Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Kindles without page numbers?

I discovered this wonderful discussion site Kindleboards a few weeks ago. (This link takes you to the thread on my book, but of course there is loads more there.)

The downside, is it is feeding my growing appetite to actually get one of the little buggers for myself. If Amazon drops the price to the magic $99 level, I think I'll take the plunge--or put one on my Christmas list.

The site has also taught me a lot about what has drawn so many people to the Kindle, and how they experience books on them. That's great insight for an author. But a few mini surprises have come up for me. Like . . .

Kindles don't include page numbers.

Huh. I get why: the Kindle screen varies from what a printed book page includes, and because you set your own font size, I varies from person to person.

But this gnaws at me as an author. I love that the device tailors the display to each reader, but I have this conception of both chapters and pages as these entities I've created: sort of vessels that hold a certain amount of info. And I don't feel completely comfortable with it being dismissed.

Maybe that's silly, but I have some practical concerns.  It came up this weekend, as I was working on a big expansion and re-design of the Columbine Instructor Guide. We broke out suggested reading assignments for various topics. For example, here's the actual reading list for one topic:

PTSD (and recovery). Pages:
  •     96-98 (Chapter 19 “Vacuuming”)
  •     101-2, 106-7
  •     116-122
  •     281-292
  •     312-314
  •     354-8 (Chapter 53 “At the Broken Places”)

So how do you tell students what to read on a Kindle? Young people are likely to be early adopters, and schools will be a huge market once prices come down.

It also seems to me that I cite page numbers from time to time when discussing books--especially in class, when I was in grad school: constantly. ("On page xxx, I liked how . . .") I would think book clubs have the same issue, though I've never been in one. But they are very important to sustaining books.

Do you guys find yourselves hampered by that much?

I think they need to create something. Seems easy enough. Or is there some other way to do it?

BTW, here's the new look for the Columbine Teacher's Guide / Instructor Guide. We're still working on it. I hope to have it complete next week.


  1. Yes, as a teacher of writing (who is teaching your book), I find the lack of page numbers to be the worst. Students can't cite pages for their quotations in their papers, and they can't point us to passages in class. I am always emphasizing the need for evidence in my classes, so I am always asking for quotations of passages. Those with e-books can't give them to me, so it means the rest of us flounder. And they flounder when the rest of us point to a specific passage.

  2. The only time I've missed having page numbers is on sites like Goodreads - its hard to give an idea of progress. In the book club I participate in, I haven't missed them at all. But, I have a pretty good memory for details.

  3. My husband and I both have Kindles, and have to use "location" to refer to where we are if we are discussing the same book (a feature we love, being able to send the book to both our Kindles and read it at the same time) - maybe in the future they will say "numbers on pages - how quaint!"

    Don't know anyone w/aKindle who regrets the purchase (even me, and I bought mine literally 3 days before the price drop)- at our college we had a "technology petting zoo" for faculty/staff and the Kindle was very popular (and of course has Columbine loaded on it)

  4. wow, i was afraid this post would just produce a lot of snores. it's interesting to me, but . . . haha.

    nels, thanks so much for teaching my book. is it creative writing or rhethoric? what level?

    the instructor guide may have arrived too late, but let me know what you think if you have a look. (i've had a version of it for close to a year, but it needed some work. i've broken it out into modules, organized things much better, and added a ton. more coming. it's only now being proofread, though, so it's probably littered with mistakes.)

  5. so i'm relieved that i'm not nuts, and not the only one a little baffled by this design "feature."

    i can't imagine the class discussions. i had a writing workshop in grad school one semester, where some goofballs kept failing to include page numbers on their stories that they distributed. the following week, as we discussed it, someone would say, "I didn't like xxx on page 7 . . ." and we'd all pick up the stack and start counting pages.

    it was terribly distracting and some people would effectively stop listening while they counted, so they would miss crucial points, and respond to half of what was just said.

    it was an issue with stories usually under 10-20 pages. i can't imagine trying to do it with a book.

  6. I'd bet that Amazon will add page numbers in the next couple of years, as e-books get used more academically. They could even let you choose which edition's numbers to use... that'd be kinda cool.

  7. Dave, thanks for responding. My students got a kick out of seeing that you are a real person who reads and writes this stuff!

    I am teaching it in Intro to Professional Writing. One, I think it's a great example of research, especially research that involves professional writing documents like reports and letters and memos and all that. Two, they are going to write formal reports to argue for ways their particular high schools could be safer, so your book is inspiring that discussion.

    I just downloaded the instructor's guide and will take a look. And the course blog is here if you want to see what we've been doing.


    They are really getting into the book and telling me they always feel compelled to read more.

  8. curious about the librarians' section...???