Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Wonders of Technology?: Kindle Page Numbers

Back in 2011, Amazon announced with great fanfare that it was including page numbers, real page numbers, in its Kindle books.  I was excited about it back then, too.

Has that promise come to fruition?

Sort of.   Of maybe 15 random Kindle books on my iPad, here's the breakdown:
  • 4 have actual page numbers corresponding to actual published books.
  • 4 more have "page numbers" corresponding to someone's Platonic conception of an edition that never existed.
  • 7 just have location numbers and that infuriating thing where they try to figure out my reading speed, as though you never jump back and forth in a text.
Some observations:
  • The public domain texts are least likely to have page numbers, real or imagined, as you'd expect. 
  • Newer trade books are more likely to have page numbers, but that's not a given.  
    • Jon Krakauer's Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town has real page numbers, as does David Shields and Shane Salerno's Salinger.
    •  Robert Douglas-Fairhurst's just-published The Story of Alice: Lewis Carroll and the Secret History of Wonderland and Susan M. Schweik's older The Ugly Laws do not; they only have location markers. 

At least Amazon tells you whether there are real page numbers or not.  If you click on the "length" dropdown tab, it will say one of two things:
  • "Contains real page numbers based on the print edition, ISBN #whatever."  This will have the real page numbers.
  • "Based on the print edition, ISBN #whatever." This will not have the real page numbers.
There's an new and expensive book that would be really helpful for the upcoming research trip; it's long and weighs a ton, so I was thinking about the Kindle edition (still very expensive--over $60). Since the extremely expensive book is "based on the print edition" but without page numbers, I think I will pass on it.

But wouldn't you think that after four years, the publishers would have gotten the memo about readers wanting page numbers?


Fie upon this quiet life! said...

This is the biggest drawback to students using ebooks, imho. When I point out passages in a text, I refer to page numbers. If they can't follow along, because they can't get to p. 85 quickly enough (or at all), then they are screwed when it comes to revisiting that quote prior to exam time. (This particularly relates to Humanities, because I will give them several quotes with page numbers and then ask them test questions on any one or two of those. Without the page numbers, they're screwed.) So whenever a student writes to me and asks about using an ebook version, I always say that it could impact their grade if they do and explain the quote thing. If Kindle et al would simply use page numbers, students could do whatever they wanted.

But then, I'm a page flipper. I go back and forth a lot when I'm reading, so I doubt that I will ever use an ereader.

Fie upon this quiet life! said...

By the way - what are you watching now that Mad Men is over?

undine said...

Fie, that's my hesitation, too. I know that people say you can search with an ebook, but searching for a relatively common word would bring up too many possibilities & take a while. If they flip a paper page, they're where they need to be.

I may rewatch Mad Men, but for right now: Silicon Valley, which is hilarious, and House of Lies, which is profane and hilarious. Fun fact: the actor who played Paul Kinsey on MM is on House of Lies in a small part.