Monthly Archives: July 2017

The Academic Book of the Future – project report

The project outlined in my previous blog, see below, also published a ‘project report‘.

This discusses indexes in the following part:

  • para 146 – Enhanced monographs – Scholarly monographs, even the simplest of them, and even in print form, have intricate organisational structures, notes, indexes, tables of content, sections, tables, illustrations. Given this, they are not
    particularly well served by current ebook reading devices; enhanced monographs might represent better the complexities of scholarly argument than the less functional ebook. …

The section on Enhanced monographs goes on to give examples of different projects which have created ‘enhanced monographs. The terms ‘interesting’, ‘exciting’, ‘innovative’ and ‘promising’ are used to describe them. Then comes ‘costly’, ‘time-consuming’, ‘not scalable’. So while some high-profile projects have been created, there’s little here about indexes per se, and no anticipation of what could be created using existing standards such as EPUB 3.

EPUB 3 was developed to support indexing for e-books and further information can be found here. The resources page was updated in 2017, and points to a range of material.

Another section of the report looks at new digital developments and discusses open access, the Books as Open Online Content developed as part of the project, and other experimental digital offerings. Then something on non-textual PhD theses, and finally the problems of digital preservation. Information retrieval for the users of these services is not gone into in any detail. This is disappointing because without adequate ways of finding material, full use of all that publishing effort and storage for posterity will not be achieved.

The Academic Book of the Future – reports published

A two-year project that ran between October 2014 and September 2016, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council,  and run in partnership with the British Library. The successful bidder was The Department of Information Studies, University College London.

The output of the project included reports, conferences, talks, twittering, all the usual things you might expect. The final reports were published in early 2017 and included things of interest to indexers and those concerned for the future of them.

The volume entitled Academic Books and their Future, authored by Michael Jubb, a consultant to the project includes the following statements about indexes:

  • para 43 – … readers, however, may read only those sections of particular interest to them, or dip in to find specific pieces of information; which is why for print books in particular the
    apparatus of tables of contents and indexes are of particular importance.
  • para 46 – In addition to publishers and the freelance copyeditors, typesetters, designers and indexers they employ, the supply chain for academic books involves sales agents, distributors, wholesalers, libraries andlibrary suppliers, booksellers (online as well as on high streets and campuses), e-book aggregators and platform providers,
    bibliographic data suppliers, and many others.
  • para 167 – The formidable advantages of print books—especially for the complex structures typical of academic titles with their tables of contents, sections, chapters, indexes, figures, and tables, illustrations, notes and references, and so on—are well-recognised in the academic community. But they are accompanied by a number of limitations, which e-books have the potential to overcome. Full realisation of such potential is still some way off, however, not least because both most authors and editors (including copy editors and
    typesetters) have relatively little experience in enriching their texts to take advantage of the opportunities opened up by digital technologies.
  • para 168 –  … (in e-books) readers can benefit from in-text searching as against the manual use of printed tables of contents and indexes that can be highly variable in comprehensiveness and quality.
  • page 356 – on the production of Open Access books  …  Ubiquity Press, for example, currently has a basic Book Processing Charge of £3,780 for a book of 100,000 words, rising to £5,920 if copy editing and indexing is included in the service…

So, indexes are important for the future of academic books, there is still a place for them, however the opportunities of e-books are not being realised at this stage, and sometimes the quality of indexing could be better. The price for copy-editing and indexing 100,000 words is estimated at £2,140.

Let’s take a quick look at those prices. Checking the Ubiquity Press site today we find that the guide price has increased by 18.5%  to £4,480 for the basic book and £6,900 for the copy-edit and index package. The index page is costed at £880, and copy-editing £1,540, a total of £2,420, an increase of 13%, which suggests the costs of book production have risen more rapidly than those of copy-editing and indexing. Whilst only a guide to authors, I think they are using reasonable estimates and the prices for any individual book may vary.

Meeting these costs is an issue for authors publishing Open Access reports as the burden largely falls on individual universities and research institutions as research funding, particularly in arts and humanities, where project grants usually come from a variety of sources throughout the life of a project. Even when authors are not publishing Open Access texts, there will be costs for indexing and copy-editing that they may have to bear, either through the project funding or as individuals. This is one of the reasons why authors may decide they want to index their own texts. However, The Society of Indexers encourages authors to consider using a professional indexer and stresses the indexer’s role as a collaborator bringing professional indexing skills, objectivity and a fresh approach to the topic, that of a potential reader or learner, as well as subject knowledge of the topic.

The Book Index – 22 & 23 June, Oxford

A two-day conference at the Weston Library, organised by Dennis Duncan and the Centre for the Study of the Book, Oxford University. 22nd-23rd June 2017. An opportunity for academics and professionals to meet and and talk about indexes.

I must admit to having been slightly sceptical about booking for this event. It was timed to follow on from the Society of Indexers’ annual conference, could I bear to be sitting around for another two days? Who were the speakers, would they all be dry-as-dust old duffers? (With apologies to Oxford dons, I’ve been there and got the t-shirt, I know what they can be like.) Would it all be too esoteric for a jobbing indexer to understand?

I needn’t have worried on any count. The lecture theatre in the Weston Library is a great place. The seats are comfy, the tables are welcome, the sound is mostly good and the screen clear. I sat in a chair named after the Duke of Wellington.

The speakers were all young academics in the early stages of their careers and they were full of interesting material, delivered in a clear and enthusiastic voices. Young in this context means younger than me. The full programme is available here. You can see the programme covered topics including: indexing in 19th century China, Heidegger and Cassirer, indexes to the Polychronicon of Ranulph Higden, satiric indexes, Richard Hakluyt and the Indexes of Francis Daniel Pastorius. See Paula’s excellent blog for reviews and summaries of the talks here. There really isn’t any point in me covering the same ground.

The availability of wi-fi to check out some things as some of the speakers spoke – who were Hakluyt and Pastorius? Why might they be of interest to indexers? – was very useful. The speakers didn’t always have time to give the background that might be obvious to students of old books and manuscripts, but wasn’t for some of us. While some of it may have gone over our heads, I think when we read the articles when they are printed, we will understand more.

Two days flew by. The lunches were yummy. Attendees were also invited to the opening of the Jane Austen exhibition at the Weston Library, which was lovely too. A good time was had. Academics became aware of indexers, and indexers were made aware of the range of scholarship which is taking in aspects of indexing. Ruth made a Storify of the event using Twitter tweets, which is here. When can we do it again?