Wordmaps FAQs: Digital Book Indexes

I’m writing an eReader ebook. Why should I hire an indexer?
People tell me to omit an index to my eReader ebook! Why?
Should I tell my indexer I plan to do an eReader ebook?
I’m writing a downloadable PDF book? Why do I need an index?
But isn’t “Find” feature on my computer just like an index?
Are there any reasons not to have an index in my PDF book?
What if I want to consolidate several digital books into one?
What if I wish to spin off shorter products from my digital book?

(1) I’m writing an eReader book. Why should I hire an indexer?

Indexers are full-time professionals. Indexers use specialized software such as CINDEX, MACREX, SKY, InDesign, and HTML-Indexer. While most indexers work for traditional publishers on print books, a few are rapidly moving into ebook and mobile (cellphone) books.

You will find the following benefits from using a professional indexer with Internet indexing experience.

A) Your index will look like one that print book readers are used to.
B) The index will be done quicker than you could do it.
C) An index that pleases your readers will help sell your products.
D) If your competitors lack an index or have an inferior one, readers will be more likely to choose your book over theirs.

In addition, indexers who work with self-publishers accumulate information about self-publishing from their other clients that could be useful to you.

(2) People writing about eReader ebooks tell me to omit the index? Why?

You should not take their advice – an index can be created for for your ebook.

Formatting your index for eReader books will require an extra step. That’s because digital text does not really have pages. An ebook is a continuous digital file. Like a web site it only has screens. And screens come in many different sizes. So ebook pages will differ from each other depending on what device you are using to read the ebook.

Despite this difference from print books, page numbers can be inserted in ebooks by use of a web design device called an “anchor.” It’s the same technique web site designers use.

An invisible anchor is placed in your digital text where a print version page ends to indicate the page number. (The icon for an anchor is a tiny anchor inside a box.) Each “page number” in your index will refer back to one of the anchors embedded in your book’s text.

(3) Should I tell my indexer I plan to creating an eReader ebook?

Absolutely yes! eReader ebooks are a new type of book. Publishers have been in such a hurry to get their books digitally formatted, quality is just now becoming a concern. Many digital books contain typos, spelling errors and formatting issues in the text. The same is doubly true for their indexes.

The content and layout of indexes are based on principles of conciseness, brevity, and good design for the best readability and comprehension by readers. A bad layout for an index can render its useless. Until digital publishing quality standards increase, it is better for your indexer, if it is possible, to create a simpler index for a digital book. This means limiting the length of headings and subheadings when possible. It also means trying to keep the number of subheadings under a topic small too.

On the other hand, digital indexes are much quicker to search than print indexes. See and See also cross-references in the index can be linked to the terms they point to, for faster navigation of the index. Some publishers of print books have limited the amounts of cross-references in the index because of the precise calculation of pages that offset printing technology demands. So there are differences, both with advantages and disadvantages, between print and digital indexes!

Whatever you decide, discuss the formats you plan to use for your book with your indexer before they begin work for you!

(4) I’m writing a downloadable PDF book? Why do I need an index?

PDF books are a hybrid between digital and print books. They share some characteristics of both types of books. PDF books share with ebooks the common bond of being a downloadable digital file and therefore, quickly searchable (although you search a PDF file with keywords rather than with HTML links.)

When it comes to an index, digital books are no different than print books. If a book has information in it, it needs to be indexed. Your reader needs to be able to go back and look up things they’ve read in your book. Your reader needs to find scattered discussions of a topic all in one place in order to explore and think about that topic. They need to be directed to synonyms, antonyms and related terms of the the words they are looking up. That is what See and See also cross-references in an index do.

Most importantly, your index shows readers how seriously you take the message of your book. The bottom line is that a bad index or no index can kill sales of your book.

(5) But isn’t Adobe’s “Find” feature on my computer just like an index?

If your PDF e-book has a substantial amount of information in it, do not rely on an Adobe software’s “Find” function!

Find function’s “hits” are tedious to scan. Find can even return so many page numbers it tries your readers’ patience an they give up. Many readers don’t yet know quotation marks must be used to find phrases. Most importantly, Find only looks for words in a document; an indexer will look for concepts and the main points you are trying to get across to your readers. While not all indexers will take on a PDF book, I will be happy to discuss indexing your PDF book! Contact me at:  nancy@wordmapsindexing.com.

(6) Are there any reasons not to have an index in my PDF book?

If your PDF book is very brief or if it only makes a few points you may not need an index. Likewise, if your PDF book is a collection of articles, you might do fine with a table of contents. If it’s by different authors, a names index along with your table of contents would be a good idea.

Similarly, if your PDF book is part of a “membership club”that includes webinars and teleseminars you may decide your don’t want an index. That’s because these programs are designed for group study sessions rather than independent learning.

If your PDF book is part of group learning program or high-end objectives-based program, you’ll want to guide your followers through it in your own way. However, you might consider an expanded table of contents (chapter titles along with chapter section titles in page number order). This will make it easier for students to follow as they listen to you talk about what is in your PDF workbook.

(7) What if I want to consolidate several digital books into one book?

Indexers have created cumulative indexes for print books for centuries. If we have created the indexes for you, we can easily conflate the index entries for a digital books series into a single cumulative index for your digital book. The main challenge will be in handling the page numbers.

If you intend to create a larger book from several smaller digital books, it is a good idea to let your indexer know. And if possible, use the same indexer for all the books. Indexing is an art. No two indexers will create exactly the same index for a book. For this reason, the job will go more quickly and be cheaper with one indexer. If you do hire more than one indexer, ask for the final digital copy of the file that your indexer’s software has created. Another indexer should be able to import that file into the software they use.

(8) What if I wish to spin off shorter products from my digital book?

Likewise, it is possible to break up an digital book into separate parts, each its own index. In this case the challenge will be to identify which See and See also cross-references belong in each separate part.

Whether conflating digital books or breaking down a digital book into parts, you’ll find it will be less expensive if your indexer knows your intentions right at the very beginning. So try to create at least a rough marketing plan for your book before you begin and talk to your indexer about your plan.