last month announced that it was adding “real” page numbers to Kindle books — corresponding to the page numbers in print copies of the same titles. But how, exactly, did the company pull of this technological feat?

An interesting behind-the-scenes writeup today on Amazon’s Kindle Daily Post blog explains how. The underlying tools — Amazon Web Services, of course! — will be familiar to lots of startups around here. Here’s an excerpt …

We had to invent an entirely new way to match the streams of text in a print book to the streams of text in a Kindle book, and assign page numbers in Kindle books. There are hundreds of thousands of Kindle books (and growing every day), so to handle a job of this size, we turned to our Amazon Web Services computing fabric. We created algorithms to match the text of print books to Kindle books and organized all of this in the cloud, using our own AWS platform.  The results of this work are stored in Amazon’s Simple Storage Service, where we track the complete history of every page matching file we’ve produced.   We even found a way to deliver page numbers to books that customers had already purchased – without altering those books in any way, so customers’ highlights, notes, and reading location are preserved exactly as they were.

Amazon says real page numbers are now available on the latest-generation Kindles, in addition to Kindle apps for iPad, iPhone, Mac and PC.

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  • Mike Mathieu

    I like it. One thing that can get me bogged down in a Kindle book is the lack of a sense of completion that comes from being near the end of a paper book.

    • davidgeller

      Kindle on iPhone and iPad, though, has long provided positional information and a percentage complete value.

      • FrankCatalano

        So has Kindle on Kindle: there’s been a numerical location listed and a percent complete. But it’s based on the relative location based on the font size and device used, apparently, and not on the absolute page number in the physical book. Which can be a bit disorienting for those used to thinking, “I’m on page 33 of 412,” especially on a device that is supposed to replicate the physical book experience with more convenience and flexibility. The way of identifying location didn’t mesh with the rest of the experience.

  • Anon

    Softcover or Hardcover?

  • FrankCatalano

    Adding this is a big deal for K-12 education, as the lack of page numbers led to stumbles in schools adopting the Kindle. All you have to do is remember, “Class, now turn to page 42 in your book,” and it’s easy to see why. Educators like this change and the backstory is fascinating.

    • Noone

      Outdated mindset, nothing more.. Even in schools, kids sometimes have different year editions with different page numbers, so the teacher usually says “page 42…the page starting with “Bob said to Jane…”
      All the e-reader kids could instantly search for that text.
      One day we’ll hear “Page number? Why would you cite a page number? Where am I ever going to dig up that archaic print edition?”
      Linking a e-text to SOME OTHER edition’s page numbers, is pandering to the inflexible, that’s all.

      • FrankCatalano

        Outdated, perhaps. But providing a bridge to what is familiar is an important step for any new technology, since tech products and services don’t exist in a habit vacuum. That bridge allows time and mental space to adapt.

  • Liz M

    I had the page numbers showing up on my kindle and now they have disappearred and now only the percentage read showing up. Does anyone know how to get the page numbers back?

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