Kindle Update: Page Numbers, More Ways to (Over-)Share

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Amazon is giving their Kindle a makeover with a little something old and lot of somethings new.

First, the throwback. The most buzz-worthy change coming in the latest update is the addition of “real” page numbers, a quiet homage to the e-reader’s predecessor. By popular demand, the 3.1 version software will display the page number that corresponds to the same the location in a print edition when a reader presses the “Menu” button. These old-fashioned markers will show up alongside those new-fangled location numbers that correspond to each line of text and are displayed at the bottom of the screen.

Of course, this doesn’t make for a perfect symbiosis between the e-reader and any old paperback. Only some Kindle books will have corresponding page data, and then that will be data for one edition of a book. This means that if your goal is to know exactly where you are when switching mediums, you could still be left doing some page-thumbing. A quick search on Amazon shows, for example, various editions of Moby Dick that have 656 pages, 570 pages, 464 pages, and 767 pages — just on the first page of results. That said, for book-lovers uncomfortable with making the switch or book-clubbers hungry for cross-referencing, this is certainly a start. And it will at least give students a way to prove that they’re not just making up their citations (e.g., “The pathos Melville evokes at location 5132 …”). (More on Where to Find the Best Free E-Books)

The rest of the updates being highlighted are less about the “book” portion of the Kindle and more about the “electronic.” There is a “Public Notes” function that allows Kindlers to share their insights and highlights via social media. And there’s a “Before You Go” function that will be available at the end of the book, prompting readers to give the work an out-of-five star rating and/or tell people how they’re feeling at the precise moment of their successful book completion. And finally, there will be snazzier navigation tools for reading newspapers and magazines.

Right now, there’s only an early preview available to those with the latest generation Kindles or Kindle 3G who go the extra mile to download it themselves, but the software update will eventually be sent out automatically. Which means that with a borrowed aqua-colored sweater, marriages between Kindles and their owners could soon be improving all over the place.

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