Digital nonfiction and textbooks

Three things:

1. Indices
2. Endnotes
3. Citation-ability

INDICES

If you go to the trouble to hire an indexer (quality notwithstanding) for your book, don’t bail on paying the formatter to link it up for you. An index in an ebook is worthless without page numbers, so either take it out or link it.

There is the option for the ebook reader to use the FIND function to find what he’s looking for, but really… This is not an enhancement. This should be standard operating procedure.

Keep the index. Link it.

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ENDNOTES

I know there is some distinction between a footnote and an endnote besides their placement. I don’t really care. I find them all distracting from the content. They’re necessary, though, so I whip my ADD back into the corner and carry on.

In ebooks, however, that distinction becomes worthless because there are no pages to which to add footnotes. There is no problem with annotating a book as long as you realize that it will all go at the end. In an ebook, footnotes become endnotes by default because there is no reason for them to be at the bottom of the “page” anymore. All you have to do is create reciprocal links.

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CITATION

I’ve heard people talk about digital reference/textbooks as difficult to cite. Well, okay, I can see that right now, they might be. What’s required here is a sea change in the way nonfiction/reference/textbooks are structured. The beauty of this is that in adapting for digital, it serves print just as well or better than the old citation protocols.

I will keep saying this until somebody gets it: The solution is as close as your nearest Bible and/or copy of Hamlet, viz:

Solomon 1:2: O that you would kiss me with the kisses of your mouth, For your love is better than wine.

It doesn’t matter what volume, translation, edition of either text you cite, the reader (at least, the one who bothers to check your citations) will be able to pick a copy of the text and find the source material.  No page numbers necessary.

Act II, scene 2, line 203: Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t.

My point?

Stop thinking about what’s always been done. Think about the strengths of the format and how to exploit them.

2 comments

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  2. Susan Neuhaus - Reply

    Elizabeth,
    Well said, a persuasive argument for taking the time to add meaningful links and adapt citations and endnotes to the digital reading environment. I’ve bookmarked your comments on delicious.com, keyword eprdctn.
    Thanks!

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