random thoughts on page numbers, more offers for Monday

For your Kindle, some more offers courtesy Happy Reader Joyce -

  1. Starlighter by Bryan Davis. Price: $0. Genre: Children’s Books, Religious, Dragons. Rated 4 stars on 53 reviews.
  2. It Takes a Genome: How a Clash Between Our Genes and Modern Life is Making Us Sick by Greg Gibson. Price: $0. Genre: Genetics, Science. This was free earlier on August 30th, 2010. A few reviews claiming it’s a very general book, and not really meant for people really into science.
  3. Edward Kennedy’s Leadership Lessons by FT Press. Price: $0. Genre: Leadership, Business. Another repeat free offer. This was free on December 6th, 2010.
  4. That is SO Me: 365 Days of Devotions: Flip-Flops, Faith, and Friends by Nancy Rue. Price: $0. Genre: Religious, Children, Year-long Devotional. Rated 3.5 stars on 2 reviews. 
  5. The Aedyn Chronicles: Chosen Ones by Alister McGrath. Price: $0. Genre: Fantasy, Chosen Few, Religious. Rated 3.5 stars on 27 reviews. A repeat offer from July 19th, 2010.

The repeat of offers makes you wonder – Do the new Kindle owners (ones who got their Kindles on Christmas or later) take priority over earlier Kindle owners?

If not, then why not release offers that are new for EVERYONE.

Perhaps there’s a list of books and authors Amazon wants to promote, and that’s why we’re seeing repeat offers.

Thoughts on Page Numbers

Page Numbers continue to be a topic causing much consternation. The justifications for Kindle not having Page Numbers are mostly just that – justifications. Let’s try to dig a little deeper.

From a thread at the Kindle forum on page numbers, and from other sources, here is a list of cons of not having page numbers -

  1. It becomes very difficult to figure out references in Textbooks. Your Professor says Page 237 and you have to use Calculus to figure out what location that might be. 
  2. It becomes difficult to use a Kindle in a book club.
  3. It’s difficult to tell someone using a physical book where you’re at. 
  4. We just aren’t used to locations. Page numbers – everyone gets. 
  5. The Kindle shows pages, yet it lists locations. You’re using pages and you have Next Page and Previous Page buttons – but then you’re supposed to forget about page numbers and use locations.
  6. No one knows just what a location is. That’s a big part of the problem – It’s not just that you’re losing something familiar. It’s being replaced with something that’s unexplained. It would be like replacing pounds for weight with oranges – Except no one tells you what one orange weighs or what size of orange to use.
  7. You dissociate from everyone else. All physical book readers, all other eReader owners, and all people who use reading apps are using page numbers. You’re on this Kindle island with locations instead of page numbers.

There are also some benefits due to using locations -

  1. Locations don’t change with font size.
  2. Page Numbers change with type of book (hardcover, paperback, etc.) so locations are more consistent.
  3. Less work for Amazon and authors and publishers.
  4. Locations make more sense than page numbers from a logical perspective. It makes you wonder whether this is a decision made by an algorithm, or by a very logic-oriented person, without considering the perspective of general readers.
  5. If it survives for more than a few years it’ll get people more invested in the Kindle.

It’s interesting how at the forums it’s become difficult to talk about a Kindle shortcoming. It instantly turns into an argument with people claiming that the shortcoming isn’t really a shortcoming. The biggest argument being used to defend the lack of page numbers is – People are stuck in the past. They need to learn to change with the times.

That’s a strange argument – Kindle uses eInk precisely to re-create the ink on paper experience. So it’s not like it’s not catering to people’s need for familiarity.

Also, it’s debatable whether a product’s goal is to drag people into the future or re-create what people are comfortable with.

Why is Kindle the only eReader using locations?

Kindle being the only eReader using locations means one of two things – It wants to drag everyone into what Amazon considers a more efficient way of ‘locating’ places in a book, or it just didn’t want to deal with the complications of using page numbers in ebooks.

Here’s a simple solution used by Sony, courtesy Mark Twain (the commenter, not the author) -

“Sony and many producers of Epub digital books have found a very simple fix for this: place the print version page number faintly at the end of a line of text on the right margin. It is completely non-distracting, but easy to find if you are looking for it.”

Sony reader and Nook both use Page Numbers. No matter what the other arguments – it’s easier to work with page numbers. It’s something everyone’s used to.

It’d be nice if Amazon moved from locations to page numbers, or let users choose what they wanted to use. It’s not a problem that’s going away anytime soon.

22 Responses

  1. You asked about the repeat free offers. Any free offfers do not spring from Amazon. They begin with the publishers, informing Amazon they are offering the books for free for a certain amount of time. If the publisher wants to do that more than once for the same book, Amazon simply takes them up on their offer.

  2. Great analysis of pro & cons of page numbers.

    It would be great to have a sense of where you are at at the press of a button. Page ## (allowing for the fact that physical versions can differ) and chapter. Basically what might appear on the page header/footer in a physical book.

    This would be **really** handy for the times I read my Bible on a Kindle. Sometimes if you flip around you can forget where exactly you are at. And knowing that you are looking at Matthew 2 is a lot more helpful than a silly location number.

  3. I think I finally figured what the locations are, at least… They coincide with sentences. Still fairly useless, but at least makes some sense.

    • Are you sure? Here’s a comment from one of the Kindle forum threads a while back:

      PF says: “Kindles divide text into 128 bytes of data that they call locations.”

  4. page numbers are crucial for book club discussions. Let’s have them!

  5. Amazon may not have any desire to serve an academic market, but the lack of page numbers is a serious problem for serious research and writing. While the “My Clippings” feature is a positive factor for researchers, it is largely offset by the absence of page numbers. If one hoped to publish something with references from a Kindle, it would be necessary to locate the physical book and lookup appropriate page numbers so a general audience could check citations. Myopia on Amazon’s part–with a vengeance.

  6. Amazon may not have any desire to serve an academic market, but the lack of page numbers is a major problem for serious research and writing. Wile the “My Clippings” features is a positive factor for research, it is largely offset by the absence of page numbers. If one hoped to publish something with references from reading on Kindle, it would be necessary to locate a traditional copy of thebook and lookup referenced page numbers so that readers could check citations. Myopica on Amazon’s part–with a vengeance.

    • Hi, Cam, Bob Petty here. Even before I saw your post I replied to a comment below which dismissed the need for page numbers and I observed the need for page numbers for serious research.
      Obviously students and professors have to have pages for citations. The education market should eventually be large for e-books, but will be seriously curtailed by the lack of page numbers.
      Happy new year!

  7. I would like to see books on the kindle alphabetized by book title or author. Why is that not available. Also I would like to mark the books that I have already read once I am done with them.

    • It is available. For an alphabetic listing, just move your cursor to the top of the home page and move it right or left to click on most recent, title or author to get list in that order. Further to the Right choose between by collections or all books. See the manual.

      Try folders for organizing your books. I have a “Read” folder into which I move read books and sample folders for each of Kindle only and Kindle/audible.com samples.

      Go to read book, move cursor to right and select add to collection. Select add to collection. Create a new collection called Read.

  8. It shouldn’t be too difficult to say you’re on page X of Y based on current settings, should it. Or even, if you were reading ISBN/edition Y, you’d be on page X.

    While we’re at it, part of my wish list includes:

    more fonts
    finer font size control (point by point would be nice)
    adjustable margins, horizontal and vertical (you can adjust the horizontal by editing the pref file)
    choice of left/full justification (again, you can edit the pref file for the K3 to get this)
    proper justification (at the very least, perform hyphenation based on a hyphenation dictionary and/or algorithmically)
    choose to display or not to display the location/page bar
    text darkening (“contrast” in pdf viewing)

    All of that would go a long way toward improving the activity of reading itself, and that hasn’t even touched on any interface, organization, etc., aspects.

    Hardware-side, my wish list includes a size in between the K3 and the DX (6″ is just a bit too small–I read most things in landscape mode accordingly; 7″-8″ would be about perfect) and of course better contrast and resolution (167dpi, nice as it can be, is still pretty low-res for print).

    I really hope that Amazon (or *somebody*) makes a reading-centric device that hits at most or all of these points *before* worrying about coming out with a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none tablet. A master-of-all tablet would be nice, when the technology gets to the point where you can have the best of both worlds in terms of electronic paper and video screens, but until then, I’d prefer a device that gets the *reading* part down pat.

    That said, I find reading on the K3 already a better experience than reading a bog-standard MMPB.

  9. Here’s a depressing comment, from a months-ago discussion on a thread on Amazon’s Kindle discussion site:

    snowleopard: “(What I fear is that Amazon’s guidelines to publishers for submitting a digital text to it for the Kindle recommend omitting the page number–or that the format they suggest inherently lacks a page number.)”

    Here are more:

    Switch11: “it just didn’t want to deal with the complications of using page numbers in ebooks.”

    “It makes you wonder whether this is a decision made by an algorithm, or by a very logic-oriented person, without considering the perspective of general readers.”

    ==========
    “Citation needed”–ever heard that phrase? Does anyone think wikipedia and its readers will or should be satisfied with with a Kindle location number?!?! Get real.

    ========

    I groused loudly about the absence of page numbering on the Kindle site when it first came out, and I’ve engaged since there in detailed rebuttals of some of the ingenious defenses that have been put up. As Switch says, they’re “just justifications.” WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?

  10. To play devil’s advocate, page number are probably going to become a less relevant indicator of location in a book as we migrate to digital books, where the ability to set page size to your liking, through reader screen sizes and font sizes, even during the course of reading a book, which, in fact, I do this all the time–on the bus to and from work, or in my easy chair, with lots of light I use a small font, and in bed I use a size two settings higher–because it improves the experience. Sentence numbers certainly are more precise although less convenient owing to their size.

    I’ve noticed something rather peculiar about reading digital documents. Granted, these are my preferences, but:
    1) I truly dislike reading fixed page documents (pdf or word) and in fact I’ve decided that I’ve disliked reading fixed paged documents all the way back since the time of Displaywrite and DOS-based word perfect, all the way up to pdf documents todayy.
    2) On a scroll-by-page device like the Kindle, anchoring on the first sentence of the display leads to a completely fluid transition when I change font sizes (assuming I change the font when I get t a new page rather than in the middle of one).
    3) On a touch screen device such as an iphone or ipad with smooth scrolling, I tend to read the top third or so of the screen and simply continously scroll the text into that region, almost like a teleprompter rather than read a page at a time.

    The upshot of this is that I’m finding that I prefer one long continous stream of text to paginated text. I find the reading more efficient and enjoyable.

    From my perspective, the improvement that Kindle could make would be to have a font-up and font-down button to allow instant adjustment without the intervening dialog box.

    The other nice change they could make would be to store the page number I am on in their cloud. Although the Kindle follows me in my bag to work and back, there are times when I’ve only got my iphone or computer and would love to pick up where I left off on the Kindle. Sentence numbers are perfect for this.

    As much as I adore books, I think that the concept of a “page” is going the way the “sides” of a audio disk (or cassette) to describe the location of a song on an album: it is simply becoming less relevant. Aside from economics, the Kindle is already a superior way of reading in my book.

    Image, swapping “Penguin, page 453, paragraph 2, sentence 1″ with “sentence 2873.” From a usage stanpoint I prefer the latter. The ability to “goto a page” might be useful over the next few years but over time the value deminishes for the vast majority of people using the device. Should it be Amazon’s (and B&N and others) responsibility to place page tags in their books or should some enterprising web entrepeneur or Google create a quick lookup system for this?

    • you ignore the need for students, book club discussions, and researchers to provide citations with with consistent page numbers. As Switch11 says, an inconspicuous page number placed at the end of a line would do it.

  11. They legal profession solved the electronic publication location reference problem for immutable text by using decision number within the volume, then paragraph number and finally, I believe, sentence numbers. It all seems kind of a trip backwards to the biblical style of Author:Chapter:Verse, immutable. Alas, that will not work with those who do not have an electric book, We are at the problem Microsoft faced with Windows: legacy apps.

    Disadvantage is that there is not a lot of screen real estate to show all this or any other book location scheme for that matter. Given that there seems to be a generally felt need to know exactly where we are located within a given document perhaps a menu item could be added to the alt key allowing the temporary view and perhaps saving of such coordinates so they could be communicated to those with whom one wishes to share one’s precise place within a given book.

  12. If we use page numbers, which edition are we using? As was stated different books have different page numbers. I think page numbers complicate things were they don’t need to. Putting a page number like Mark Twain suggested is really just another location solution. It’s redundant.

    Locations are a perfectly acceptable reference points. The whole point of a number is a reference point. Why does it matter what that number is or represents? As long as it is consistent in the work that’s all the academic community should care about.

    Page numbers are truly irrelevant on e-readers. They don’t make sense when there are no actual pages. The Kindle has a screen, let’s not confuse that.

    • ask any student preparing a term paper or a prof doing research or anyone making a wiki entry – page numbers are an absolute requirement for citation.
      If Amazon furnished the ISBN number for its edition and placed, as switch 11 suggested, the page number after a fixed word position (say first or last word oh that edition page), it would easily work.

      We are talking a big education market here. Not to mention book club discussions. Is everyone in the book club going to go to the same size font?

    • Here’s what I’ve posted elsewhere in response the claim that different editions have different paginations (so they’re nearly useless):

      There are few problems in the real world when page numbers are provided now, and lots of benefits. It would be a shame to deprive people of those benefits during the half-century transition to an all-Kindle world. (And what about users of non-Kindle EBRs? That means using location numbers would not be a workable solution.)

      First, most serious books–the ones for which citations are most needed–rarely go into second editions.

      Second, few books that would be cited by page number in serious writing would have different page numbering in their paperback versions, because those would be “trade paperbacks” with identical numbering.

      Third, revised editions often only differ in having a tacked-on appendix or afterword, or a preface with roman-numeral page-numbering, which doesn’t disrupt references to pages in the main body of the text.

      Fourth, most editions that differ in pagination are mass-market paperback reprints, which are always going to be considerably “off” from the pagination of the original editions. But that hasn’t been a problem in scholarly citations, which rarely refer to such works.

      Fifth, other editions that differ in pagination are out-of-copyright “classics.” But the number of times they are cited is a small fraction, in the universe of serious writing, of the number of page-citations of recent, single-edition works.

      Sixth, the existence of differing editions in the hard-copy world rarely makes it hard to track down a page reference to an edition different from the one the reader has access to. E.g., if the page number given is 200, and the reader has a 300-page book, he can start looking at his own page 200.

      If the different pagination that sometimes occurs between different editions were a real “showstopper” it would already have made the current hard-copy page citation practice so confusing that it would be more trouble than it’s worth—which is the reverse of the case. It’s very useful, and its problems are mere molehills.

      Saying, in effect, that a practice is no good for anyone if it isn’t perfect for all isn’t a good argument, especially when the imperfect system is already doing a satisfactory job in the hard-copy world. There’s no need to turn the best into the enemy of the good.

      As a fallback I hope that the Kindle would provide, along with its locater numbers, chapter numbers. Citing these would give hard-copy owners a general idea of where the quote came from, and a smaller area to search for it. In addition, the Kindle could provide another clue for hard-copy owners: a Percentage-through-the chapter number. If a reader was given such a number–say “60% through Chapter 5” (and Ch. 5 is ten pages long, starting at page 100)–then he could work out the page number (106), assuming he understands 8th-grade math. This would be a bit better.

      In the absence of a solution from Amazon, maybe authors should revert to the practice of prior centuries, where many of them extensively subdivided their works into short, numbered sections, enabling fairly localized references to their works by others, independent of page number.

  13. I’ve found this to be one of the biggest drawbacks to my kindle 3. We’ve been reading and discussing a book at work and have no way to keep up with references, or to suggest references of my own since I can’t cite a page number even if I can quote from my highlights. I am very unlikely to purchase a book on kindle for this purpose in the future.

    While I’m on the topic of drawbacks, I do wish I could upload my own pictures as screen savers or at the very least have the option to make the book cover the screen saver and when I sent feedback to the email address that comes up on the kindle as a screen saver got a return email that did not address my issues at all-either someone completely misunderstood my suggestion or I got a stock or auto reply answer or more likely a combination of the two. However, I consider myself to be articulate enough to make myself clear.

    If they’re going to ask for feedback (and I did praise my kindle highly) and not have personal responses, it would be better to get what is obviously an auto reply answer than try to make it look like they are sending personal responses.

  14. I have always had issues with locations versus page numbers – I used a Kindle version of a book for a bible study while my group used a hardback version. I found I had to borrow someone’s book so I could find the corresponding page numbers of the issues in the book I wanted to discuss. What a waste of time. I love my Kindle – but mixing page numbers and locations is extremely annoying to a book group or a small group bible study.

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