Tag Archives: books without indexes

Books that don’t have indexes frustrate readers

Over on Twitter it’s possible to find readers, mostly students, complaining that their books don’t have indexes. Having twice been a student I know it is hard to research essay topics, or write a thesis,  if books don’t have indexes. So I thought I’d ask a few of them which books they have found and see if they have anything in common. Here are some of the books they have mentioned:

Actually, I don’t think they have anything in common except the lack of an index.  Some of these publications date from before the internet and e-books were ever thought of, some have been released in the last few years. Some come from language traditions which don’t usually have an index. All have ended up on a reading list or have been sought out by the students as necessary reading for their courses or research. All I can say to authors and editors is, please, spare a thought for future readers and students. Readers in the future can’t count on an electronic version being available, so it surely makes sense to include a back-of-the-book index. For more on the differences between free text searching and indexes, see this useful page.

Advertisements

what would we do without …..?

the Internet? and indexes?

I’ve been managing without the Internet since Sunday, but fortunately the BT man fixed ours today and I’m back. Lack of the wherewithal at the weekend meant I missed catching up with blogging some indexing things.

The Samuel Johnson Prize was won by Lucy Hughes-Hallett and her book, The Pike, which is  about Gabriele D’Annunzio. You can see the comments I made about the index to this book on my previous post here. Well done to Lucy for her win, and I hope all the team who contributed to the book, including the indexer, took time to bathe in the reflect glow from the prize.

The other prizes I wrote about recently will be awarded over the next couple of weeks, so let’s hope one with a great index also wins those categories, although there’s a chance that a book without an index could win too!

So what would we do without indexes?

The most fundamental thing is that readers of books without indexes won’t know what is inside the book, except in the most general terms. I’ve been practising my indexing skills on a book of essays about cycling and I’m astounded by the sheer number of names that get dropped by all the authors, even when the article is ostensibly about someone or something else. More on this book another time, as I’ve not finished the index yet.

You can read more about why books need indexes over here at the Society of Indexers. While some of these quotes are a few years old now and you might think that e-books can do without an index because you can easily search a book, take a look at this page which talks about why human indexers do a better job than text searches. In these days of time-poor readers, having someone else fillet the bones out of a book and make a proper index surely makes sense?