CNet’s David Carnoy has an article and poll pertaining to the thorny issue of Amazon’s Kindle page (or, rather, location) numbering scheme. Carnoy looks at the controversy as expressed in a number of Amazon discussion forum threads—some find, as Amazon notes, that it makes a good alternative to page numbers that will have to be recalculated every time orientation or font is changed. Others are less sanguine about it, and as Sayre’s Law would predict, emotions run quite high over a largely trivial issue.

"Keep in mind that his [Bezos'] background is engineering and computer science, so more than likely he signed off on this whole ‘locations’ idea as it would seem quite logical to someone with an engineering background," Ron Jaffe posted on January 28. "Indications from the media are that Jeff really is concerned about the ‘customer experience,’ so perhaps he’s just not aware of the mass discontent…no, HATRED that exists for the ‘locations’ way of handling pages."

“Hatred”? Really?

The most important argument against it seems to deal with academic citations (which would also be in keeping with Sayre’s Law, as originally formulated). Some people are concerned over whether academic institutions will be willing to accept that form of citation. A counter-suggestion is just picking a standard medium size font and setting page numbers based on that—but Carnoy fails to point out that this falls down in that not everyone is going to be using a Kindle. “Pages” on the Kindle app on my iPod Touch would be numbered considerably differently than on a Kindle reader, and both would be numbered differently than in the Kindle app on my iPad. But a given location number will apply to any of them.

Of course, part of the problem is the very fuzziness of those numbers. My Kindle might show me locations 20-25 of a book, while my iPod Touch might only show me 21-22. So it might be a little tricky to find the exact location of a given quote when cited that way—it could be on one of two or more screens, depending on the reader size. But then, even a single page number can encompass several paragraphs or more of text, and citations can be split across multiple page numbers too.

But I think some of the fuss is overwrought. The academic community tends to be at least a bit flexible in terms of citations. As I pointed out a couple of months ago, citation methods exist for e-books now, independent of page number. They also exist for things like world wide web pages, which didn’t exist at all just over twenty years ago, and also don’t have page numbers. I have little doubt that the academic community will adapt to location numbers just fine.

The CNet article also includes a reader poll on opinions for, against, and apathetic to the Kindle’s location numbering scheme. At the time of this article’s writing, it has received 648 votes and is currently running neck and neck for and against the scheme—each has 42% of the vote.