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Old 09-29-2009, 12:50 PM   #1
ahi
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Better without pages

I've seen the opinion expressed a good few times that eBooks have no pages--usually in a tone suggesting that this is a positive thing. As suggested by my signature line, I'm not of that mind... in fact I am rather puzzled by the idea.

I'd like to hear from people who hold the view that eBooks are better for being without a concept of pages. Why do you think so? What downside would you perceive to trying to make eBook display software treat reflow formats as having pages? (Whether pages of predefined length like ePub, or pages of dynamic length [i.e.: screenfulls]?)

I do not want this thread to turn into a PDF is not an eBook format thread. Perhaps if somebody feels like they can write a nice detailed post with compelling counterarguments, they could start a separate thread... seeing as how most of the crowd on either side of this debate is not liable to heretical conversion.

Thank you in advance for all those who share their thoughts on this matter!

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Old 09-29-2009, 01:22 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by ahi View Post
I'd like to hear from people who hold the view that eBooks are better for being without a concept of pages. Why do you think so? What downside would you perceive to trying to make eBook display software treat reflow formats as having pages? (Whether pages of predefined length like ePub, or pages of dynamic length [i.e.: screenfulls]?)
Page numbers and sizes have never been standardized. Back in the dark ages when I was a student, I occasionally would take a class that involved a book I already owned, but I still had to purchase the same edition the teacher was using so they could make reference to specific pages. It made no sense then and even less now.

If you want some standard way to define references to text, or measure the length, why would you try to link to something that is not standardized to begin with? It feels like a throwback to people measuring distance in 'feet' using their own foot length. If someone tells me an ebook is 300 pages referring to screens, but I don't know if they are using a Palm III or a desktop with a window maxed out to 1600x900 resolution, then 300 pages is meaningless. Even on a PDF, even if I know the font used, if I don't know that their pages are US Letter, A5, or optimized for a 6" reader, pages are again meaningless. Why tie ourselves to a standard that is not standardized?

I know people have problems with it, but for measuring the length of a book, word count seems the simplest way to judge if I am considering a short story or long novel or something in between. As for referencing text passages, naming chapter and scene or chapter and paragraph seems to work well for most things.

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Old 09-29-2009, 01:28 PM   #3
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Thanks, Bandit. I suspect you are echoing common sentiments.

Without going on and on, let me just briefly note as an answer of sorts to the questions you posed:

I consider the page to be an aesthetic tool, and feel no strong attach to its use as a content referencing mechanism.

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Old 09-29-2009, 01:36 PM   #4
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It seems those who want to get rid of "pages" actually want to get rid of page numbers as a means of referencing and measuring a book's length, like GntlmnBndt.

I don't want page numbers to use them as references, and I don't want ebooks to be measured by "pages". But ebooks are best read in paged environments, either dedicated ebook readers or desktop software, or whatever (I find reading ebooks by actual scrolling very inconvenient), so it makes sense to display them so that the current "page" (a screenful with whatever settings the user has) looks good. And once you have it in a paged medium, you may want to skip 10 "pages", or to have an estimation of how much is left of the book to finish.

The "downside" of pages as screenfuls is that they are not fixed, the size of a "page" changes when you change font, text size, margins, orientation... so what? You are reading a book and it says there are 120 pages remaining to the end, then you increase the font size because its dark, and of course now it's 150 pages to the end... what's the problem? The pages are different now and before, so the number is different, I find it pretty intuitive.

By the way, "pages of predefined length like ePub" is incorrect, that's only the (useless, in my view) default definition of "pages" in the ADE reader. Having some markers indicating where pages in a given printed edition are may be useful for reference, but introducing arbitrary fixed lengths for purely ebook editions is stupid, because:

a) For reference, as others say, something different from "pages" should be use.

b) For reading, the user is interested in actual screenfuls of text, not in whatever the software thinks a "page" should be.
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Old 09-29-2009, 01:42 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Jellby View Post
By the way, "pages of predefined length like ePub" is incorrect, that's only the (useless, in my view) default definition of "pages" in the ADE reader. Having some markers indicating where pages in a given printed edition are may be useful for reference, but introducing arbitrary fixed lengths for purely ebook editions is stupid
I should just point out that by "predefined" I meant decided prior to display time... whether by the bookmaker explicitly indicating where the paper edition's pages begin and end, or by the bookmaker opting not to do so and thereby implicitly give their blessings to the default page assumption made by ADE.

I am largely in agreement with most of what you wrote by the way.

I did however get the impression before that some people seem to think the scroll (as in scrolling, not as in "a scroll"... since even those have pages) approach is preferable to the page(d display environment) approach.

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Old 09-29-2009, 01:56 PM   #6
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The only time I would say that having ebook 'pages' is better is with poetry where each passage has a break. Otherwise, with novels or reference material, it just makes sense to have a well-indexed, scrollable ebook. With poetry, a lot of times you are meant to view the text with a certain layout, and even though it's not going to look the same on multiple devices, the reader should be able to have the option of viewing the intended layout on a desktop ereader at the very least.
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Old 09-29-2009, 01:57 PM   #7
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Ahi, how many pages does a scroll have? Usually they were only used on one side, so the answer would be "one".

I think of eBooks as digital scroll, and that's why I prefer to have them without any given page numbers.

You're asking for counterarguments, but you don't give any real argument why you want/need/expect page numbers. eBooks offer the freedom of mind to enjoy a text without being bound to preset page limitations, random chunks of the author's ideas who didn't either set page numbers while writing.

Page numbers are an invention of printers and publishers, not of authors and readers.
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Old 09-29-2009, 02:00 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by K-Thom View Post
Ahi, how many pages does a scroll have? Usually they were only used on one side, so the answer would be "one".
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scroll#Structure

Quote:
A scroll is usually divided up into pages, which are sometimes separate sheets of papyrus or parchment glued together at the edges, or may be marked divisions of a continuous roll of writing material. The scroll is usually unrolled so that one page is exposed at a time, for writing or reading, with the remaining pages rolled up to the left and right of the visible page.
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Originally Posted by K-Thom View Post
You're asking for counterarguments, but you don't give any real argument why you want/need/expect page numbers.

....

Page numbers are an invention of printers and publishers, not of authors and readers.
I do not give arguments out of politeness and not wanting to turn this thread into the sporadically aggressive and confrontational playground that "PDF is not an eBook format" has been.

On the other hand, Jellby has stated why he prefers pages to the scroll.

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Originally Posted by nboshart View Post
The only time I would say that having ebook 'pages' is better is with poetry where each passage has a break.
That's an interesting point. I wonder to what extent this has been managed to poetry that is far less regular (and possibly more complicated in terms of layout) than Dante's inferno or Shakespeare's sonnets.

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Last edited by ahi; 09-29-2009 at 02:07 PM.
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Old 09-29-2009, 02:01 PM   #9
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I pretty much agree with Jellby on this one. I've always thought of "pages" in a book as a more nebulous thing that has great deal of variety between books (go figure). But once I start reading a given book and get a feel for what constitutes a "page" there (usually only takes a few page turns to get acclimated), I can then make reasonable estimations of how long the book is, how long the chapter is, how much more progress I can before I doze off, etc. Not surprisingly, this still holds true with electronics texts. If an ebook that I'm reading has large margins or slightly larger (or smaller) text than what I'm used to, it still only takes me a few screenfuls to fall into the rhythm of what a "page" is for that particular book. And again, the same holds true for the ADE page numbers.

As far as being able to cite a particular section from a book, a different mechanism entirely is needed, and this has already been dealt with to a certain degree in the print world. Methods that are commonly used there are line numbers (for things like poetry), or paragraph numbers (for other verse works).

What I don't quite get are the people who want to measure books in character counts. "Great, only 1726 characters until the end of the chapter!"
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Old 09-29-2009, 02:31 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by ahi View Post
I've seen the opinion expressed a good few times that eBooks have no pages--usually in a tone suggesting that this is a positive thing.

I'd like to hear from people who hold the view that eBooks are better for being without a concept of pages.

I'm a little confused by this whole post. My ereader shows "pages" to me in that I have a screen full of text, then I hit a button and it gives me another screen full of text. Much like turning a page. To me, this is a concept of pages.

So I guess I don't even understand what viewpoint you're starting from, so I can't really make a counterargument.
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Old 09-29-2009, 02:41 PM   #11
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I'm a little confused by this whole post. My ereader shows "pages" to me in that I have a screen full of text, then I hit a button and it gives me another screen full of text. Much like turning a page. To me, this is a concept of pages.

So I guess I don't even understand what viewpoint you're starting from, so I can't really make a counterargument.
K-Thom made a counterargument to my viewpoint that pages are fundamental units of books, e- or p-.

I would say, for clarification, if after pressing the next page button, there is overlap with the text you've already read, you are seeing scrolling behavior instead of real page turns. If the software/hardware is reluctant to tell you the page number and/or how many pages are left... that is at least a partial step away from the page paradigm.

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Old 09-29-2009, 03:19 PM   #12
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I would say, for clarification, if after pressing the next page button, there is overlap with the text you've already read, you are seeing scrolling behavior instead of real page turns. If the software/hardware is reluctant to tell you the page number and/or how many pages are left... that is at least a partial step away from the page paradigm.
Perhaps other ereaders are just that different from the Kindle? I've only ever demoed the Sony, and I don't remember much about it at this point.

On the Kindle, it shows at the bottom of the screen my "Location" in the book, which is almost the equivalent of a page, but it's set so that the Location numbers are the same for all readers, no matter the text size used. So at any given time I can see that I am on Location X of Y and I'm Z% through the book. And since there's no text overlap when I go to the next "page", I do see them as distinct page turns.

So if I'm understanding your argument correctly, then I agree with you completely! I like having my distinct pages, and I like seeing my progress and having clearly defined chunks of text, and I abhor scrolling to read a story. It's one of the primary reasons I don't read long webpages of text. For instance, when free stories are posted online, I rarely read them on my monitor. If it's something I really want to read, I drop it onto my ereader.
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Old 09-29-2009, 03:26 PM   #13
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I see a screen as a "page."

I don't like reading without them.
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Old 09-29-2009, 03:33 PM   #14
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Pages are a chancy concept, to the point that technical documents don't really use them for reference. In general, important text documents with modest graphic content are structured with chapters, paragraphs, figure and table numbers, and such like, when you need to make specific reference.

Novels and short stories usually have chapters and (less commonly) some kind of scene or section breaks. Plays have acts and scenes. The key is matching a semantic structure, not "what page is it on".

Since different printings or versions of the same document can have different material on a given page, unless everyone is not only on the same page, but in the same publication and printing, pages just aren't very useful. I do memorize the page number when I put a book down, but I forget it when I pick it back up. They're not completely useless. As for ebooks, so long as there's some kind of progress indicator (word count, percent, data segments, "pages", etc.) that's adequate.

Now, if you're talking graphic novels, with large amounts of graphic information and limited text, that's a different kettle of fish. In today's world, I wouldn't use any ereader to view those. Magazine page layouts (IIRC, one of your favorite examples) generally annoy me more than inspire me, so I'm not sure they're a good point of argument.

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Old 09-29-2009, 03:38 PM   #15
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So if I'm understanding your argument correctly, then I agree with you completely! I like having my distinct pages, and I like seeing my progress and having clearly defined chunks of text, and I abhor scrolling to read a story. It's one of the primary reasons I don't read long webpages of text. For instance, when free stories are posted online, I rarely read them on my monitor. If it's something I really want to read, I drop it onto my ereader.
Yes, it would seem we are broadly of like mind on this issue.

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I see a screen as a "page."

I don't like reading without them.
Hardy-har-har!

Ever try?

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