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

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    What do you use to generate these formats? Or are you editing HTML and styles directly? – Anthon Dec 19 '13 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 Dec 19 '13 at 9:08

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 Jan 10 '18 at 9:48
  • Could you paste the code please? – Quidam Apr 28 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 Apr 29 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 Dec 19 '13 at 9:19
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    @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. – Zsolt Botykai Dec 19 '13 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 Apr 28 at 11:32
  • Most eBooks are PDFs, and the photo shows a Kindle, which requests PDF. It almost certainly is, in fact, about PDF. – John Haugeland Apr 28 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 May 7 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. – John Haugeland May 8 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. – John Haugeland May 8 at 22:30

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