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Homo Ludditus

Less is more and nothing is good enough

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How do you cite an e-book’s ‘page number’?


The question is asked on TeleRead: How do you cite an e-book’s ‘page number’?

The question was asked before, most notably on the APA Style Blog: How Do I Cite a Kindle? With answers… sort of. The Chicago-Style Citation Quick Guide, in the section “Book published electronically” also gives some unsatisfactory answers.

Of course, PDFs do have page numbers. The “true e-books”—namely ePub and AZW/Mobi—don’t quite share the same concept.

Now, excuse me for not knowing what the Kindle “locations” are. I despise and boycott any major device who chooses not to support ePub as a business decision. Most Americans are too stupid to realize how they encourage Stalinist monopoly in what they believe to be a “free market” economy. Folks, there is life beyond Amazon’s AZW format, there is life beyond the non-eInk iPad. Even in North America, ePub-capable devices are offered by SONY and Kobo (to only name the major actors), don’t pretend they’re “a niche” just because you prefer a monopoly. Using an ePub-based e-reader doesn’t tie you to a single bookstore—there are dozens of ePub sources (have my quick selection).

But ePub files seem to have “some sort of page numbers”. The problem is that, once you enlarge (or reduce) the font size, you have to go over more (or less) screens to reach the same “page” number. This is because the reading software computes the “page” number by taking into account an (unknown) page size and the default font size (most likely, as defined in the e-book’s CSS).

Here’s where Adobe Digital Editions finds a certain chapter into a book: at “page” 202.

The result should be consistent with the ADE editions used in the dedicated e-readers. You’ll notice there that you have to turn something like 2 pages (2 screens) to change the “page” number by 1. And each new “page” number doesn’t occur in the same position of the screen.

Now, the same position in the same file, as computed by FBReader: it’s page 236!

As I said, page numbering in ePub files is not reliable.

Until a new solution for a reliable locating into e-books is designed, citing an e-book’s “page number” is just chasing the wind…

FOLLOW-UP (mandatory reading):  Page numbers in ePub files: more complex than I thought!