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Old 09-27-2011, 09:44 AM   #1
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A need for an "equivalent page" word count ?

Here is a copy of a blog post I wrote yesterday :
(
http://readingandraytracing.blogspot...-to-every.html)

Comments here (or there) are way appreciated !


When I bought paper books, I used to have certain buying habits : Checking out the author, the cover and blurb, the book's "format" and its prioce.
I transposed most of these habits to ebooks, but it leaves me deprived of one of those criterias : format.

When choosing a book, I check out it's physical dimensions (width, height, thickness) and its content : number of pages, fontface size and spacing.This allows me to estimate it's "length" and the time I'll take to read it. I also know from experience that I usually prefer longer works, hence my biasing towards them, but depending on the genre and mood, I can choose some outside of my "security zone".

I know I'm far from beeing alone, even if some readers consider on the contrary that a book's length shouldn't be taken into account when choosing a book. For them, it's the intrinsic quality of a work that matters, with proof "The Old man and the Sea", a masterpiece closer to the novella rather than a novel.

Anyways, for a reader, this criteria is difficult to evaluate for electronic books : usual clues (number of pages, format) loose their meaning.
The file size, too dependent to included graphical/multimedia files, is really tricky and allows unscrupulous writers to "cheat".
The number of physical pages can also be "manipulated" by choosing distinct margins, typesets sizes, and line spacing.
A "locations number" (a la Amazon) is also completely proprietary and artificial.

The most "probant" indicator is for me the words number. Easy to compute and check, for "pure" text, it completely conveys a book's length. On the other side, for readers, used to count in "pages", it has no direct "meaning".

To fulfill this need to assess a book'e length, I suggest to ALL our ebooks providers to converge to a common "ebook standard page" definition, of for example 250 words. I know that 250 words is completely arbitrary, but its rounded, easy to convert to/from, and quite close to what's usually seen on paper.
So please everyone providing/distributing ebooks (publishers, self-publishers, retailers) please add to the description (meta-)data this number of "equivalent pages" (epages ?). This would be a great plus to customers.

Last note : and don't forget, when you compute this number of epages, to NOT COUNT anything not directly related to the book : TOC, author's biography/bibliography, bonuses, other books excerpts etc.)
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Old 09-27-2011, 09:53 AM   #2
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I've never concerned myself with how many pages the book has. If it's a book I'm interested in reading I will read it regardless of how many pages it has.
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Old 09-27-2011, 10:38 AM   #3
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I agree with you. I like to get a sense of the size of the book before I start. Sometimes I know I only have a day or 2 before I will not be able to read for a week, and don't want to start a book I can't finish. I have taken to checking out the book details on Amazon for this. Usually lists the number of pages for the MMP which helps.

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Old 09-27-2011, 11:14 AM   #4
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It took a while to get used to, but Amazon's locations work for me. There's about 20 locations to a standard size "page".
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Old 09-27-2011, 11:27 AM   #5
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I never take page count into consideration when selecting a book. If it catches my interest, I'll read it regardless of the length or genre. The only time a page number matters to me is when I need to mark my place.
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Old 09-27-2011, 11:39 AM   #6
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ePub does allow for custom page sizes, but most aren't set that way. If nothing is specified, it uses 1024 characters as a page limit.

However, getting things done so we have a universal reference system, would require the competing companies to work together, which I dont see happening any time soon.

I personally do take a book's size into account when buying a book. Recently I was wanting the Encyclopedia Brown books, but they ranged up to $12, which considering they're about 50 pages, I didn't feel they were worth buying. I got them from the library, and read through them at a rate of 15 minutes each. When I buy something, I want my money's worth, and I'd much rather buy something that I won't burn through quickly.

Last edited by Hellmark; 09-27-2011 at 11:45 AM.
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Old 09-27-2011, 11:58 AM   #7
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That's one of the things I love about epub - I check the page count when I open a book and thus have a pretty good idea how long it will take me to read it.

I don't use page count as a criteria for *buying* books, however. I think that's weird.
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Old 09-27-2011, 12:23 PM   #8
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I don't buy books because of their word count either... but I would want to know what it is prior to buying.

I'd hate paying a premium price that's 1.5 or 2 times more than an average book, only to find that the book is also 1.5 or 2 times smaller than an average book. And some of the mainstream titles from major publishers have had questionable prices for ebooks at times, making me weary of that.
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Old 09-27-2011, 12:30 PM   #9
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Word count has always been hard for me to relate to (Fictionwise publishes it for its books). I tend to go by file size or number of pages in the print edition.
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Old 09-27-2011, 01:53 PM   #10
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Not that I want to extend this nuttiness any further, but I will say that the duokan software for the Kindle uses screens as the measure. Since the number of screens you will have to refresh depends on font size this number would have to adjust itself on the fly as you adjust the font, which it does. I enjoy using this number to determine my place in the book.
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Old 09-27-2011, 02:12 PM   #11
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While I sometimes like to know if I'm starting something 'thick' rather than 'thin', (mostly when buying. Some ebooks are way overpriced for their size, IMHO.) I'm not real concerned with a book's size once I find the subject matter I'm interested in.

While in a book, I can go with percentages easily. I read a couple of pages, and it's easy to see how long the rest of the book will take. I find it pretty easy to decide if I've got enough time or not, and can bail out pretty quickly if I've only got time or interest for a couple of hours read rather than a couple of weeks.

I do think changing font size and keeping consistent numbers will be a problem. But except for textbooks, where everyone needs to be on the same page for discussion and homework, I don't find it a necessity with fiction.

So the format they have now works fine for me, whether it's a Sony, Kindle, Kobo or Nook. It just takes a glance to know what I want to know.
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Old 09-27-2011, 02:17 PM   #12
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I personally preferred screen size comparisons, such as when reading LRF's on my 505, but outside of my reader, with my font sizes, that has no frame of reference.

I just personally take a look at the size of the printed book. Like I said before, and ekster also said, I just don't want to buy a book only to find it is drastically shorter than the norm. Say if the average book costs $10, and I can read it for 8 hours, I'm paying roughly, $1.25 per hour for book. Compare that to the aforementioned Encyclopedia Brown books. The one newer one costs $10.99 (I guess went down a dollar after they released a couple other ones), and so, that'd be roughly $43.96 per hour at the rate I read those books. That's an extreme case, but still happens. Even if it just takes me 4 hours to read the book, I'd be consuming the books at a rate double what I am used to, and would greatly effect how much I spend. I'd have to buy another book much sooner. If it is a minor difference in size, I'm not so worried, its just the big differences.
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Old 09-27-2011, 04:24 PM   #13
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Word count is the only reliable method as far as I see, even with paper books. Because of formatting and font size, page numbers can be almost useless (unless you want to know how many times you're going to lick your fingers). I don't mind the "pages" on my Nook, but a % would be better.
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Old 09-27-2011, 04:55 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Vic333 View Post
Word count is the only reliable method as far as I see, even with paper books. Because of formatting and font size, page numbers can be almost useless (unless you want to know how many times you're going to lick your fingers). I don't mind the "pages" on my Nook, but a % would be better.
Problem with percentage, is you have no sense of scale. Yeah, you're 62% through the book, but is the print version 100 pages, or 1000?
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Old 09-27-2011, 10:58 PM   #15
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I think the best choice is using the actual page numbers from an existing book, like the Kindle does with books for which that's available. This has the advantage of allowing comparisons between different brands of e-readers as well as physical books.

For e-books where there is no physical book to refer to, my preference would be for some sort of normalized "paperback page equivalent" based on word count. Although since most novels chosen at random from my shelf have about 500 words per page, I'd prefer that number, since I'm extremely familiar with various differences between paperback books. As I'm sure most people on MR are - if I say that a book is 200 pages long, or 350 pages long, or 550 pages long, most people who read will intuitively know what that means.

Digital cameras do something like this - if a digital camera says f3.5-6, they are usually giving you the 35mm equivalent, since that's what people who care about f-stops know; the *actual* numbers for digitals are meaningless to me.
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