It's a problem I had when writing my first novel, which featured a serial killer who'd been turned into a killing machine by conscription as a boy soldier in the Bosnian-Serbian wars of the 1980s. A theme of the novel was desensitisation towards violence, how appalling incidents become part of the entertainment industry, with onlookers more likely to take out their phones to video car crash victims than to rescue them—sadly, this has actually happened.
To get this point across, I was tempted into referring to various atrocities in the conflicts over the ages in Bosnia to explain my villain's lack of empathy. This would have meant lots of footnotes in a conventional printed book, but as I'd just discovered the joys of hyperlinks
in ebooks I ended up with lots of highlighted words. This looks awful and puts the story into forbidden 'tell-not-show' territory and is an info-dump too. It made me more of a history lecturer than a story teller.
In the last couple of years, with another novel completed and another one on the way, I've decided that if a reader using a Kindle or other e-reading device wants to find out more about an unusual word or historical reference, then they can highlight it themselves and right click to search Google.
C.J. Sansom writes historical thrillers set in Tudor times, which have more humanity to them than the much praised Hilary Mantel. His modern way with language jarred a little when I first read it, after the formality of Mantel's phrasing, but I prefer it. I care about Matthew Sheldrake and his friends more than the precise characterisations of historical figures in Wolf Hall.
C. J. Sansom: The Official Website - Shardlake