Tag Archives: society of indexers

Conference season – that back to school feeling

Next week the Society of Indexers is holding its annual conference in Birmingham. It has the title Back to the Future.  But I don’t think it involves fast cars and time travel (more’s the pity, but I will be taking the train). This will be the third time I have attended the Society’s conference. Why should a trained, professional indexer want or need to do this? What might I get out of it to help me in future? I think there are three main reasons:

  1. There’s always something new to learn: on a one day event there’s only so much that can be done. I’m looking forward to hearing from Dennis Duncan on the history of indexing, and learning from Michele Clark-Moody more on cookery and gardening book indexing. Reflecting on how things were done in the past is always a way of informing present practice, and hearing from an expert is a good way to refine one’s own approach. I like working on cookery books, and maybe I can expand into gardening titles too.
  2. Networking: Meeting people who otherwise only appear to live on email message groups is always fun. I’ve met many before but new friends can be made in the spaces between sessions.
  3. Giving a bit back: As a relative newcomer to indexing I’m taking part in the session for new indexers and how to get started. A small panel of similar folk will hopefully be giving useful tips to even newer indexers and those still on the training course.

The one-day format packs a lot in. We’re also discussing ethics in indexing (censorship by authors, clashing with authors’ beliefs, quality of other indexer’s work, lack of skill or subject expertise, table of contents indexes). We have a Code of Professional Conduct which we all abide by, but perhaps sometimes situations force us to consider it very carefully. And we are also taking a look at digital publishing, backwards and forwards to the future.

Academic Book Week 2015

A celebration of the diversity, innovation and influence of academic books to be held 9 – 16 November. http://acbookweek.com/

This is a chance of anyone interested in the future of academic book publishing in the UK and beyond to learn about and influence the potential development of arts and humanities books. As an indexer I sometimes have to wonder if there will be a future for traditional, human-made, indexes. However, opening up academic books to a wider audience and making them more usable for a wider range of readers has to be a key concern of authors and publishers. The index is a key feature that can enable this in both paper and digital formats, and is something that can be best done by a person who knows the subject area and can anticipate the needs of the audience. The Society of Indexers has some information on this subject, start here.

There are a number of events planned for the week – see http://acbookweek.com/events/. I hope that indexers will be able to make their voices heard in the contexts of the project and of the events of book week. I hope to see you there!

 

#sisfep15 copy-editing, proofreading and indexing

The later stages of book production can involve three stages: copy-editing, proofreading and indexing. Each requires separate training and expertise. While some people offer all three, it’s not a great idea to have the same person providing all three for the same publication. A few words about each can clarify the roles.

To quote from the SfEP website:

Copy-editing takes the raw material (the ‘copy’: anything from a novel to a web page) and makes it ready for publication as a book, article, website, broadcast, menu, flyer, game or even a tee-shirt. The aim of copy-editing is to ensure that whatever appears in public is accurate, easy to follow, fit for purpose and free of error, omission, inconsistency and repetition. This process picks up embarrassing mistakes, ambiguities and anomalies, alerts the client to possible legal problems and analyses the document structure for the typesetter/designer.

After material has been copy-edited, the publisher sends it to a designer or typesetter. Their work is then displayed or printed, and that is the proof – proof that it is ready for publication. Proofreading is the quality check and tidy up. Proofreading is now often ‘blind’ – the proof is read on its own merits, without seeing the edited version.A proofreader looks for consistency in usage and presentation, and accuracy in text, images and layout, but cannot be responsible for the author’s or copy-editor’s work.

And on indexers:

A professional indexer compiles an ‘analytical’ index – not just a list of keywords. There are no quick fixes for the kind of intellectual analysis required in order to produce the most efficient ‘finding’ and ‘navigation’ tool for a printed or electronic publication. An indexer considers the terms the readers are likely to use and relates them to the language chosen by the author. An indexer analyses the meaning and significance of the entire content in detail, and identifies tangible concepts from the woolliest of descriptions.

So three stages, each doing different things with the text to make it as good as it can be, given the commercial and other constraints.

The first SfEP/SI joint conference was an excellent opportunity for our large community of copy-editors, indexers and proofreaders to develop their professional knowledge, network and socialise, alongside international delegates from both societies. The Storify gives a glimpse here #sisfep15.

The new President of the Society of Indexers – Sam Leith

Sam Leith, who is described as a journalist, columnist and novelist in his Wikipedia entry, has recently accepted the position of “President of the Society of Indexers”. This news has made me absurdly happy. While the outgoing post-holder, Professor John Sutherland, has often commented on the absence of indexes in books he has seen,  such as Salman Rushdie’s memoir, entertained Society of Indexers members at our annual conferences over the years and been a stalwart supporter of all we indexers do, he’s obviously “old school”. Nothing wrong with that, he was born before WWII after all, but at a time when indexers are struggling to find their way into the 21st century and make our skills relevant for readers at this time, it is brilliant news that a young(er than me), media savvy person with quite a big following, has seen it appropriate to accept the role of “President of the Society of Indexers” into his portfolio. I’m hoping to see a lot of Tweets from @questingvole, Sam’s Twitter tag, and other media mentions in the publications he writes for that help to raise the profile of the society and the relevance of the work of indexers to 21st century readers. And I look forward to meeting Sam at the Society’s conference in York next September, which we’re holding jointly with the Society for Editors and Proofreaders.

London Book Fair 2014 – death of print books is exaggerated

The London Book Fair attracts book sellers and buyers from around the world. This year it is being held in Earls Court. I was there with Ann Kingdom on Tuesday. We were there for two reasons. Ann participated in one of the early seminars on the first day and we were to try and market the Society of Indexers, and indexing in general, to publishers and other exhibitors, and I was hoping to target some in my areas of expertise.

The seminar was a joint event with the Society of Indexers, the Society for Editors and Proofreaders, the Institute of Translating and Interpreting and the Chartered Institute of Linguists. The aim was to explore how editors, proofreaders, translators and indexers work together behind the scenes before publication and the added-value these professional bodies provide to the publishing industry. Each organisation fielded a speaker and the format was a series of questions posed by the chair, sometimes to all of them, sometimes to just one. As the audience was mixed, the information imparted was necessarily of a general nature, but the listeners gained an awareness of the special requirements of each of these professions, and the need for dialogue between authors, translators, editors and indexers to ensure that the author’s intent was preserved as their work passed through the hands of these professionals.

The second reason for our attendance was to ‘spread the word’ about the Society and its activities among the exhibitors at the show. The Society has prepared a small leaflet and armed with a handful I sought out some likely targets. There were exhibitors from all over the world, so a fair number of potential targets were not relevant. The exhibitors’ booths ranged from those of large international publishers such as Hachette, who had the largest single stand area, to tiny booths with just room for one chair and a table. The purpose of the exhibitors at the fair was to sell books so they sent people to man the stands who were from marketing and sales departments. They were not the people who edit the books and who might have needed to know where to find an indexer. Ninety of the smaller publishers were represented by the Independent Publishers Guild, so together they had a larger stand area and could share the costs of attending the event. It was therefore hard to find anyone to approach among the publishers, and several of those I spoke to had previous experience of the Society. Among the publishing solutions exhibitors I found a few in the ‘self-publishing’ market who had not heard of the Society. I think this highlights how important it is for individual indexers to market themselves directly to publishers.

The good news is that there were plenty of printed books on show. The death of the printed book has been greatly exaggerated. It may be hard to find work as a new indexer, but I’m encouraged that there is still a large pool of potential work out there.

Amazon and the ‘see inside’ function – now you see it, now you don’t

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.

what would we do without …..?

the Internet? and indexes?

I’ve been managing without the Internet since Sunday, but fortunately the BT man fixed ours today and I’m back. Lack of the wherewithal at the weekend meant I missed catching up with blogging some indexing things.

The Samuel Johnson Prize was won by Lucy Hughes-Hallett and her book, The Pike, which is  about Gabriele D’Annunzio. You can see the comments I made about the index to this book on my previous post here. Well done to Lucy for her win, and I hope all the team who contributed to the book, including the indexer, took time to bathe in the reflect glow from the prize.

The other prizes I wrote about recently will be awarded over the next couple of weeks, so let’s hope one with a great index also wins those categories, although there’s a chance that a book without an index could win too!

So what would we do without indexes?

The most fundamental thing is that readers of books without indexes won’t know what is inside the book, except in the most general terms. I’ve been practising my indexing skills on a book of essays about cycling and I’m astounded by the sheer number of names that get dropped by all the authors, even when the article is ostensibly about someone or something else. More on this book another time, as I’ve not finished the index yet.

You can read more about why books need indexes over here at the Society of Indexers. While some of these quotes are a few years old now and you might think that e-books can do without an index because you can easily search a book, take a look at this page which talks about why human indexers do a better job than text searches. In these days of time-poor readers, having someone else fillet the bones out of a book and make a proper index surely makes sense?