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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