I am interested in whether there are any compelling reasons why print books should always have page numbers. In particular, I am thinking of books comprising many elements that are each typically smaller than a page and each entry is itself numbered.
I am compiling a reference book of historical source material, which will be self-published. It will comprise approximately 2,000 short excerpts from eighteenth-century newspapers that have relevance to a particular field. The excerpts are ordered chronologically, with typically 2 to 10 excerpts per page, each one headed with a sequential number (followed by the date and source). The book has a detailed index where readers can look up which excerpts relate to a specific topic but, unlike most indexes, the cross-references point to the excerpt numbers rather than page numbers (since this is more specific than making the reader scour an entire page in search of the relevant sentence or paragraph). My feeling is, therefore, that also numbering the pages complicates matters unnecessarily.
However, my experience is that reference books of this type do always explicitly number the pages, so I am wondering if there are good reasons for that. For example, I have a few naturalist field guides that are like this. In one guide to African birds, there are entries for 600 different species, presented 2 per page, with each entry sequentially numbered. Thus, the index entry "Barn owl: 203" is ambiguous; is the barn owl covered in species account number 203 (on page 112), or is the species account for barn owls on page 203? Unfortunately, I have field guides with indexes of both types, so sometimes I find myself guessing wrongly which system they have used and taking twice as long to look something up.
My goal is for my book to be as streamlined and user-friendly as possible, which is why I am interested in the pros and cons of page numbering in situations where explicit page numbers seem superfluous and potentially introduce ambiguity/complexity. My question, then, is whether there are situations like this when it is acceptable not to number pages.