that point the context is lost.

As a reader I hate that format: it must be done for the convenience of the publisher, right? (I am thinking it makes layout easier to collect all footnotes in one spot.)


  1. End of the book makes more sense for ebooks, since you can click back and forth easily.

  2. Footnote placement is done by a GMO-free algorithm, using models developed by a best-practice process.

  3. Yes, 1000 times yes. I don't get it either.

  4. I did it that way in Chaos Theory because I didn't want the main text cluttered with long footnotes. Some people don't want to read the footnotes.

    1. I typically like to read the footnotes because I often find good info, but I am less likely to do so when it is laid out like that. I will say that if they aren't on the bottom of the page, then I would prefer that they all be at the back of the book, that way it is at least a little easier to flip to them.

  5. Pet peeve here, too. I end up with two bookmarks.

  6. Bob is closest to a publisher's perspective, based on my experience in the field. There's no great layout difficulty involved in putting notes elsewhere than at the end of a book, but most non-academic readers feel inconvenienced by text being broken up with footnotes that interrupt the flow of the work. A publisher also doesn't want a reader to flip through a book, chance upon interior pages cluttered with notes, and conclude that work is too dense to be worth purchasing.

    John Lukacs insists that the notes to his works be actual footnotes, not endnotes. But Lukacs also writes footnotes more like a writer than an academic, and there aren't usually too many on any given page.

    End-of-chapter notes make the least sense to me: they break up the book badly, but the reader still has to flip between pages to read them---and has to guess where a given chapter ends and its notes begin. Back-of-the book notes with a top-of-page header clearly telling the reader which body pages are covered on which notes pages are the least problematic for the general reader.