It seems to be a commonly held belief that having references1 in your work, or indeed footnotes in the text itself, puts normal people off reading the book you have lovingly written.

I however have come to the conclusion that it really doesn’t matter, and if anyone is actually silly enough to be put off by such things, they probably shouldn’t be reading the book in the first place.

1) exactly what is offputting about having numbers in your text is still unclear to me.

Now, I reckon that one way of gauging the effect of references etc is to look at popular books and seeing what they have. After all, if a book has sold well despite having references and a bibliography etc, then maybe that doesn’t really matter.

“The Time travellers guide to medieval England” by Ian Mortimer– has superscripted numbers referring to notes at the back.

“Britain in the middle ages” by Francis Pryor – Has references inline leading to notes at the back.

Both are well known books, and have sold well.

A little more esoteric, although still a bestseller, “Uriel’s Machine” by Knight and Lomas has references by footnote and a bibliography.

How about something more academic? There’s “Making a living in the Middle ages” by Christopher Dyer. Weirdly, this actually doesn’t have references and notes, rather at the back it has sources for the broad area of information in each chapter. Strange, that a book written by an academic has less academic signs than those written by others and meant as popular books. I have sort of tried this approach in the past, but now think that actually the more direct and specific the links you can put in the better for the reader who wants to know more.

So in conclusion, I say that any ideas about putting people off a work by having references and suchlike is old fashioned, unnecessary and a hindrance to informing people.