The future of footnotes . . .

. . . is on the web.

Craig Shirley is accusing Rick Perlstein of plagiarizing his work in The Invisible Bridge - a charge that might be taken more seriously if politics weren't involved and Shirley weren't asking for $25 million in supposed damages. Oh, and if Perlstein hadn't cited Shirley some 125 times.

Putting aside the charges, it's interesting that Perlstein put the footnotes for the book on-line. One of the reasons he said he did this was to keep the length of the book down, a factor I can tell you is actually much more important than most non-authors know. But more interesting is the ability to link those notes to the original sources in many cases, allowing the reader (and other researchers) to explore the sources on their own. It also allows for up-dating and upgrading the notes as time goes on.

The arrangement has been criticized on the grounds that the cites can be put in retroactively; obviously the people saying that are far more interested in playing "gotcha" than actually using the notes in a meaningful way.

I'd love the ability to use inter-active notes with some of my nonfiction books, most notably Rangers at Dieppe and Omar Bradley, General at War. Readers have supplied me with lots of information since the publication of both. While they haven't changed the specific findings in either case, they have added interesting tidbits and shaded a few interpretations. While I talk about them here and on the website when I can, this is no where near as convenient for readers as a dedicated site with links would be.

Of course, the question then would be who maintains it. Even the least expensive hosting arrangements would add expense that most writers couldn't bear over the long haul.

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