Indexing in the Age of E-books
By Maureen Johnson
The 2013 ASI Conference in San Antonio, TX, was full of energy and optimism about the current state and future potential of the field of indexing. The plenary session on Thursday, titled “Indexing in the Age of eBooks,” was presented by Joshua Tallent of eBook Architects and Firebrand Technologies. Joshua is an e-book producer who has become well known in the field and has been a passionate advocate for including indexes in digital content. His message had two themes. First, e-books are not going to take the place of print. According to his data, e-books were 25% of total book revenue last year and seem to be plateauing as a percentage of total sales. In addition, e-book sales seem to favor fiction over non-fiction, in part because navigating and referencing material in the digital form is still difficult.
Joshua’s second point was that digital is not going to go away, and indexing is at a crossroads. While our skills are increasingly important in an age of information overload, indexers are often not part of the conversations going on in publishing. He encouraged us to become advocates for our craft and to promote the ways indexing can enhance the user experience with digital content. Our jobs are changing, and we should not stand still. We need to become educated on the current state of e-b ook technology and advocate for the value of indexing.
A few of Joshua’s suggestions for getting up to speed include reading the article “Dumb eBooks Must Die, Smart eBooks Must Live” by Mike Cane. He also recommends reviewing various Bible software products. In his opinion, these products are some of the best examples of ways to access content. You can hover over a word and get a list of resources, comments, links etc. to other content.
Getting up to speed also means becoming knowledgeable about the work of ASI’s Digital Trends Task Force, or DTTF, and their ePub standards for indexes. We should all read the standard and be aware of the way indexes can and should work in digital content. We should also be able to understand the code that lies beneath the digital page; even if we don’t write code, we should be conversant with it. This will not only help us join the conversation about tool development but will enable us to visualize better workflows and improve the tools that are being created.
Finally, we need to join the voices of other indexers in this conversation. The more publishers see a united front from the indexing profession and content users, the more likely they are to tackle the tough questions about the future of digital content. We need to promote the index as a source of metadata that retailers can use to make their content more findable on the Internet. Books with the best metadata are picked up by search engines and presented to customers. Indexes matter very much to our customer’s bottom line. It’s up to us to continually promote that message.
© 2013 by Heartland Chapter of ASI. All rights reserved.