No Index. Maybe No Book?

When last I discussed the possibility of a book combining all 33 of the Open Access-related essays in Cites & Insights from 2001 through 2009 (plus one “disContent” column from EContent Magazine), the issue was whether it was worth doing an ePub version: Whether anybody would want it.

Now there’s a slightly different issue, one that may derail the effort entirely–and you’ll see what it is if you revisit the original post.

To wit:

  • It appears that I can’t really use Word2007’s built-in indexing feature, at least not with “Mark All.” I figured I could generate an index in 5-10 hours through that method–and, indeed, it takes about an hour to go through 50-60 pages.
  • Unfortunately, when I save the results after 50-60 pages and reopen the file, it’s unusable: The 519-page book has become 1200+ pages, with the bottom half of each page made up of a multiline, uneditable, page footer that seems to comprise several different page headers. (Hey, at least the first time this happened, it gave me another chance to see that my weekly incremental backups actually work–I could restore last week’s pre-indexed version neatly enough. Call that lemonade.)
  • As far as I can tell, it would take at least 50-60 hours for me to do an index separately. I can’t justify that “for the good of the community,” so that’s not going to happen.
  • So here’s where it stands: Depending on feedback between now and February 7, I’ll either:
  1. Make Open Access and Libraries: Essays from Cites & Insights 2001-2009 available as a free PDF and probably free ePub (unless that conversion turns out to be a hassle), and as a 6×9 paperback for $5 more than the cost of production (yielding $4 a copy for me)–but without an index.
  2. Scrap the whole project because it’s so awful to produce a nonfiction book without an index.

Just skimming through the vastness of the book (really: 191,000 words–it’s big), I find the chronological arrangement interesting and slightly useful. And, what the heck, if anybody out there cared, preparing an index would be a great project–I’d certainly mount it on my website if somebody did it.

Do it or dump it?

That’s what it boils down to. The Word version’s in place. All I need is a cover (not difficult) and to do the ePub conversion (and redo the PDF conversion) and upload to Lulu.


Status Update, February 2, 2009:

Two developments:

  1. An acquaintance with some indexing experience offered to try to index the thing–which requires working from a 2.8MB PDF (to retain pagination). Not sure that will work out: It’s a BIG effort for a wholly unpaid gig that may not be read by that many people… But I’m going to give him a few weeks and see what happens. I have no doubt whatsoever that he’s capable of doing a good job…
  2. I think I have a clue what’s causing Word to go berserk (but am not sure): Namely, I was using “Mark All” for terms that appear in one chapter’s running page head, and that may confuse Word beyond redemption. If #1 doesn’t work out, I might try again, avoiding that particular situation. Or I might not. As noted in the comments, there’s also the possibility of post-pub “crowdsourcing” an index.

In sum: The book isn’t going to appear in the next week or two, and probably not until March. I probably will make it available in ePub form (if Calibre does a good conversion), at the same $0 price if Lulu supports that. Meanwhile, off to other stuff!

5 Responses to “No Index. Maybe No Book?”

  1. Mark says:

    I am a fan of (good) indexes but many works of non-fiction have no index.

    Patrick Wilson’s Two Kinds of Power has no index (A crime I tell you!) but if Wilson can do it so can you, if you have to.

  2. Michael Sensiba says:

    When I was an LIS student at Wayne State University, our Indexing & Abstracting class took on several indexing project, including indexing the journal JELIS. Perhaps this “crowdsourcing” solution would solve your problem and provide a valuable learning opportunity to future librarians.

  3. walt says:

    Mark, Michael: Thanks, both.

    Michael: The problem with a crowdsourced index before publication is that people would have to work from PDF copies (.docx files would repaginate as soon as they were opened because the students wouldn’t have the same typefaces I use)–as for after publication, if enough LIS people thought the book was worthwhile to do that, I’d be delighted. I never know how/whether any of my stuff gets used in LIS…although, with “Library 2.0 and ‘Library 2.0′” I have my suspicions…

    Both: See the status update in the post.

  4. Jim says:

    This reminds me of Isaac Asimov. I don’t know how he did it, but did the indexes for all of his books on his own. Back before word processing! I guess he just did it as he went or something. I can’t fathom it. Thanks for the updates.

  5. walt says:

    Jim: Asimov discussed his indexing methods in his multivolume autobiography. As I remember, he used lots of 3×5 cards…

    While I’d like to regard Asimov as a “style model,” that’s probably wishful thinking…and I’ll never have a fraction of his sheer productivity.