URLs in printed footnotes: how to access?
October 18, 2014 2:10 AM   Subscribe

Is there an easy way to include links to URLs from a printed book.

I'm copy editing and producing a printed collection of essays and many of the footnotes refer to websites or online pdfs.
Does anyone know of an elegant solution to easily link to these addresses. I thought of QR codes, which aren't very elegant, and don't scale down, or perhaps a book page, or a link to a pdf version of the entire book where the notes are linked. But the QR code does seem the fastest.
Is there a better mousetrap?
posted by bwonder2 to Writing & Language (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I would just replace them all with quicker-to-type tinyurl.com links and/or refer people to a central webpage where they can access all the links from all the footnotes.
posted by Jacqueline at 3:17 AM on October 18, 2014

Best answer: Tinyurls and the like are a bad idea if this is to be a properly sourced book. Even if some of the original online sources are gone in the future, it is at least documentation to what was true at time of publication. Shortened links are likely to die much sooner (totally out of your control, anyway), leaving no clue as to the real locations. Also, I’d use QR codes only as an addition to the original URLs.

Myself, I’d only bother to use the URLs. If you think it’s really necessary, set up a webpage for the book somewhere and give that address at the end of the book (e.g., at the beginning of a reference list) or possibly on the copyright page with an explanation that it contains links to the sources referenced in the book. The downside is that it is yet another link that will die someday in the future.

A PDF or e-book format of the book with live links would be fine if you don’t care that people who haven’t paid for it could download it, including people illegally hosting the file elsewhere. If that is not a concern for anyone involved then I think that is the best solution.
posted by D.C. at 4:28 AM on October 18, 2014 [5 favorites]

I think with url-shortening, you might able to get a QR code down to a relatively unobtrusive size.

I made a 50 x 50px code of "http://shortened.com/1234" here, and shrunk it with ctrl-minus in the browser. At only a little over half-a-pinky (technical term) in screen width, it worked fine on my phone.
I'd probably also put the shortened url directly below the QR square. If you've got access to the server/IT people, you might be able to use something like YOURLS to set up an in-house URL for shortened addresses. (One nice side-effect being you could theoretically track how many times the codes are actually used.)

(On preview, yeah, you'll need to figure out whether shortened URL's are good for the project, considering the factors D.C. mentions, link-rot, etc. Using a longer address (the one for this thread) I could get the QR code down to thumb-width.)
posted by quinndexter at 4:42 AM on October 18, 2014

I would just list the full URLs, but create a permanent web page, with a simple URLS, associated specifically with this publication and containing hyperlinked versions of all the footnote URLs. This way the reader only needs to go to that source page and can easily click through to the source pages. A further advantage to this method is that if the source links change over time, that page can be updated. Obviously the publication would need a pointer to this associated master URL resource page.
posted by beagle at 5:44 AM on October 18, 2014 [4 favorites]

You should take a look at Webcite. It also solves the problem of vanishing content.
posted by shvaughn at 8:26 AM on October 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Personally, I think QR codes are a marketing fad that will be forgotten soon, so I would avoid them for anything you expect to last for more than a couple years. In addition, this isn't the appropriate application for a QR code — they are intended for use on a mobile device where typing a URL might be cumbersome, whereas someone checking a reference in a book is more likely to use a computer with a keyboard. Finally, QR codes aren't supported natively on iOS, so many people would just ignore them anyway.
posted by stopgap at 9:21 AM on October 18, 2014

I made a 50 x 50px code of "http://shortened.com/1234" here, and shrunk it with ctrl-minus in the browser. At only a little over half-a-pinky (technical term) in screen width

50x50 is pretty big, that url will fit in a 29x29 code with good error tolerance. 49x49 gets you about triple that capacity, more if the printing quality is predictably good.

I think this is exactly what QRs are good for, and if you're worried about layout for multiple footnotes or whatever, maybe you could consider endnotes.
posted by rhizome at 10:07 AM on October 18, 2014

Create a web page listing all the URLs in clickable form, save it to Archive.org, then include that Archive.org address in the book.
posted by Rhaomi at 3:51 PM on October 20, 2014

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