I don’t have a Kindle but I noticed that people were complaining so much about the absence of page numbers on early versions that Amazon has restored page numbers in the latest Kindle software. This adherence to tradition (in which I include prudish Professors and Editors who demand precise page references in Bibliographies) destroys a unique advantage of eBooks that could make them more than just a fragile, signal-jamming replacement for old fashioned pulp.

Suspense requires randomization. If you are reading my paper-bound novel and I want to maximize your suspense I am constrained by your ability to infer, based on how many pages are left, the likelihood that the story is going to play out as staged or whether there will be another twist in the plot. It is impossible for me to convince you of a “false ending” if you are on page 200 out of 400. The bastard publisher has spoiled it for me because 1) he has, without my permission, smeared page numbers all over my handiwork, and 2) refused to add bulk by randomly insert blank pages at the end to help me fool you.

Now Kindle, and eBook readers in general allow me to shuck that constraint. I can end the novel at any point and you would never know that the end is right around the corner. I could make it 1 page long. Imagine the effect of that! I could make it grind to a halt on page 200 only to surprise you with a development completely out of the blue that takes another 200 pages to resolve.

But no, you can’t handle the suspense. You call yourself a reader but you are really just a page counter. You begged for your time-marking crutch and Amazon obliged. Your loss, my novel goes back in the drawer.

P.S. Emir Kamenica gets some of the blame for this post.

Q.S. Quote from my buddy Dave: The key is to have a useful term–for example, I have stopped using the term “page number” and now use the term “oprah” to refer to the location in printed matter. I encourage you to start using this in the classroom. “All right, please turn to Oprah 31″)

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