There are many styles to handle references to other books (or websites) in printed media. The style preference also seems to differ between e.g. science and humanities.

In e-books references can be styled in the same way as in printed books, just with a hyperlink below the short-name (or number) of the reference.

For an IT specialist publication planned to be published as printed book and as e-book, I intended to use the same style of references into the bibliography as I'm used from writing papers in computer science:

As you can see in [foobar93], [fnord95] and [example.com], foo and bar …

And then in the bibliography at the end of the book:

[foobar93] Interpretations of Something; Foo, Bar, et al.; 1993; Bla & Co Publishers

[fnord95] Why Something is Wrong; Fnord; 1995; Blubble Pub

[example.com] Example Website; http://www.example.com/

But my publisher was quite unhappy with that style and suggested to use footnotes instead as it would be better for e-books. From my point of view this is just the same, just with smaller hyperlinks to click and more work for the author as he won't have a central bibliography and multiply mentioned references would need to be written multiple times manually:

As you can see in Interpretations of Something¹, Why Something is Wrong² and the Example Website³, foo and bar …

And then usually on the bottom of the same page (science), or at the end of the chapter (humanities):

¹ Interpretations of Something; Foo, Bar, et al.; 1993; Bla & Co Publishers

² Why Something is Wrong; Fnord; 1995; Blubble Pub

³ Example Website; http://www.example.com/

So from my point of view visually bigger tag-like links seem to be better suited for e-books than footnotes in tiny fonts.

If the reference is just a website, a direct link to it (maybe visually marked as external link somehow) would be best for e-books, but is completely unsuitable for printed books.

The Question

Should a book which is published in print as well as electronically have the same references style in both types of media?

  • If so, is there a reference style known to be especially suited for both media?

  • If not, is there a recommendation how to phrase texts so that references always can be rendered in different styles? (Notice the additional "the" in the second example.)

    • Are there implementations of such separate styles for AsciiDoc or Markdown?

Note: When talking about e-books I primarily think of the formats PDF and epub.

1 Answer 1


I don't think there is any reference style suitable for both print and ebook. Certainly footnotes look better in printed books, though I think EndNotes would be a better compromise solution for both medias.

One problem with ebooks is that the semantics can be different when you are trying to come up with something resembling footnotes.

In epub3 there is a solution called which has been used by ibooks and kindle to present Notes popups. See my remarks on this question: How to handle footnotes when working with epub files I don't know if book design software (like Indesign) can be configured to output these things as asides in epubs but footnotes in printed books.

I use a branch of XML (called Docbook XML) which allows for (printed) footnotes and (HTML) endnotes to be output from the same source. See http://www.sagehill.net/docbookxsl/Footnotes.html Configuring this solution is not easy although I have done it..... To my knowledge Docbook xsl does not output footnotes into asides, although I will check on that.

As for styling, obviously you can do it easily in HTML/epub, while in software for printing book design you may have to apply the style manually.

The key problem is that print solution can't implement a footnote easily and cross platform. In the answer I gave before (see above URL) I recommended waiting until ASIDES were formally supported in KF8 before I start doing them. (although a popup note certainly sounds good in theory).

  • Thanks for the answer and the insight I assume "KF8" means "Kindle Format 8". As I tend more to non-proprietary e-book formats like epub, the Kindle's format is less important to me. (I'll fix that in the question soon.) But it's still interesting to see that even with such topics different e-book formats may have different capabilities and may need different solutions. Jul 31, 2015 at 11:45

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