Alexandra Horowitz blames e-books, but footnote-killing is a longstanding trend among non-virtual academic book publishers for at least twenty years. Most university presses and tradey U-press lines use endnotes, period. (And who other than university presses make such generous use of notes, anyway? Nonfiction trade books usually offer the clumsy and much more paper-consumptive apparatus of citing sources by quoting the beginning of a sentence, followed by ellipses, and then listing the relevant sources. Are tiny numbers on the page really all that distracting to the average reader? Srsly?)
My understanding was that the increase in paper costs nearly 20 years ago led most academic publishers to switch from footnotes (at the bottom of each page) to endnotes (at the back of the book.) Somehow, I was informed, this saves paper. I can remember the last time I read a book with footnotes–ironically, it was Anthony Grafton’s The Footnote: A Curious History (1997), which I re-read with my graduate seminar a few weeks ago, and which for obvious reasons offers footnotes rather than endnotes. (Horowitz’s exploration on the life and death of the footnote uses and cites Grafton generously, too.) But I think when it was published 14 years ago, it was already exotic for having resisted a publisher’s insistence on endnotes.
My foremost concern about e-books–or perhaps more specifically with the Kindle, although I hope those of you in the know will inform me if this is true of other e-readers–is that it makes citations by students unnecessarily annoying. Continue Reading »