Some of us, those who have never read a paper book, may be forgiven for asking: “what’s a page number?”
Apparently, the customers of Amazon’s Kindle software/service combination aren’t among them. The humble page is fighting back via the Kindle user; witness today’s announcement by Amazon that version 3.1 of their Kindle software will add “real page numbers”.
In their announcement, Amazon said:
“Our customers have told us they want real page numbers that match the page numbers in print books so they can easily reference and cite passages, and read alongside others in a book club or class.”
This is, of course, the age-old problem of portability, the very problem that PDF solves so neatly. Users want to be able to refer to content regardless of medium, and for a variety of reasons, the bottom-line mechanism for referencing content remains the page.
Now, other mechanisms are available, but they all require conscious choices and effort. I doubt there’s a decent model to replace the page in the foreseeable future. For ebook users, certainly, highly structured documents may include section identifiers, so that it’s possible to refer users to the 2nd sentence in the 3rd paragraph of Section 6.12, but that’s still unsatisfactory. Most users don’t think this way, and most document authors don’t write or organize their documents in this manner.
The fact is that few people develop their documents with strict attention to and clear identification of document structure as is required, for example, in software specifications (to pick a subject close to my heart).
If page numbers are coming to ebook readers, can proper support for PDF be far behind? Right now, PDF is the lowest common denominator of the ebook world; its advanced features and capabilities get little respect from the practitioners of bleeding-edge epublishing. Perhaps now that “real page numbers” are coming back into style, and as tagged PDF becomes more popular, perhaps we’ll see PDF get a fresh look in the ebook space as well!
by Duff Johnson