Tag Archives: society of indexers

#Indexday

The Society of Indexers is celebrating its diamond anniversary in 2017 and designated 30 March as the first National Indexing Day to raise awareness of this essential profession.

The Society has seen many changes in book production and indexing methods during that time. Gone are index cards, going out are paper prints and highlighter pens, in are specialised software packages, coming in are e-pub books with linked indexes. I wonder what the next 60 years will bring?

Media coverage included an article by Society of Indexers President Sam Leith which explains a lot about what indexers do – see here. And the following week there was a podcast by Sam and Dennis Duncan discussing the history of indexing. Listen here.

Here’s a Storify of the coverage we got – National Indexing Day.

National indexing day

 

 

Society of Indexers conference 2016

For the first time in many years the SI conference was a one-day event. The venue, The Studio, Cannon Street, Birmingham, was a smart refurbishment of a 19th century building.

Ann Kingdom opened the conference and introduced the first session on ‘Ethics in Indexing’, based on Heather Ebbs’ presentation at the 2015 conference (Ebbs 2016). The discussions that followed were an ice-breaker for the many new and student indexers who attended the conference. Split into groups led by experienced indexers we discussed six ethical dilemmas: censorship of the index by the author, indexer beliefs clashing with an author’s, the quality of another indexer’s work, a lack of skill or subject expertise, making a table of contents into an index, and a client putting down the work of another indexer. The groups then reported their comments. This session was food for thought for everyone present.

The second session was a lecture by Alastair Horne, which looked back on, and predicted the future of, digital publishing. The previous five years had not turned out at all as Alastair had expected and the lack of e-book innovation was disappointing. It all comes down to costs and consumers are not keen on paying for additional content, because their expectations have been trained to expect e-books to be much cheaper than printed versions. He predicted that the future may hold fragmentation of the digital market with more formats sharing the publishing space. This could include an increasing diversity of routes to market. Crowdfunding sites, like Unbound, can introduce new authors to new reading markets. Subscription models need work on how to charge for a service that most subscribers actually use, unlike gyms, which make money from a service that most subscribers do not use. Serialisation takes us back to the days of Charles Dickens, where readers pay for parts of a book at a time. Scholarly publishing is also undergoing a period of change and development. New university presses, such as White Rose University Press, are publishing monographs and journals with a view to providing free access to digital content, without impacting on quality of content and standards of production. Knowledge Unlatched is also intent on providing free content through subscribing academic libraries.

After lunch we settled down for Dennis Duncan’s talk entitled ‘Filthy Talk, p. 2: scenes from the history of indexing’. The title was taken from a hand-written index he found in an early printed book. He covered early Bible concordances and how they contributed to the development of indexing and then offered cases of how 17th and early 18th century indexers used their political position or academic knowledge to create indexes that enraged the authors. This took us neatly back to the start of the conference and our discussion of ethics in indexing. The first example covered Boyle against Bentley, a collective effort to discredit Richard Bentley. Bentley had had the audacity to criticize Charles Boyle’s edition of the ancient Greek ‘Epistles of Phalaris’, stating that Boyle did not realise that the epistles were fake. The book includes a four page index of Bentley’s characteristics, for example, ‘His Egregious Dulness, p. 74…’ and ‘His Collection of Asinine Proverbs, p. 220’. Bentley may have been dull, but recent scholarship has shown he was correct and the Epistles were fake. In The Transactioneer, published in 1700, William King drew attention to the silliness he felt was contained in letters published by the Royal Society in their Philosophical Transactions. He used ironic and witty entries in a table of contents to highlight their lack of scientific thinking. In 1718, when clergyman Laurence Echard published his three volume History of England, he had not counted on his indexer taking issue with its politics and undermining the work with a series of subversive, occasionally sarcastic, index entries. Echard’s is a Tory version of English history and John Oldmixon – the indexer hired by Echard’s publisher, was a radical Whig. Much more of this sort of thing will be at the symposium on the history of the book index that Dennis is organising next year.

A choice of workshops completed the afternoon sessions. Janice Rayment presented two sessions on ‘Indexing with InDesign’. Panel-led discussions on ‘Indexing dilemmas’ and ‘Getting started’ were alternative choices for experienced and new indexers. The new indexers and trainees asked sensible and searching questions. After another round of coffee, those who did not attend the second part of Janice’s workshop could choose between ‘Working more efficiently: editing the index’ with Ann Hudson or ‘From plot to plate: indexing gardening and cookery books’ by Michèle Clarke-Moody. Michèle gave a rapid and thorough coverage of issues related to indexing gardening and cookery books, some of which I have had to use since the conference, how timely was that.

The conference closed and a thunderstorm of biblical proportions broke over Birmingham.

Conference season – that back to school feeling

Next week the Society of Indexers is holding its annual conference in Birmingham. It has the title Back to the Future.  But I don’t think it involves fast cars and time travel (more’s the pity, but I will be taking the train). This will be the third time I have attended the Society’s conference. Why should a trained, professional indexer want or need to do this? What might I get out of it to help me in future? I think there are three main reasons:

  1. There’s always something new to learn: on a one day event there’s only so much that can be done. I’m looking forward to hearing from Dennis Duncan on the history of indexing, and learning from Michele Clark-Moody more on cookery and gardening book indexing. Reflecting on how things were done in the past is always a way of informing present practice, and hearing from an expert is a good way to refine one’s own approach. I like working on cookery books, and maybe I can expand into gardening titles too.
  2. Networking: Meeting people who otherwise only appear to live on email message groups is always fun. I’ve met many before but new friends can be made in the spaces between sessions.
  3. Giving a bit back: As a relative newcomer to indexing I’m taking part in the session for new indexers and how to get started. A small panel of similar folk will hopefully be giving useful tips to even newer indexers and those still on the training course.

The one-day format packs a lot in. We’re also discussing ethics in indexing (censorship by authors, clashing with authors’ beliefs, quality of other indexer’s work, lack of skill or subject expertise, table of contents indexes). We have a Code of Professional Conduct which we all abide by, but perhaps sometimes situations force us to consider it very carefully. And we are also taking a look at digital publishing, backwards and forwards to the future.

Academic Book Week 2015

A celebration of the diversity, innovation and influence of academic books to be held 9 – 16 November. http://acbookweek.com/

This is a chance of anyone interested in the future of academic book publishing in the UK and beyond to learn about and influence the potential development of arts and humanities books. As an indexer I sometimes have to wonder if there will be a future for traditional, human-made, indexes. However, opening up academic books to a wider audience and making them more usable for a wider range of readers has to be a key concern of authors and publishers. The index is a key feature that can enable this in both paper and digital formats, and is something that can be best done by a person who knows the subject area and can anticipate the needs of the audience. The Society of Indexers has some information on this subject, start here.

There are a number of events planned for the week – see http://acbookweek.com/events/. I hope that indexers will be able to make their voices heard in the contexts of the project and of the events of book week. I hope to see you there!

 

#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.

The new President of the Society of Indexers – Sam Leith

Sam Leith, who is described as a journalist, columnist and novelist in his Wikipedia entry, has recently accepted the position of “President of the Society of Indexers”. This news has made me absurdly happy. While the outgoing post-holder, Professor John Sutherland, has often commented on the absence of indexes in books he has seen,  such as Salman Rushdie’s memoir, entertained Society of Indexers members at our annual conferences over the years and been a stalwart supporter of all we indexers do, he’s obviously “old school”. Nothing wrong with that, he was born before WWII after all, but at a time when indexers are struggling to find their way into the 21st century and make our skills relevant for readers at this time, it is brilliant news that a young(er than me), media savvy person with quite a big following, has seen it appropriate to accept the role of “President of the Society of Indexers” into his portfolio. I’m hoping to see a lot of Tweets from @questingvole, Sam’s Twitter tag, and other media mentions in the publications he writes for that help to raise the profile of the society and the relevance of the work of indexers to 21st century readers. And I look forward to meeting Sam at the Society’s conference in York next September, which we’re holding jointly with the Society for Editors and Proofreaders.

London Book Fair 2014 – death of print books is exaggerated

The London Book Fair attracts book sellers and buyers from around the world. This year it is being held in Earls Court. I was there with Ann Kingdom on Tuesday. We were there for two reasons. Ann participated in one of the early seminars on the first day and we were to try and market the Society of Indexers, and indexing in general, to publishers and other exhibitors, and I was hoping to target some in my areas of expertise.

The seminar was a joint event with the Society of Indexers, the Society for Editors and Proofreaders, the Institute of Translating and Interpreting and the Chartered Institute of Linguists. The aim was to explore how editors, proofreaders, translators and indexers work together behind the scenes before publication and the added-value these professional bodies provide to the publishing industry. Each organisation fielded a speaker and the format was a series of questions posed by the chair, sometimes to all of them, sometimes to just one. As the audience was mixed, the information imparted was necessarily of a general nature, but the listeners gained an awareness of the special requirements of each of these professions, and the need for dialogue between authors, translators, editors and indexers to ensure that the author’s intent was preserved as their work passed through the hands of these professionals.

The second reason for our attendance was to ‘spread the word’ about the Society and its activities among the exhibitors at the show. The Society has prepared a small leaflet and armed with a handful I sought out some likely targets. There were exhibitors from all over the world, so a fair number of potential targets were not relevant. The exhibitors’ booths ranged from those of large international publishers such as Hachette, who had the largest single stand area, to tiny booths with just room for one chair and a table. The purpose of the exhibitors at the fair was to sell books so they sent people to man the stands who were from marketing and sales departments. They were not the people who edit the books and who might have needed to know where to find an indexer. Ninety of the smaller publishers were represented by the Independent Publishers Guild, so together they had a larger stand area and could share the costs of attending the event. It was therefore hard to find anyone to approach among the publishers, and several of those I spoke to had previous experience of the Society. Among the publishing solutions exhibitors I found a few in the ‘self-publishing’ market who had not heard of the Society. I think this highlights how important it is for individual indexers to market themselves directly to publishers.

The good news is that there were plenty of printed books on show. The death of the printed book has been greatly exaggerated. It may be hard to find work as a new indexer, but I’m encouraged that there is still a large pool of potential work out there.