Kindle’s Real Page Numbers

Until very recently, one of the things that could take some getting used to about reading books on a Kindle was the lack of page numbers. If a teacher assigned a class to read pages 25 to 42 for that day’s homework, it could be kind of confusing. Or if you were writing a paper or a book report and you wanted to quote the author’s description on page … well … it wasn’t really on a “page,” right?

But recently Amazon has taken some big steps to provide page numbers for thousands of Kindle books, and today the Kindle team blogged about how its version of Kindle Real Page Numbers works. Thanks to Kinley C. at Amazon for giving Kindle Kids’ Corner and Kindle Nation permission to cross-post the entire blog entry here!

Kindle’s Real Page Numbers

by Kindle Editors on 03/16/2011

We’ve seen a lot of interest from customers about our new real page numbers feature for latest generation Kindles and what makes them “real”, so we wanted to tell you a little more about this feature and how we did it.

An e-book, like a print book, is at its core a stream of text. In a print book, this stream is broken up by the size of the pages on which it is printed. Number these pages and you have a way of referencing any point in the book.  The text on page 53, for example, is always the same for every book of the same print edition.   But in an e-book, what looks like a “page” is a display, and the amount of text displayed depends on the font size that you as a customer choose, as well as other options you set yourself such as portrait or landscape mode, or which Kindle or free Kindle app you read with.

We wanted to be able to display real page numbers that have value and are useful for those who need to cite a specific passage in a book for class, follow along with their friend in a book club, or simply point a friend to a favorite part of the book.  Adding “real” page numbers means we had to find a way to match specific text in a Kindle book to the corresponding text in a print book and identify the correct page number to display.

With our massive selection and knowledge of print books, we were excited to be in a position to help solve this problem.  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.

Some other e-bookstores have added virtual “page numbers” to e-books, but we’ve found that these approaches can be confusing and often inconsistent –  they don’t map to the page numbers in physical books, and in some cases they don’t account for title pages, blank pages, and other nuances that we see in print books. We’ve already received a lot of great feedback from customers who like our approach.  Real page numbers are already available in tens of thousands of our most popular Kindle books, including the top 100 bestselling books in the Kindle Store that have matching print editions, and we’re adding page numbers in more Kindle books every day.  We want you to lose yourself in the reading, so page numbers are only displayed when you push the menu button.

We’re excited to hear what you think of our real page numbers.  Please let us know.

How do the page numbers work for you? Let us know, and let us know if you have any suggestions for how page numbers could be improved on the Kindle or Kindle apps for other devices. Thanks.

3 Responses to Kindle’s Real Page Numbers

  1. Liz Jones March 20, 2011 at 2:54 pm #

    Love having the page numers. Helps as I facilitate book study groups. What is the timeline for grtting them for more books?

    • Steve Windwalker March 20, 2011 at 7:30 pm #

      @Liz, Amazon says “we’re adding page numbers in more Kindle books every day.”

  2. Vicki Davis March 21, 2011 at 10:56 am #

    Real page numbers is a GREAT benefit! This is wonderful and I hope they add it to all books (but keep location numbers as those do let you hyperlink within a book and are useful.)

    I wish that they let us share our teacher notes on a book with the kids when the student bought the book.