ATG Article of the Week: Why an eBook Still Needs an Index

by | Sep 13, 2011 | 2 comments

Why an ebook still needs an index

In the print world, a strong index is considered an essential “value added” feature of any scholarly book.  However, Peter Meyers claims that the ebook index has “gone AWOL.”  He acknowledges a number of daunting “implementation challenges” that have frustrated publishers and led to the lack of ebook indexing.  He also notes that when questions arise about the lack of an index “most publishers, …  point to search as a decent substitute”.  But Meyers isn’t buying it.  Search does not adequately substitute for an index. “And worse: the absence of an index deepens reader prejudice regarding the value of ebooks.”  In short, “books that do less are worth less.”

Meyers further argues that “it doesn’t have to be this way.” An ebook’s index has the potential to “not only… match the utility of its print counterpart, it can improve upon shortcomings.”  But he admits it will not be easy.  There is far more to it than merely replicating the print index with hyperlinks to the relevant pages. It will require everyone involved “to think deeply about why do readers turn to the index? — and then pair those answers with the ways in which screen-based publications can service that need.”

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