Why Invest In an Index?
Impression – colleagues and reviewers will begin their assessment of a book by examining to the index to see how comprehensive the information covered in the book is, as well as the potential for impact in the field the book holds. First impressions count and an index is a better indicator of the breadth and depth of the book than a review.
Usability – an easy to use index points readers and researchers to all the information in the book, including small nuggets of information. You included all the information in your book for a reason and all of it should be found just as easily as the main themes in the book. How can someone return to your book and quote a small (in terms of paragraphs), yet significant piece of research if they can’t find it in the index and don’t have time to read the book again?
Value – librarians, educators and potential purchasers use indexes to evaluate what is included in a book when making purchasing decisions. If an index is like a film's trailer, it accurately reflects what one can expect from the book and thereby adds value.
Can't a computer do an index?
Computers are useful tools to help with creating an index however a computer doesn't have the ability to evaluate context. They are not able to discern subtleties of word usage, the importance of concepts relative to the book’s topic and homonyms. They aren’t able to think like a reader and choose terminology or make decisions to create cross references for those who may be looking up a similar word. When faced with space limitations and the need to edit, computers aren’t able to decide which headings should be combined under a new heading. Collecting the information to index, that is, the concept and corresponding page numbers is only one part of indexing, the other is structuring the index and that requires contextual information and a human being knowledgable about the subject matter to make decisions.