I am currently formatting a manuscript into ebook formats (epub and mobi). My manuscript contains many footnotes, and I don't know how to handle them.

It's important for me that these be footnotes rather than, say, endnotes - they're humorous asides; I need the user to be able to glance at them and be able to get right back to the main text (and also, not to get a peek ahead at the next dozen footnotes from future chapters...).

I'm interested in both officially supported markup for major devices (I know the Kindle Paperwhite now has inline footnote functionality), and in workarounds which produce a good final result.

Kindle footnotes: Kindle Footnotes

  • 1
    What do you use to generate these formats? Or are you editing HTML and styles directly?
    – Anthon
    Commented Dec 19, 2013 at 9:07
  • @Anthon: At the moment I'm editing HTML and styles directly. If there's a tool I can apply to the final product which won't mess up the existing formatting, I'd be OK with that.
    – Standback
    Commented Dec 19, 2013 at 9:08
  • EPUB 3 supports popup footnotes. Supported on iOS. For the main eReaders, I haven't checked but I assume it'd work.
    – empedocle
    Commented Apr 3, 2021 at 20:43

5 Answers 5


I don't think there is an official way to put footnotes, at least in EPUB2. What I do in the ebooks I prepare is to add an hyperlink to the note (placed in a chapter of its own at the end of the book, and to put at the end of the note another hyperlink which goes back to the original position. It's a bit ugly, but at least it helps readers (in the sense of people, not devices!)

  • This is a good general solution. I find the easiest way to make an epub is via Sigil and this way I just write notes in a text editor as I read through the article in Sigil making all underlines and highlights I want, then at the end I will insert a notes chapter with links after I have read the material.
    – r0berts
    Commented Jan 10, 2018 at 9:48
  • Could you paste the code please?
    – Quidam
    Commented Apr 28, 2019 at 11:31
  • @Quidam : me or @r0berts? My code is as follows: in the main text, « lorem<a id="tx-tbc1" href="#fn-tbc1"><sup>[1]</sup></a> ipsum », and in the footnote « <div id="fn-tbc1" class="footnote"> <p><b>1.</b> lorem ipsum <a href="#tx-tbc1"> →</a></p> </div>
    – mau
    Commented Apr 29, 2019 at 12:57

There's no easy and global solution to it. I'd recommend using some kind of side-notes as described here.

Note that if your target is mainly EPUB3, you can create popfootnotes as described here.

  • The article you link to is primarily about exporting existing designs smoothly; if I understand correctly, the direct solution you propose is simply to place the footnotes inline with the text, with a distinctive style to differentiate them from the primary text.
    – Standback
    Commented Dec 19, 2013 at 9:19
  • 1
    @Standback you are right about including them inline, as I don't know other viable options regarding foot (and not end) notes for multiple platforms. Or see my updated answer. Commented Dec 19, 2013 at 9:21

If you only are afraid of your users reading the other footnotes if they are displayed as endnoted, then it might suffice to put each of them on their own page.

If you include an explicit back-link to the original location for the footnote at the end of the footnote ([continue reading ...]) as well, the reader is more likely to get back to the position they came from to read the foot-/end-note.


If you're producing PDFs, their physical layout will be honored to a degree, then you can just use a PDF production tool which understands footnotes.

PrinceXML has high quality footnote support, as well as a styling language you already know (radically modern CSS3,) as well as basically everything else you would ever dare to want, as well as a startlingly active forum where users give compellingly weird solutions to really complex problems. However, it's rather expensive - five hundred, last I looked. (I love it, so I bought it.)

There is a free similar tool called WEasyPrint, but since I had Prince before WEasyPrint existed, I haven't had any reason to switch, and as such I cannot speak to its quality. I hear good things.

  • It's not about PDF.
    – Quidam
    Commented Apr 28, 2019 at 11:32
  • Most eBooks are PDFs, and the photo shows a Kindle, which requests PDF. It almost certainly is, in fact, about PDF. Commented Apr 28, 2019 at 14:22
  • Most ebooks are not PDFs. You can use a PDF on a Kindle, but it is a particularly unpleasant thing to do -- most PDFs have pages too large so that rendering it on a Kindle forces you to read in a flyspeck font. Kindle natively uses a special format that is not epub, but is very similar to epub, and which can trivially be converted back and forth from epub. PDF is good for reading on computer screens. It's not very useful for dedicated ebook readers.
    – unkilbeeg
    Commented May 7, 2019 at 16:37
  • "Most ebooks are not PDFs. You can use a PDF on a Kindle, but it is a particularly unpleasant thing to do" Hi. According to CreateSpace, over 80% of Kindle books, including all of mine, are PDFs under the hood. You can't tell the difference, because they aren't represented as PDFs, but, if you get and set up an old iPad, it won't be able to render most of the books for this reason. "Kindle natively uses a special format that is not epub, but is very similar to epub" Respectfully, CreateSpace and KDP both say that format is little used, and recommend PDF. Commented May 8, 2019 at 22:29
  • The next time you try to lodge an ebook on Amazon, you may be surprised to learn that they've buried their epub-alike (whose only job was to create a walled garden to kill kobo) deep in their system, and that literally every front facing path consumes nothing except PDF. Commented May 8, 2019 at 22:30

Here is Amazon documentation on footnotes editing

Here is how to create footnotes in HTML:

Amazon strongly recommends marking footnotes with the HTML5 aside element, together with the epub:type attribute. This allows accessible reading systems to ignore the footnotes except when followed by their referents and allows any reading system to handle them more intelligently (e.g., as popups). This usage ensures that even if the EPUB semantic is not recognized, the notes will still be treated as secondary content due the nature of the HTML5 aside element.

Regardless of whether the aside element is used, Amazon requires formatting footnotes with bidirectional hyperlinks (the text is linked to the footnote and the footnote is linked back to the text). This makes it easier for customers to return to the text after viewing the footnote. On some Kindle devices, such as Kindle Paperwhite, footnotes with bi-directional hyperlinks are displayed in a pop-up.

For a better reading experience, Amazon strongly recommends placing the footnote text at the end of the chapter or book

This is one of the simplest ways to create linked footnotes using HTML, but there are many others. Please note that Amazon requires footnote links to be superscript.

Place this HTML code in your main body content where you want the footnote link to appear:

<p>This footnote example uses the aside element with the epub:type attribute and bi-directional 
hyperlinks.<sup><a id="source" href="#ft-1-1" epub:type="noteref">1</a></sup></p>


<aside id="ft-1-1" epub:type="footnote">

<p><a epub:type="noteref" href="#source">1.</a> This is the footnote text, 
which should be placed at the end of the chapter or book.</p>


Change the number value for each footnote that you include in your text. The first footnote in your book should use the number 1, the second footnote should use 2, the third should use 3, and so on:

And describe your footnote:

<p id="footnote-1" epub:type="footnote">Here is the footnote text</p>

After you've set all your footnotes, they'll be converted to endnotes automatically when you upload your book

Sometimes it will open as a popup, but sometimes the navigation will take you to the page. I don't know exactly why. It looks like there's some heuristics involved.

Try always to:

  1. put your footnotes in another section,
  2. have the link superscripted,
  3. link back from your footnote to the text.

You can find more tips on this page.

Here is some documentation of special tags and attributes.

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