The software update 3.1 for the latest generation Kindle eReaders brought a very interesting feature – page numbers that match the physical counterparts of the electronic books. To truly appreciate this feature, you need to understand the challenges involved in implementing it.
What are page numbers? Why do we need them? Well, in a physical book, you have an introduction, table of contents, preface, etc., and then the main body of the book. It can run to thousands of pages. When the content fills one page and spills onto the next, we get many pages. For easy reference, we put a number on each page. That’s what page numbers do – guide us through a book, help us remember where we were. The page numbers on books of the same print edition are always identical.
Now, we come to electronic books. The content that fits into one electronic page varies based on your selection of font and size, whether you read in landscape or portrait mode, even on the app you use to read the book on. For this reason, the page numbers were not fixed while reading an eBook on the Kindle 3.
The mismatch of page numbers becomes a concern when you want to share an interesting piece of content with a friend or if a tutor wants to give her students a page reference to read a passage. Amazon had a challenging task ahead – match specific content on a Kindle eBook with its physical pair and identify the correct page number to display.
Truly a mammoth undertaking considering the Kindle store has more than 850,000 books. Amazon decided to solve this problem by turning to its Amazon Web Services computing group. Algorithms were created to match print and electronic text in books and all this was organized in the cloud via Amazon’s AWS platform. The results were stored in Amazon’s Simple Storage Service where every page matching file and its complete history can be tracked. Eventually, Amazon worked out a way to deliver accurate page numbers not only to the books in the Kindle store but also to the ones that had been purchased by users without any loss to customers’ highlighted text, notes, or reading locations.
Other eReaders in the market have virtual page numbers that can be confusing as they don’t map to the actual physical page numbers and also show up on blank pages or title pages. Amazon has overcome these problems and now has accurate page numbers in tens of thousands of the most popular Kindle books, including the top 100 bestselling books in the Kindle Store that have matching print editions. More Kindle books are being added to this list every day.
If you don’t want page numbers to distract you from your reading, you can push the Menu button on the Kindle 3 to hide them.
[via Kindle Post]