One of the fun things about being an indexer is being invited along to launch events and other activities related to the books you index. Last night I went to Oxford to hear Carlton Reid talk about Roads were NOT built for cars to Cyclox, a cycle campaign group. And, of course, it was a great talk. However, one of Carlton’s selling points for his book is …. the index. Look, he’s put it on a little promo card that he hands out.
And as he’s sold out of the first printing of the book already, it must work, right?
Great to be in Oxford as always. The location of the talk, St Michael’s in the Northgate, was the church where my marriage banns were read out. But I wasn’t married there. Cycling in Oxford is something touched with sadness for me because, just after I left, my ex-flat-mate was killed while riding her bike near Magdalen College. So if any of the campaigning that Cyclox do stops another death of a young person, it will have been worth it.
To quote the author, Carlton Reid, “How cyclists were the first to push for good roads & became the pioneers of motoring”. It’s a rattling good read about things we ought to know more about and should appeal to cyclists, motorists and enthusiasts of late Victorian and Edwardian history. I’ve just completed the index and the book goes to press today. You can find out more here.
This is the end of the gestation period for Carlton, who has been working on the book for four years. He had to raise funds by crowdsourcing using Kickstarter, as well as more traditional research sources. Carlton is a fantastic example of someone who had an idea for a book and managed to get funding to cover the research and writing phases, and the all-important copy-editing and indexing. Here’s a link to his blog where you can read about how Kickstarter worked for him. Let’s hope the book finds its way into a lot of Christmas stockings.
For many years I’ve been excited by Viking ships. As a graduate student I took a course with Professor Sean McGrail at Oxford University and he talked about the many ships that had been discovered which dated from prehistory onwards. When he got to the Viking period he enthused about the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde and encouraged us to visit it if we could. I didn’t get the chance until 2011 when I attended the EEDAL conference in Copenhagen. After the conference I took the train to Roskilde and visited the museum. If you get the chance, do go, the most wonderful thing is the smell of shipbuilding, the wood, ropes, sails and tar, and the chance to take to the fjord in a replica ship.
During the 2012 Olympics, the Danish delegation sent one of the Roskilde replica ships to St Catherine’s Dock in London. I took the family (twice) and we got excited again by the idea of Viking ships.
Earlier this year the British Museum hosted an exhibition of Viking ships and related material and the Roskilde museum sent the huge Roskilde 6 ship for the exhibition. I went one day towards the end of the exhibition and was impressed by the new exhibition space in the British Museum and the range of artefacts they had gathered. One of the publications that accompanied the exhibition was a small book entitled The Viking Ship, by Gareth Williams. For the bargain price of £5.00, less if you are a British Museum member, this is a great introduction to Viking ships, it is packed with details and information. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have an index. So I compiled one myself to show just how good this little book is. The index can be downloaded here: BM Viking Ship.
I have, for longer than I care to remember, maintained membership of the Royal Archaeological Institute. It is an organisation that anyone can join and for a relatively modest sum each year receive a copy of the Archaeological Journal, the summary of the annual field trip, attend lectures if you so desire and use the library of the Society of Antiquaries. I think the latter was the reason I joined, and membership has had its uses in the past. I also like the fuzzy glow I get from supporting the grants and awards the institute makes to students and researchers. As an archaeologist who hasn’t done any archaeology for a long time I’ve been content to let the President and the various Council members, drawn from the great and the good of the profession largely get on with running the organisation on my behalf. Until yesterday.
Inside their latest newsletter, Number 47, dated April 2014, is a request for members to indicate whether they would want to pay £35 for a cumulative index to volumes 161 to 170, which have been published over the last 10 years. While not all members actually seem to want an index, it seems a bit steep to ask those that do to stump up for something which used to be provided as part of the subscription because each journal itself was indexed. And particularly so when the RAI is sitting on a healthy looking bank balance.
Indexes to journals are most useful when they summarise the work over a period of time, making it possible to compare what has been done in different time periods. A decade’s worth of work can show how an organisation is changing what it does, where it puts its emphasis and, by what is omitted, where it could plan to do so in the future. For a researcher having a cumulative index can make it really very easy to track down examples of things spread over many volumes. An index can also help you find things you had realised you needed to look for! The item in the newsletter mentions word-searches and e-journals as a possible way forward. The Society of Indexers has some useful things to say about why word-searches aren’t as good as human made indexes in electronic books and journals.
If you’re a member of the RAI, please do contact David Hinton, the President of the society, to make your views on indexing the journals felt. But note that the newsletter got his email address wrong (again), so you’ll need to contact him via the address on this page. I’ve already sent him mine and I think we’ve started a useful dialogue.
If you’re a member of a learned society, take a look at how they do their indexing now and if they’re going to make any changes in the near future.
The clocks go forward at the end of March and suddenly it is another season, although given the weather this week I’m not sure yet what it is. But time has flown at a different rate for the members of the Hendon and District Archaeological Society.
I’ve been working on an index over the last few weeks for the Hendon and District Archaeological Society. This is a report of an excavation that took place 40 years ago, but the post-excavation work has been on-going over a number of years and has involved the society, a finds analysis course and some support from professional archaeologists, as well as historic document research and some specialist work by a pottery specialist to identify the origins of some of the medieval pottery. The resulting book is nicely illustrated with photographs of finds, of the features found on the site and various maps and historic photographs of the buildings in the area. I think they’ll be very pleased with the result.
Gosh, hasn’t time flown. It doesn’t seem like 5 minutes ago that we were putting up our Christmas decorations, but it is already 2014 and it’s back to school tomorrow. Actually, I’m a bit relieved it’s all over and it’ll be nice to get back to our usual routine. 2014 will bring its share of challenges, the first of which is likely to be the pdfs for a proper book index, hopefully at the end of January. More of that when it actually happens.
During the holidays I’ve not been entirely idle and have put together an index for Dave Goulson’s book A Sting in the Tale. I’d reviewed the index that was in the book when I looked at the indexes for the books on the Samuel Johnson award shortlist. You can download my index from here. Anyway, it’s a nice book and I’d encourage anyone to read it who cares even a tiny bit about the bumblebees and small creatures in our gardens and fields.
The winner of the FT and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year award for 2013 was Brad Stone’s book about Amazon. I haven’t read the book but you can get a feel for it from the trail the FT gives for it here.
No-one would argue that Amazon has transformed the way we buy, read and use books. Also doubtless there are students writing theses about the various social and business implications of how Amazon has influenced the book industry and associated activities, such as studying, writing and publishing.
I’d just like to focus for a few seconds on the ‘look inside’ feature which allows potential buyers to browse inside books. Most usefully, when this feature is activated there is quite a lot material available to the potential purchaser, and it often includes the index. I have referred to many such indexes while I have been looking at potentially award-winning books. However, in many cases you only get to look at the Kindle version of the book, and as the Kindle version doesn’t carry an index, you can’t see the index for the physical book, even if that was the version you wanted to buy.
As a member of the Society of Indexers I have to say that pretty much all non-fiction books should have an index, and the presence of a good index can be a selling point when it comes to deciding to buy a book. However, wilfully restricting the access of potential buyers to the ‘view inside’ without an index may mean that said buyers will not continue to value indexes, not require them or demand them in books and instead be content to buy e-books without proper indexes. If you are someone who likes to see the index when you ‘look inside’ and you get frustrated when it isn’t there, please make your feelings known to Amazon by using the ‘feedback’ button on the Amazon Reader page for the book you are looking at.
The future of non-fiction electronic publishing is not cut and dried, there’s a long way to go yet. There is a lot of information about the efforts of the Society of Indexers and others on the Publishing Technology Group‘s website. Its remit is to advise Society of Indexers members, publishers and authors on reconciling powerful text retrieval techniques with emerging delivery technologies in publishing.