Amazon Explains Kindle’s Real Page Numbers

Amazon’s latest update to its Kindle 3 is the addition of “real” page numbers. For the first time, certain Kindle ebooks have page numbers that correspond to the page numbers in print editions. It may sound like a small thing, but to many Kindle users it’s huge. Not only does it give readers a sense of the book’s length, it also makes Kindle books easier to use in the classroom and book clubs.

So how did Amazon accomplish this? After all, the amount of text displayed on the Kindle can vary depending on what size text the user has selected (and the screen orientation can be changed between portrait and landscape mode). Amazon explains the process on their Kindle blog:

We had to invent an entirely new way to match the streams of text in a print book to the streams of text in a Kindle book, and assign page numbers in Kindle books. There are hundreds of thousands of Kindle books (and growing every day), so to handle a job of this size, we turned to our Amazon Web Services computing fabric. We created algorithms to match the text of print books to Kindle books and organized all of this in the cloud, using our own AWS platform. The results of this work are stored in Amazon’s Simple Storage Service, where we track the complete history of every page matching file we’ve produced. We even found a way to deliver page numbers to books that customers had already purchased – without altering those books in any way, so customers’ highlights, notes, and reading location are preserved exactly as they were.

It’s a really cool feature and I have to give Amazon props for adding it to its Kindle 3. However, I don’t like that you have to hit the menu button in order to see the page numbers. Amazon explains that they decided to hide the page numbers because “We want you to lose yourself in the reading, so page numbers are only displayed when you push the menu button.” Personally, I don’t think I would find the page numbers distracting. After all, they’ve never bother me in a print book. Perhaps future updates will have a setting that allows the user to turn this on/off.

So are Kindle users excited about the addition of real page numbers? And would you rather have them hidden or displayed all the time?

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  • Sandie

    I was so excited when I updated the Kindle because I really wanted to have page numbers, but then was so disappointed when I found out they removed a feature that I actually liked, which was you could see the location where you were at. Instead you now have to click on the menu to see the page/location. I think Amazon miscalculated when they said they “want you to lose yourself in the reading” because everyone has their own process when they are reading. I personally LOVE to see page numbers, that’s just how I work and to have to press the “menu” button now doesn’t let me “lost myself” in the reading as much as before, because I tend to stop and press it a few times as I am reading. I really hope they fix it soon and offer at least the option to have it displayed or not. They shouldn’t decide for us what is a good “reading experience.”

    So yeah, as someone who LOVED Kindle, this took a bit of a step back for me. Still love it but they need to fix it.

    • Pam

      You still have the graph at the bottom of the page that shows the percentage of the book you’ve read.

      • Sandie

        I don’t really care about the percentage. Knowing that I have read 10% of a book means nothing to me because it could be 50 pages like it could be 20 pages. I like to know exactly how many pages I have read. That’s just the way I enjoy reading and I hope the next Kindle update will allow me to set up the Kindle the way I enjoy it best.