Does Kindle and Kobo show real page numbers?

Author: Nicolas ᚚ

annoying page numbers on kindle and kobo e-readers

When ebooks first appeared on the market, many of us were confused by a curious fact about e-readers: page numbers have no equivalence between paper and digital books. If you think that page numbers don't work on your ebook or e-reader (Kindle or Kobo), this article may enlighten you.

Short answer :

  1. Does Kindle show real page numbers : NO
  2. Does Kindleshow real page numbers NO

What is the purpose of page numbers on paper books?

In a paper book, each page is carefully numbered.

This numbering is an ingenious system that allows you to do a number of things:

  • quickly assess the size of a book by its total number of pages, by looking at the number on the last page of the book,
  • find a page easily: in my paper edition of "American Psycho", I know that page 484 is the most interesting (it's true!),
  • create a glossary for the book,
  • create a table of contents,
  • evaluate the progress of a book: if I'm on page 100 of a 400-page book, I've read a quarter of it,
  • give someone a reference, e.g. "you'll find the information in the book on page 150 in the second paragraph".

We invented this system on a paper book to make it easier to use this medium. And, as we can see, the system works very well, since it hasn't changed in years.

In fact, the first known typographed book with page numbers dates back to 1470, and is called Sermo in festo praesentationis beatissimae Mariae virginis ( ).

Interestingly, the numbers are on the sides of the pages, not at the bottom as they are today.

What do the page numbers on a Kindle or Kobo ebook correspond to?

But with a digital book (ebook) on a Kindle or Kobo e-reader, you have complete control over how a page is displayed.

So, by modifying margins, line spacing, font and font size, your book can be displayed on your e-reader with a variable number of pages.

This means you can no longer use the page number as a tool to make a reference to a passage in the book. Page numbers in ebooks are therefore meaningless.

In practice, you can't tell someone that a piece of information can be found on page 55 of an ebook, as there's little chance of that person using the same display preferences as you when reading the ebook.

This explains why the page number is not displayed by default (or rarely) on an e-reader.

And, if you do display the page number, it doesn't change with every page you turn.

This is the case with Kindle e-readers, for example, but also with other manufacturers.

Amazon has chosen to match the page numbers of Kindle ebooks with those of the print edition from the same publisher.

This makes it possible to find texts when moving from a paper edition to a digital one, but it doesn't solve all the problems...

Because, if you buy an ebook and see that it's 500 pages long. This is in fact the number of pages communicated by the publisher for the paper version. And, once on your e-reader (or any other digital book-reading software), you may find that it's only 400 pages long, depending on how the software calculates this page count...

There's more to ebooks than page numbers on Kindle and Kobo

There are other ways to help us find our way around an ebook in the same way as with a paper book.

First of all, there's the location.

This is a number in the thousands that perfectly identifies each part of a digital book. It can be used to synchronize reading between different devices, or as a reference (like the page + paragraph number in a paper book).

Then there's the percentage of progress in the book. This gives you an idea of how far you've progressed through the book or a chapter.

There are also notes. With the quick-entry system and the ability to export notes, you can easily create references in an ebook to share with someone or on a website.

Last but not least, there are the reading statistics, which are an added bonus compared to paper books. Statistics can do many things, but above all they let you know how long you have left to read a book or chapter.

Why it upsets everyone

The problem is that two systems coexist. Between ebook tools and paper book page numbers, it's sometimes impossible to match the two correctly.

This makes it difficult for users of one system to communicate with users of the other.

For example, if I send my Kindle notes to the owner of the same paper book, he'll still have trouble finding the information in his book.

On the other hand, the text search capabilities of ebooks generally make it easier to find what you're looking for.

So, while ebooks and e-readers offer more ways of navigating through a book, the simplest system remains that of page numbers, which, unfortunately, can't work completely on an e-reader.

Of course, all this is just a detail, but if you come across people who are struggling to understand the whole issue of page numbers on e-readers, you can pass this article on to them.

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