Tag Archives: indexing

Society of Indexers’ 60th anniversary conference – sparkling!

Why go to a small conference where you know most of the people and you’re all in the same line of business? What’s the point? What will you learn? Who will you meet?

Facets of indexing: the diamond anniversary conference of the Society of Indexers was held at St Anne’s College, Oxford on 21 June 2017.

Answering the last question first, you will meet people from across the world. The conference was attended by 71 people, 11 of whom gave addresses outside of the UK. The UK attendees represent only about one-sixth of the membership of the society, but were drawn from all over the country. Those from outside the UK included off-shore members of the society, representatives from our sister organisations in the USA, Australia, and the Netherlands, and representatives from indexing software companies. When you’re working away at home, on your own, I think it’s easy to forget that you’re actually part of a global activity. I spoke with an Australian indexer about my experiences working on projects where the volume editor was in mainland Europe, I am in the UK and the production editor is in Canada. She mentioned similar experiences.

What will you learn at the conference? The conference covered a range of topics and ran workshops and seminars concurrently. It can be difficult to choose what might be of most use or interest. On reflection, I learned a lot of things about the current state of indexing and better practice.

After the welcoming speech we split into subject areas to discuss current situation in our field. In the history and archaeology group we talked about how we tackle issues such as names, alternative international names for events (Battle of Austerlitz or Slavkova? or of the Three Emperors?), any experiences we had had with producing indexes for e-books or embedding.

The opening lecture from Philip Shaw, of Oxford Brookes International Centre for Publishing, on current developments in the publishing industry gave a rapid summary of recent trends, markets and technologies. It’s good to know where you sit in the scheme of things.

The conference also covered the AGM business, had awards for services to indexing and new indexers presented by the President of the Society, Sam Leith, and discussed society business. It’s good to keep in touch with the Executive Board, and I was elected to sit on it for three years. So perhaps I’ll learn more about that soon.

After lunch I attended Christopher Phipps’ workshop on lives in miniature: indexing biographies and other life writings. One session a year with Christopher is never enough to cover all you might want to ask of him. This year he introduced the idea of a cast of characters in a biography and how you might approach indexing five groups: the main character (the hero or heroine of the book), the lead supporting actors (the family and other significant people), the secondary players who appear repeatedly but irregularly, the walk-on parts who appear with some frequency but don’t say or do much, and the expert witnesses who could be people or significant works by the subject.

After a coffee break a number of us discussed working efficiently – tips, tricks and avoiding bad habits. OHIO – only handle it once is something to aspire to in making indexes. Some indexers spend a lot of time editing and working on their entries, others can create an index and spend very little time editing. I suspect that sometimes the amount of handling may have to do with the subject area and the kind of book involved. A text book may lend itself to more OHIO than a biography or philosophy book. Setting targets for time spent doing things is always good advice, as is turning off the distractions and ensuring you have templates for common types of email and other business needs. A collaborative approach involving other indexers or proof readers was also discussed as a way of making more efficient use of your time.

We then all met to listen to Pilar Wyman and Pierke Bosschieter discuss how indexers could influence the future of linked indexes in e-books. Pierke is an enthusiastic adopter of technology for reading and has reviewed many formats for e-books and devices. Pilar reviewed some approaches to linked indexes and went on to look at the EPub3 standard and how it could be used for better navigation. As with paper-based indexes of the past, an index in an e-book is part of the marketing strategy of the publisher. Why include it if it is of no use to anyone? Why not make a great one that helps the reader?

So the point of going to our conferences is to meet people, learn things and have time to reflect on indexing practice. Here’s Ruth’s Storify if you want to find out more.

Next year we’re heading north to Lancaster, concurrently with our sister organisation the Society for Editors and Proofreaders. An interesting time should be had by all.

 

Current Archaeology Book of the Year

Voting recently took place for the 2017 Current Archaeology awards, including the Book of the Year. The winner was Images of the Ice Age (Paul Bahn) – this book has an index that the publisher owns up to, but I can’t see it or any reviews of it.

So, what of the indexes in the other books? Might considering the usefulness of the index have helped voters decide the best book?

Celts: art and identity (Julia Farley and Fraser Hunter) – there is an index, and it has been described as “workable” – which might be damning it with faint praise. I haven’t seen this book, so can’t comment further.

St Kilda: the last and outmost isle (Angela Gannon and George Geddes) – also listed for a British Archaeological Award – I can’t find whether this book has an index or not, or a reviewer who has commented on it.

Bog Bodies Uncovered (Miranda Aldhouse-Green) – a reviewer on GoodReads said the index was “nice”. But that’s all I can find.

The Home Front in Britain 1914-1918  (C Appleby, W Cocroft, J Schofield) – Council for British Archaeology Handbook. But I can’t find any reference to this book having an index.

Ritual in Early Bronze Age Grave Goods (Ann Woodward and John Hunter) This is book is ordered by item type and there is an index of grave groups and objects studied in detail, which is in itself very detailed.

Hidden Histories: a spotters guide to the British landscape (Mary-Ann Ochota) Seems to contain an index of places, as the book is arranged by theme there may have been no need for anything more. The index was prepared by a Society of Indexers member.

A Tale of the Axe: how the Neolithic revolution transformed Britain (David Miles) This book has an index, but that’s pretty much all I can say. An indexer has told me that the index was “good, helpful, and well constructed”. So that’s OK then.

So, what do we learn from this review? Not much I am sad to say. The books in question are not generally available to ‘look inside’ on Amazon, and the publishers don’t make much of the indexes as a selling point. Also, the reviews I found seem slightly shy of mentioning the index. Maybe this was because of space constraints, or possibly because the reviewers only know a good index by the fact it wasn’t bad. The index probably wouldn’t have made or broken the chances of any of these books succeeding in the Current Archaeology awards, however, the absence of an index, or a poor index can impact on the chances of a user making full use of the information contained in the book.

#SuperThursday – publishing’s big launch day

Today marks the start of the feeding frenzy that is the UK Christmas book market. According to BBC News, exactly 503 new titles will be launched today. Given that 30% of book sales are apparently related to Christmas giving and receiving (and buying for oneself I hope), the seasonal peak is important to publishers, authors, and, of course, indexers.

To give a physical presence to the sales campaigns you may see Books Are My Bag events in your high-street book shop, if you’re lucky enough to still have one. The cloth bags are becoming very collectable, and more useful since the 5p charge for plastic bags was introduced in England.

While e-books have taken a chunk out of the physical book market, the majority of e-book sales have been in fiction. Readers of non-fiction often prefer an actual book for many reasons, perhaps because the pictures are actually better in print than on-screen. But also because e-books are struggling with the ability to format and present an index in a sensible way for readers and free-text search doesn’t always get to what the reader wants to find.

Many indexers will have been busy over the summer months, getting indexes ready for the big launch day today. Often unsung and unmentioned in the books they have worked on, but an important part of the process that will end on Christmas day when the presents are finally unwrapped. Perhaps they’ll keep an eye on the book sale charts to see how their books are doing.

#sisfep15 copy-editing, proofreading and indexing

The later stages of book production can involve three stages: copy-editing, proofreading and indexing. Each requires separate training and expertise. While some people offer all three, it’s not a great idea to have the same person providing all three for the same publication. A few words about each can clarify the roles.

To quote from the SfEP website:

Copy-editing takes the raw material (the ‘copy’: anything from a novel to a web page) and makes it ready for publication as a book, article, website, broadcast, menu, flyer, game or even a tee-shirt. The aim of copy-editing is to ensure that whatever appears in public is accurate, easy to follow, fit for purpose and free of error, omission, inconsistency and repetition. This process picks up embarrassing mistakes, ambiguities and anomalies, alerts the client to possible legal problems and analyses the document structure for the typesetter/designer.

After material has been copy-edited, the publisher sends it to a designer or typesetter. Their work is then displayed or printed, and that is the proof – proof that it is ready for publication. Proofreading is the quality check and tidy up. Proofreading is now often ‘blind’ – the proof is read on its own merits, without seeing the edited version.A proofreader looks for consistency in usage and presentation, and accuracy in text, images and layout, but cannot be responsible for the author’s or copy-editor’s work.

And on indexers:

A professional indexer compiles an ‘analytical’ index – not just a list of keywords. There are no quick fixes for the kind of intellectual analysis required in order to produce the most efficient ‘finding’ and ‘navigation’ tool for a printed or electronic publication. An indexer considers the terms the readers are likely to use and relates them to the language chosen by the author. An indexer analyses the meaning and significance of the entire content in detail, and identifies tangible concepts from the woolliest of descriptions.

So three stages, each doing different things with the text to make it as good as it can be, given the commercial and other constraints.

The first SfEP/SI joint conference was an excellent opportunity for our large community of copy-editors, indexers and proofreaders to develop their professional knowledge, network and socialise, alongside international delegates from both societies. The Storify gives a glimpse here #sisfep15.

Roads Were Not Built for Cars

To quote the author, Carlton Reid, “How cyclists were the first to push for good roads & became the pioneers of motoring”. It’s a rattling good read about things we ought to know more about and should appeal to cyclists, motorists and enthusiasts of late Victorian and Edwardian history. I’ve just completed the index and the book goes to press today. You can find out more here.

This is the end of the gestation period for Carlton, who has been working on the book for four years. He had to raise funds by crowdsourcing using Kickstarter, as well as more traditional research sources. Carlton is a fantastic example of someone who had an idea for a book and managed to get funding to cover the research and writing phases, and the all-important copy-editing and indexing. Here’s a link to his blog where you can read about how Kickstarter worked for him.  Let’s hope the book finds its way into a lot of Christmas stockings.

Twittering about indexing, indexes, indexers etc

Since the start of the year while I’m waiting for some pdfs to arrive for indexing, I’ve been dabbling in Twitter to see what kind of things get said about indexing and thinking about how to engage with non-indexers and the comments they make. However, it’s not always so easy to find tweets about indexing of books, or other paper-based resources, as the term ‘indexing’ has been hijacked by computer search engine indexers and the Twitter search facility doesn’t always help to discriminate between the two sorts. Maybe it’s time to reclaim the word for ourselves, but it might be too late.

I have found examples of the following behaviours:

Hello!

I am on the way to becoming an Accredited Indexer with the Society of Indexers and when I get to use my MSocInd letters, I’ll launch this blog as my website.

Watch this space for more in the coming weeks.

This book was written by the daddy of all indexers, Henry Wheatley and published in 1879. Indexing has a long history before that, but is not constrained to dusty shelves in academic libraries. It has a vibrant future helping readers find information in printed books, in e-books and online using the words and terms that readers want to find. Henry Wheatley could not have imagined the ‘information revolution’ we’ve been going through, but he might have hoped his ideas and approach would persist as an on-going legacy to his hard work.