Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Footnote Formatting online--Opinions Requested

My next nonfiction book, Future Imperfect, should be coming out sometime next year. In addition to the print version, there will be a webbed version.

Footnote references in the print version use the short form--(Benson 1989). The question is how to do them in the webbed version. Three alternatives have so far occurred to me:

1. Just like the print version. Short form footnote, full reference in the bibliography.

2. Long form, as in the bibliography. On the web, paper is free.

Bruce Benson, “The Spontaneous Evolution of Commercial Law,” Southern Economic Journal, Vol. 55, No. 3, January 1989, pages 644-661.

3. Short form, linked to an anchor at the long form in the bibliography.

My one reservation with regard to the the third option is that a reader may see that there's a link, assume it goes to a webbed version of the article--in some cases I do have links to webbed materials--and be disappointed that it doesn't. One way I could deal with that, I suppose, is to make it a stealth link--shows up on the mouseover but isn't colored blue--and reserve ordinary links for links to webbed material.

Are there better solutions than any of these?



Eric H said...

I like a variation on 3: long form first time, linked short form after that. Paper may be free, but my time isn't. It's nice to know that I've already looked at it (and possibly added it to my Amazon wishlist) and don't have to contemplate it any further.

Chris Hibbert said...

I'm in partial agreement with Eric. pixels are free, attention isn't. What I want to see in a reference is author and (possibly abbreviated) title, so I can tell whether I've seen it before, and so I'll recognize it if you mention it again. If you have the link, link from the title. (hibbert, pancrit.org) If you have to refer to the bibliography for the pulped edition's identity, do it from a short identifier in the reference (hibbert, mydruthers.com [3]) so I can distinguish that from the link to the actual paper.

Nic Smith said...

I like option #3. I think you may be able to get some good ideas from Wikipedia's style here -- use distinct icons for external links and links to bibliographic information.

Can I also suggest links from the bibliography to the original text, as Wikipedians do for some of our articles? This makes going from a bibliography entry back to the text slightly easier and faster. The references section of the entry on Milton Friedman has some good examples of this.

Michael Roberts said...

I like short form followed by, say (fr) linking to the full reference and / or (ft) linking to the full text.

Anonymous said...

two more options:
1. marginal notes
2. short form that shows long form when you mouse-over. eg, the abbr tag.