How do e-book readers handle page references?

A lot of non-fiction books will have things like “see page 242 for further information,” and have indexes, and lists of illustrations and so forth.

How does that work with an ebook, given that the pages contain different amounts of text, based on your choice of fonts and so forth?

I’m trying to decide on which e-reader to get, so I’d like to know the answer for both Kindles and Nooks. Or, I suppose, for any other e-readers.

Kindles used to use “text locations” rather than page numbers, that I think used to correlate roughly with the number of words. However, newer Kindle ebooks have page numbers which correspond with the page numbers in the printed edition of the book.

The “page number” on the Kindle just changes when the text runs into the next page in the printed edition of the book. So, on the Kindle, one “page” might be three or four screens worth of text, and varies according to font size.

I don’t know if Nooks do something similar.

I never used an ebook. I just presumed that it would work like web pages. So instead of “see page 242 for further information,” it would have “see here for further information,” with “here” being a link to get to that place. Am I correct?

I had also wondered if ebooks are for novels only, which would tend not to have cross-references. After all, every article I’ve ever read about them seems to say that they are for avid readers, not researchers or students.

Formatting text for ebooks is more of an art than a science. Books are mostly handled as continuous strings of text rather than having pages. But there are gazillions of e-readers and many more gazillions of ways of handling the conversion, so no one answer will satisfy every possibility.

Mostly, though, internal references of any kind are indeed handled like hyperlinks on a webpage or bookmarks in Word. You set up an internal link to a particular location, which can be a word or picture or anything. These bookmarks float, so it doesn’t matter if you add or subtract text. A link to “1942” will go to that instance of 1942 wherever it is. You can put in another link at “1942” back to your origin. You can do multiples as well so that you can create the link to “1942” at a hundred different spots, although you can only go back to one of them. (Wikipedia uses this method. You can footnote a dozen sentences to the same source and label them all footnote “124”. But to go back, you’ll see a series of letters, a b c d …, each leading back to a different sentence.) Similarly, you can link the beginning of a book or the start of a chapter or the top of the page from anywhere in a document.

Any type of book can and has been transformed into an e-book. The entire textbook industry is making the transition. Creating a text from scratch with these built-in hyperlinks is what the entire electronic book industry has been advocating for many decades as a superior way to access text. (Anybody remember Hypercard?) Whether it’s superior or not, the industry has finally managed to close many of the gaps between theory and reality. Transitioning between hard copy and electronic copy is still one of the biggest pains you’ll ever experience, since almost everything that makes for good design on paper is lost on electronics, but there’s no conceptual difference between fiction and nonfiction at this point.

Good ebooks turn those references into hyperlinks which you can click to skip to the note, then use the “back” button to return to where you were.

Bad ebooks? All bets are off. They’re usually just lazily OCRed from the source book with little effort put in to adapting the format for e-readers.

The Kindle and Nook both have features for working with well-formatted ebooks. Whether the books you’re interested in are formatted correctly or not is kind of a crap-shoot.

Most modern books, written since computers became widespread, are created with something like hyperlinks in them to begin with (or at least, the potential for something like hyperlinks). If a modern book has “see page 42 for more information on the Peloponnesian War” in it, what the author actually typed in is some code that means “see page <label: Peloponnesian War>”, or something to that effect, and then the section on the Peloponnesian War will have a label in the start of it. That way, the author doesn’t need to count up pages, and can do things like insert or remove whole chapters without needing to worry about changing all of the page number references. If the book is going to be put on paper, then you push a button on the computer and have it convert all of the references into page numbers for you, but you could take the same source file and instead turn it into an e-book file just as easily, with the references as links.

Yes, Nooks do.

Thanks for the information, y’all. And still I can’t find a solid reason to choose one over the other. :frowning:

On my Kindle (WiFi/3G) pressing the menu button will pop up a menu where you can select “Go To…” The sub menu then has “Table of Contents”, “beginning”, “page”, “cover”, “end” and “location”.
In the book I am reading, below that menu I find “51% Page 197 of 395 Location 2423 of 4697”. I see no page numbers while reading, unless I do as above.
I have read books that are extensively footnoted, meaning hyperlinked. I can also take notes if I wish to use this document or parts of it in my own document as a reference.
The main disadvantages of my reader are: it is black and white, not backlit and graphics, when included, are poor resolution.

Yes, one would usually use hypertext reference, when using page references. But as some before me said, that can be PITA, if you are converting text books with a lot of references.

Another way, that it is sometimes useful (in certain designs common for handbooks, guides, etc) in both text and electronic (epub, mobi) version, is referencing to table of content (practically every reader I know of can handle TOCs). E.g: For further reading look at chapter 9, section More Info (with or without link). Of course, your TOC it’s better to be completely error free, if you gonna referencing it.

On my Kindle Fire, navigation depends on what I’m reading, which I assume in turn depends on who published it.

National Geographic magazine has a Page View with a scrolling filmstrip thumbnail for every page. You pull this up on demand at the bottom.

A modern book–“Cutting for Stone” (Verghese)–has a chaptered Table of Contents with hotlinks; in addition the Location number (4124 of 10758, e.g.) followed by a % (39%) will tell you about where you are in the book.

Old books always have the Location and % navigation, but may or may not also have hotlinks at the front for chapter or illustration navigation. For example, “In the Heart of Africa” by Sir Samuel Baker is a public domain book (1880?); while the “Table of Contents” is greyed out, when you go to the beginning of the book, it turns out the chapters are actually hotlinked. Ditto “African Game Trails” 1910; Teddy Roosevelt.