Birds ID'ed as plate number and bird number?
Have you birded with someone who does that? What if there's more than one field guide available? You just make sure beforehand that everyone uses the same book edition?
During the Birder of the Year trip in Costa Rica last month, we used a field guide by Richard Garrigues, whom we also met before leaving San Jose. Perhaps the birding guide in the NYT article will have to memorize another book's plates.