Over on Twitter it’s possible to find readers, mostly students, complaining that their books don’t have indexes. Having twice been a student I know it is hard to research essay topics, or write a thesis, if books don’t have indexes. So I thought I’d ask a few of them which books they have found and see if they have anything in common. Here are some of the books they have mentioned:
- The Hollywood Musical by Jane Feuer, published by Indiana University Press, 1993. Single author text.
- King John by W L Warren, published by Yale University Press, several editions, the latest seems to be 1997. Single author text
- Genre, Gender, Race and World Cinema edited by Julie F. Codell published by Wiley-Blackwell, 2006. An anthology by numerous authors.
- Atlanta and Environs by Franklin Garrett, published by University of Georgia Press, reprinted 2011. A monster of over 900 pages with an index, and one of a series of books, the person complaining said they were not detailed enough.
- Duras: Femme du Siecle. Papers from a conference in held in London in 1999, in French.
- Twelve Views of Manet’s Bar. Twelve essays about one painting. Published by Princeton University Press, 1996.
- Economic Report on the Philadelphia Metropolitan Area 1985 by Anita A. Summers and Thomas F. Luce. Philadelphia University Press.
- Transformation and Convergence in the Frame of Knowledge, Torrance, T. F., published by Wipf & Stock, 1998.
- Thomist Realism and The Critique of Knowledge, by Etienne Gilson, Ignatius Press, 2012.
- An Eastern Way of War: The Republic of Korea’s Troops in the Vietnam War by Nicholas E. Efstathiou, a Kindle publication, reader using an e-book version.
- Discipline and Punish, by Michel Foucoult, a translation published by Penguin, and another volume Power/Knowledge published by Random House.
- Translations of Plato texts.
- Camera Lucida by Barthes
Actually, I don’t think they have anything in common except the lack of an index. Some of these publications date from before the internet and e-books were ever thought of, some have been released in the last few years. Some come from language traditions which don’t usually have an index. All have ended up on a reading list or have been sought out by the students as necessary reading for their courses or research. All I can say to authors and editors is, please, spare a thought for future readers and students. Readers in the future can’t count on an electronic version being available, so it surely makes sense to include a back-of-the-book index. For more on the differences between free text searching and indexes, see this useful page.