ISC/EAC conference notes and news

I’ve been back from the Indexing Society of Canada/Editors’ Association of Canada conference in Halifax for almost a week now but have spent these past few days trying to get caught up.

As with last year, I’ll be posting summaries of the talks I attended at the conference, but, as I learned last year, they might take me a few weeks to finish; the pockets of time I need to write have been elusive.

The ISC and EAC conference committees put on a wonderful event: the sessions were engaging and well balanced, and I loved being able to see and catch up with fellow editors and indexers from across Canada and beyond. I was also honoured to receive a President’s Award for Volunteer Service from EAC at the awards banquet—a million thanks to Frances Peck, Anne Brennan, and Eva van Emden for nominating me. I work on committees with some of the most dedicated people I know, and there’s no way I deserve this award any more than they do.

Book review: Indexing and Retrieval of Non-Text Information

This review appeared in the Spring 2013 issue of Bulletin, the Indexing Society of Canada’s newsletter.


I expected to learn a lot from Indexing and Retrieval of Non-Text Information (edited by Diane Rasmussen Neal and published by Walter deGruyter); what I didn’t expect was to enjoy reading it as much as I did. Neal and her team have put together a timely and fascinating collection of texts that explore the challenges of indexing non-text material in an online world. Although geared much more toward academically minded information scientists than to back-of-the-book indexers, this book nevertheless has a lot to offer indexers who work with illustrated books or digital documents with embedded multimedia.

Covering everything from music information retrieval systems to World of Warcraft as a case study for gaming indexing, Neal’s wide-ranging book features voices from all over the world—including Bar-Ilan University in Israel, Universidade Federal Luminense in Brazil, and Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf—but also showcases the strength of Canadian research in the field, with contributions from doctoral students and faculty at the University of Toronto, McGill University, and Western University, where Neal is an assistant professor.

Although I read the chapters about music with interest (Jason Neal, for example, looks at the problematic definition of classical in his probe of genre in music recommender systems), I focused mostly on the content most relevant to book indexers—namely, image indexing. Chris Landbeck’s chapter about editorial cartoons was eye-opening, as he explained that several factors contribute to the complexity of indexing these images:

  1. editorial cartoons are time sensitive;
  2. there is no tradition of describing editorial cartoons for the Electronic Age to draw on;
  3. editorial cartoons do not exist in a vacuum, but in a rich and active world that a reader must be familiar with in order to both perceive the visual part of the cartoon as well the message within it. (p. 61)

This distinction between an image’s “ofness” and “aboutness” is echoed in Kathrin Knautz’s chapter about emotions in multimedia; indexing must take into account that, because “an emotion may arise for various reasons (induction, empathy, contagion),” (p. 359) an emotion depicted may not be the same as the one evoked. Pawel Rygiel extends Landbeck’s thread about the time sensitivity of an image, showing the complications that can arise when indexing photos of architectural objects “whose name, form and function might have changed throughout their history.” (p. 288) The chapter by Renata Maria Abrantes Baracho Porto and Beatriz Valadares Cendón about an image-based retrieval system for engineering drawings was also interesting; I once worked on an art book in which the designer included details of the artwork next to the tombstone data (the title, date, medium, dimensions, and inscriptions for each piece of artwork)—a lovely visual index—and this chapter in Neal’s book made me wonder whether a closer relationship between indexer and designer may yield surprising, useful results for carefully chosen projects.

The book’s biggest weakness, ironically, is its unforgivably anemic index. Only three pages in a 428-page book, the index is virtually useless, with its entry for “indexing” consisting of 108 undifferentiated locators.

Indexing and Retrieval of Non-Text Information offers indexers a lot to ponder, especially in its look at the strengths and weaknesses of social tagging and the question of whether crowdsourcing the task of indexing will ever put us out of a job. For the working book indexer, however, this book is probably overkill. If someone extracted only the information that was relevant to book indexers and edited it into a smaller, more manageable resource, that abridged volume would be a welcome addition to any indexer’s reference shelf.

Learning to type: Adventures in publishing

Huh. Well, I’ve been meaning to post a recap of Scott McIntyre’s talk at last Tuesday’s Alcuin AGM, but I’ve been swamped with work and haven’t been able to get to it. The Alcuin Society has since uploaded the full video of his talk here.

I promise to post something soon—after I get through this crush of work. Next week I’ll be heading to Halifax for the Indexing Society of Canada and Editors’ Association of Canada conferences, and I’ll make my write-ups of the sessions I attend available when I manage to get to them.

Book review: Indexing Names

This review appeared in the Winter 2012 issue of Bulletin, the Indexing Society of Canada’s newsletter.


“It’s just a name index. It should be pretty straightforward.”

How many times have we heard that from a client—or even said it to ourselves? In Indexing Names (published for the ASI by Information Today), editor Noeline Bridge and her authoritative team of contributors dispel the myth that name indexing is easy, and they deftly show how multi-faceted and nuanced names can be.

Divided into four parts, the book tackles name indexing from a variety of angles. The first part offers guidelines based on nationality and ethnicity; it features chapters on languages commonly seen in English text, such as French and German, as well as less prominent languages, including Hmong and Te Reo Māori. The second part of the book addresses name indexing by genre, including biographies and art books. In the third part the authors look at particular issues such as fictional, corporate, and geographic names. The book’s final part offers readers resources, including a detailed chapter by Janet Russell about how to interpret an entry in the Library of Congress Authorities.

The book’s first section provides eye-opening historical and cultural context that helps explain why names in a particular language are structured the way they are—and what that means to indexers. Discerning between a tribal affiliation and a surname that has evolved from a patronymic may seem like hair splitting, but the book’s contributors convincingly show why these distinctions are important; running throughout the text of Indexing Names is an emphasis on the need to respect not only the author but also the culture of the work’s subject matter. Thus, although Indexing Names does help indexers solve immediate problems—such as identifying where to break a name with multiple prefixes—its raison d’être is much more profound. Its unwillingness to prescribe one right approach is perhaps the book’s greatest strength.

In her introduction, Bridge underscores the many considerations in name indexing, and Sherry L. Smith echoes this theme as she takes the reader through her thought process, giving indexers a method or system to apply rather than just a set of rules to follow. Seth Maislin follows with a fascinating exercise in analyzing how we recognize a name as a name; through it he shows how challenging it is to create a computer program that will perform automated name indexing—further evidence that indexing names isn’t as easy as some may think.

Indexing Names is vast in its coverage, and each chapter is detailed and comprehensive. However, despite (naturally) having a thorough index, the book could benefit from a few features to improve usability and navigation. A table of contents at the start of each chapter, for example, would allow readers to find specific issues by heading. And although many of the chapters, in the first section in particular, address parallel topics, they aren’t structured in a parallel way. This lack of homogeneity means that the voices of individual contributors can shine through the text, but it also means readers must relearn how to find what they’re looking for with each chapter. This is particularly true for the format in which similar information is presented—sometimes in tables and sometimes as indented paragraphs, for example. Occasionally titles or URLs of important resources are buried in narrative paragraphs, making quick identification and retrieval more difficult.

These minor issues are certainly not enough to keep me from recommending Indexing Names. For anyone working in the genres of biography, history, or genealogy, this book is a must-have. You don’t need to read it cover to cover for it to be a useful tool, but to get the most out of the book, you’d be advised to read through relevant chapters, highlighter in hand, before embarking on a project. I would love to see this book one day become an online resource, both for searchability and extensibility. Within the confines of a physical book, an important resource such as Indexing Names can’t be as exhaustive as users might like, whereas if the book inspired an indexer to create a chapter on Russian names, say, a dynamic web resource could easily support this kind of addition.

An e-Interview with Noeline Bridge

This interview appeared in the Winter 2012 issue of Bulletin, the Indexing Society of Canada’s newsletter.


Editor of Indexing Names Noeline Bridge has been an indexer for more than 20 years. She has published numerous articles on indexing and is the co-author of Royals of England: A Guide for Readers, Travellers, and Genealogists. Recently Iva Cheung interviewed her by email about Indexing Names, which was edited by Noeline and was published this year by Information Today [ITI].

IC: What motivated you to compile Indexing Names?

NB: Two interrelated and rather vague thoughts led to the book: that I’d thought on and off over the years that I’d like to write a book on some aspect of indexing; then, publishing articles and making presentations on names, this vague idea turned into a book on names. Also, over the years, other indexers had been producing books about indexing but one devoted to names wasn’t one of them. My conversation with John Bryans at the Information Today booth at a conference was the trigger. I was perusing the books on display, and John remarked that he wished more indexers would write books. I found myself asking, “So you would be interested if I wrote a book on indexing names?” To which he replied, “My response is, ‘When can you get it to me?’” A short time later, a posting on Index-L [an indexing listserv] mentioned the need for a book on indexing names. After drawing a few deep breaths, I responded to say that I was thinking about doing this, knowing I was making a commitment and would be doing it.

IC: How did you find, approach, and select contributors? Did you give them content guidelines?

NB: I’ve always collected listserv postings about names for my presentations and articles, so I went through those looking for expertise and writing skills, and also ASI [American Society for Indexing]/ITI’s books on indexing. As my outline took shape, I dived into the listings of indexers available on the indexing societies’ websites, looking for relevant interests and experience. I thought it would be easy to secure writers and articles, that everyone would have the same reaction I do when asked to write, leaping at the opportunity and producing the article! I was naive. Quite a few people turned me down—nicely, I must add!—but several referred me to others, some of whom agreed, while others referred me to others, and so on, or suggested another relevant topic that ultimately bore fruit. Over time, a few writers dropped out, inevitably and understandably—indexers qualified to write chapters for books are very busy already, and when their lives became complicated by health or family issues, the added burden of writing proved to be just too much for them. A couple of others just never produced their chapters after showing initial interest. For very important chapters I later found substitute writers or included that material in my own chapters. Other ideas, I just had to drop. Seeing how difficult it was to secure writers, I imposed only a few guidelines for fear of putting off potential writers. Enid Zafran, ASI’s editor for their books, wanted substantive material, which I did too. I asked for lots of examples along with background information—historical, where relevant—so that indexers could make informed decisions when examples didn’t match their requirements. I decided to worry about length later, just asking them to write what they wished in the meantime. Editing would come later.

IC: In the book’s introduction, you write that as you worked on the book, its direction changed and that the final product is “not the names indexing encyclopedia that I had envisaged.” What was that initial vision? And if you could add any material to the book now, what would you choose to add?

NB: When the book was a vague idea, I had various equally vague ideas, like some vast compendium of short pieces on names belonging to as many nationalities and ethnicities as possible, or a compilation of all published articles on the subject, or… I wasn’t sure. However, when I approached Enid about the book, quite naturally she wanted an outline as soon as possible. So I had to produce one fast, realizing that only when I had at least a temporary outline could I approach possible writers. I still wanted as many national/ethnic names as I could get, but my compiled listserv messages were often about specific issues regarding names indexing, and names in particular genres of books. So then I came up with the divisions in the book, feeling rather uneasily that it would look like three books in one, and even wondering if I should produce three books. But the latter idea disappeared when I confronted the realities of securing writers, so only the one book was feasible, at least at the time! Outstanding material that I was dearly hoping to include was North American Native names; someone was interested initially but then dropped out, and although I tried hard, I never found a substitute. Others were more Asian names and at least some African ones, a chapter on local history (lots of name issues there!), religious names outside of Christianity (although some of that material was covered in other articles), and, somewhat similarly, European royalty and aristocracy.

IC: What I appreciate about the book is that it offers context and suggestions but isn’t overly prescriptive. It’s a guide, not a strict set of rules. And there is a recurring emphasis on respecting the author and reader in almost all of the contributions. Was that the effect you had hoped for?

NB: I’m glad you noticed and appreciated this aspect. As I mention in the book, I am a former library cataloguer, where we had to use a prescriptive, rules-based approach—as big databases must—to ensure uniqueness and matches for each person’s name. As a freelance back-of-the-book indexer, I came to realize that in this indexing context, genre and reader and authors’ and publishers’ styles often dictate especially how long or short, formal or informal, an indexed name should be. Consequently I changed my terminology from rules to conventions or guidelines in my articles and presentations. Reading the contributors’ chapters expanded my own flexibility and sensitivity to genre, styles, and user issues.

IC: You note in your chapter “Resources for Personal Names” that references are increasingly Web-based. Any plans to turn Indexing Names into a Web resource?

NB: No, I don’t think so. Although many websites remain surprisingly stable, other valuable ones arrive and depart or change their URLs. All URLs have to be checked often, and especially just before publication deadline, a time-consuming process—and frustrating when one tries to discover if the website is now under another name or has simply been pulled. Also, because books have to be finalized many months before publication, at least some URLs aren’t going to be current when the book comes out. Web-based resources are, I think, the stuff of journal articles but not published books.

IC: You wrote the index for Indexing Names—how intimidating was it to compose an index for a book by indexers about indexing?

NB: It was always on my mind that indexers would be using my index and judging it not only by how easily they found needed information but also how I’d structured it. One of my first index users pointed out to me that he’d looked up “stage names” and not found an entry, although there is a chapter on the names of performing artists—a See reference I should have thought of! And perhaps there are others… I shudder to think!

ISC and EAC Conferences 2012: Personal perspectives

Now that I’m finally done summarizing my conference notes, I thought I’d share some of my own reflections on the experience, which ended up being much more invigorating than I had expected. Initially the conferences were just an excuse to catch up with two of my good friends—fellow Master of Publishing alumnae—one of whom lives in Ottawa and whom I hadn’t seen in three years. In the end I am so glad I went (not least because I was surprised by a Tom Fairley win!), even though coughing up over $700 in conference fees was a bit painful at first and the collision of deadlines I faced when I returned nearly destroyed me.

At the last EAC-BC branch meeting of the season, a quick poll of the attendees revealed that only two of us in the room were heading to Ottawa to take in the conference. At that point, having just joined the programs committee, I realized that part of my responsibility would be to bring the conference back to B.C. for the members who couldn’t attend. My suggestions for meeting topics and speakers were partly inspired by what I’d seen and heard at the conference, but what we’ll be seeing this upcoming season will by no means be a rehash of the conference content. I look forward to hearing different perspectives on key issues in editing and building upon what I’ve learned.

Here are some of my main takeaways from this spring’s conferences:


I was blown away by what Jan Wright, David Ream, and other members of the American Society for Indexing’s Digital Trends Task Force had been able to accomplish. By participating in a working group at an international level, they helped shape what will be the new standard for ebooks and advanced the indexing profession in the eyes of a consortium of major players in e-publishing. I don’t think I can overstate how huge that is.

Learning about their work made me wonder what we’re doing—as individuals and as national organizations—and whether we’re doing enough to advocate on behalf of our profession. Are editors making an effort to try to talk to Adobe about how it can make PDF proofing tools more intuitive and useful for publishing professionals? Have editors’ interests been taken into consideration in the EPUB 3.0 standard? How do we get involved on the ground floor of a nascent technology to make sure we remain relevant? I don’t know the answers to these questions, but I’m motivated to find out and, if time and resources allow, to make more of a contribution. What is particularly inspiring is that editors outnumber indexers manyfold. If a small group of dedicated indexers can make a group of software engineers listen, then editors should be able to do it, too.

Brain sharing and collaboration

Peter Milliken’s keynote reinforced an undercurrent of both conferences: the importance of talking and learning from one another. Both Cheryl Landes and Jan Wright at the ISC conference noted that technical communicators have been dealing with the issues relating to single-sourcing that book publishers are now facing with p-books and e-books but that the two communities aren’t really talking to each other. Dominique Joseph’s EAC talk also made me wonder if the plain language/clear communication movement and the editing and indexing communities are exchanging ideas as much as they could be. (Noting that the new definition of clear communication includes finding information, I asked Joseph if using indexing and information science to guide retrieval was part of the plain language movement’s considerations; she believed that “finding” in the context of the definition referred to a more structural level, as in headings, for example.) What other opportunities for cross-pollination are we missing out on?

The lack of cross-pollination for in-house editors was a big reason I hosted my session at last year’s conference in Vancouver. Publishers often get together to discuss marketing or digital strategies but rarely ever talk about editing and production. When I was in house, I discovered that we ended up jury-rigging our own systems and reinventing the wheel at each of our respective houses. I wanted to give in-house editors an opportunity to share ideas about what works and what doesn’t and maybe develop some more concrete best practices.

A year later, in-house editors still aren’t getting many chances to sit together and brain share. Peter Moskos and Connie Vanderwaardt’s session at the EAC conference about managing editors certainly helped, but managing editors alone have enough considerations to fill a full-day retreat. Although I’m now a freelancer, I’m still committed to making the in-house editor’s life easier. A lot of the work I do as a publishing consultant centres on production efficiencies—streamlining workflow while minimizing errors—and would have more relevance and impact if I could get a group of managing editors and production managers together (in person or online) to exchange ideas. I see working with the EAC—first at the branch level but hopefully later at the national level—to develop programs and services to encourage more in-house participation in the association becoming a key mission of mine in the years to come.

The ISC conference offered another form of idea exchange: representatives from the society’s sister organizations in the U.S., the U.K., and Australia and New Zealand were invited to attend, and some of them gave presentations. I found it extremely interesting to hear international perspectives on issues common to all within the profession. One could argue that because editing is so much larger a community that there’s already a glut of articles online about editing and language from contributors around the world, but I wonder if reaching out to experts from abroad to speak at an EAC conference could help strengthen ties with editorial sister organizations and further promote advocacy of the profession at an international level.


I hate to flog a dead horse, but I want to advocate once again for proper credit for editors and indexers. In Max McMaster’s ISC talk, he noted that sometimes publishers will have a book reindexed because they simply don’t know who did the original. Having that information, in the form of a credit, could help them track down the indexer, who may still have the index archived, allowing the publisher to save money and to avoid any intellectual property issues. Further, adopting Christine Jacobs’s approach of including a credit line as an item on her invoice is an innovative and easy way we can organically but systematically work to give editors and indexers the recognition they deserve.

The Language Portal of Canada

Few people outside of Ottawa (or perhaps Ontario?) seem to know about the Language Portal; many of those who do believe it’s a resource for translators only. In fact it seems as though it could be quite a handy site for editors, what with free access to an updated edition of The Canadian Style, not to mention Peck’s English Pointers. For newly certified editors, the site’s quizzes and articles provide easy-access credential maintenance opportunities.


If you’re looking for a solid evening of nerdy language-related entertainment, get yourself a copy of James Harbeck’s Songs of Love & Grammar and pretend William Shatner’s reading it to you.

ISC Conference 2012, Day 2—Hands-on ebooks

David Ream and Jan Wright once again took to the stage to elaborate on indexing of digital files. Ream said that there aren’t a lot of usability studies that compare search versus indexing. BNA’s “Using Online Indexes” is one, but it would be interesting to get more universities involved in this kind of research to generate more data.

Ream then gave an overview of EPUB 3.0. It’s open source, is based on existing standards—such as XHTML, CSS3, Javascript, SVG—and was created ahead of the industry (i.e., tools and reading systems), meaning that we can all avoid costly format wars. It provides navigation and packaging information and incorporates global language support (i.e., for languages that are read left to right, right to left, or vertically). It is backwards compatible with EPUB 2.0 and has modular components and working groups.

EPUB 3.0 files will have rich metadata—Dublin Core for publication information, ONIX for supply chain information, and MARC for libraries. The metadata will be key to a digital file’s discoverability—and hence to its sale. Implications for indexers include the following:

  • no page or line limitations
  • potentially having to index rich media (e.g., time codes)
  • potentially having to index interactive ebook features (scripts)
  • potentially having to supply semantics of headings and locators (e.g, show only the statutes, show only the people, etc.)
  • being able to provide index data in multiple ways
  • cumulative indexing—of series, mashups, etc.

Jan Wright then explained the workflow for inserting anchors to EPUBs at the paragraph level. She and Olav Martin Kvern developed scripts that create identifiers for individual paragraphs in InDesign, which can then be used as part of the locator in standalone indexing programs like CINDEX or SKY Index to create a hyperlink from index locator to the paragraph. For now, this is the most realistic way of creating a paragraph-level index that will work for both print and ebook, because InDesign strips out any embedded index entries when it exports to EPUB. The digital trends task force is talking to Adobe separately about this issue, but a fix may be some time away.

Wright and Ream then allowed conference attendees to play around with various devices, from the Kindle, Kobo, and Nook to the iPad, to see the current state of the art of ebook indexing.

ISC Conference, Day 2—To award or not to award?

The Indexing Society of Canada is planning to establish a new award to recognize excellence in indexing. Indexing societies elsewhere in the world have their own awards, but Canadians aren’t eligible for most of them. At the ISC conference, Max McMaster of the Australian and New Zealand Society of Indexers, Jan Wright of the American Society for Indexing, and the ISC’s Christine Jacobs discussed the considerations that should go in to the award criteria and judging process.

McMaster, a three-time winner of the ANZSI medal for outstanding indexing, has also been a judge for the medal. The judging panel consists of three experienced indexers, but they will consult an outside expert if the subject matter of a submitted work is too esoteric for them to understand. He suggests that the ISC be careful not to limit the types of works that can be eligible for the award and to provide a certificate or plaque to the publisher of the winning work as well—good PR for indexing. Publishers should be encouraged to submit their books for consideration, but more often it will be indexers who submit their own work. McMaster warns indexers that they’re at the mercy of the book’s editor and typesetter: he had once submitted an index he thought was award worthy before realizing that the publisher had inadvertently removed all of the index’s indentation, severely compromising the final index’s usability.

Jan Wright won the ASI’s H.W. Wilson Award for her index to Real World InDesign CS3. She hasn’t been a judge but has spoken to the judges on the panel that granted her her award. Submissions for the award go to the ASI’s chapters around the country, and they are anonymized. Cheryl Landes remarked that many indexers would be willing to pay a high entry fee to submit their work if it meant that they would receive feedback on their submissions.

Christine Jacobs gave an outline of what the ISC’s award might look like. The awards committee plans to announce the award at the next AGM and issue a call for nominations. They hope to accept submissions in either English or French and both print and online works. Currently there’s no cash prize attached to the award, but the awards committee is taking a step-by-step approach, and it may be part of the award later on. Jacobs emphasized how the award can be a form of validation for a winning indexer and that it would help raise the profile of the profession and encourage high standards.

ISC Conference 2012, Day 2—New standard, more interoperability

Michèle Hudon, associate professor at l’École de bibliothéconomie et des sciences de l’information at l’Université de Montréal, spoke at the ISC conference about ISO25964, a new standard for thesauri.

ISO25964 will replace ISO2788 and ISO5964, out-of-date standards for monolingual and multilingual thesauri, respectively. These standards don’t address subject headings or taxonomies and are ill-suited to a networked environment of linked data, so in 2008, an international working group was struck to create the new standard based on the content of BSI8723, created by British information specialists. The working group, of which Dr. Hudon is a part, includes both practitioners and researchers.

Officially titled “Information and Documentation—Thesauri and interoperability with other vocabularies,” the ISO25964 project consists of two parts, the first of which, “Thesauri for information retrieval,” was published in August 2011 and covers general principles for developing and managing monolingual and multilingual thesauri. Part 2, “Interoperability with other vocabularies,” addresses crosswalks and mappings and is scheduled to be published at the end of this year.

“Interoperability”—a bit of a mouthful, as Hudon admits—refers to an ability to “act together coherently, effectively, and efficiently to achieve common objectives.” In the world of information science, it means the “capability of agents, services, systems and computer applications to exchange data, information and knowledge while preserving their integrity and full meaning.” (Zeng and Chan, 2009)

Thesauri are great tools for information retrieval for local users, but there may be multiple thesauri on the same topic that have different classification schemes and subject headings and thus can’t talk to one another. Having multilingual thesauri adds another layer of complexity.

In traditional information systems, thesauri allow a searcher to use the same search terms and strategies to search several databases and provide an efficient way to cross the language barrier. With the web, semantic interoperability becomes even more relevant. It allows for effective searching in several situations, including with the same language in different countries, two or more natural languages, a natural language and a language of specialty, a natural language and  an indexing and retrieval language, and one or more indexing and retrieval languages (e.g., Library of Congress and Dewey).

Interoperability implies equivalence, but many would argue that absolute equivalence, particularly between distinct languages, doesn’t exist. Part 2 of the standard gives recommendations for establishing and maintaining mappings between multiple thesauri or between thesauri and other types of vocabularies. As Hudon said in her talk, “Because it necessarily exists in a particular cultural, social, professional and linguistic context, semantic and terminological interoperability of indexing languages depends on compromises to compensate for the lack of absolute equivalence between concepts and between terms.” She also emphasizes that semantic equivalence is dynamic and ever evolving.

ISC Conference 2012, Day 2—The re-indexing dilemma

Max McMaster, an award-winning indexer and representative of the Australian and New Zealand Society of Indexers (ANZSI), spoke at the ISC conference about reindexing. For a new edition of a book, a subsequent annual report, or a bilingual document, do you adapt was has already been done, or do you index from scratch? Further, are there ethical issues in reusing an existing index?

In Australia, trade publishers will often buy foreign rights and revise a book for the Australian market. In many cases, this means that although the content of the two editions is similar, terminology can vary substantially. Moreover, North American indexers tend to produce lengthier indexes than Australians are used to. When re-indexing for the Australian edition, the index may end up being 30% shorter.

If a new edition of an existing book is just a repagination, it’s absolutely most efficient to reuse the index headings. (McMaster adds 1000 to all the old page numbers to keep track of what he’s changed and what he hasn’t.) If changes to a new edition are minimal and you created the first index, reusing the existing index, with necessary revisions, may be easiest. If changes are substantial, however, it’s much more efficient to start from scratch. McMaster is emphatic in dispelling the myth, however, that re-indexing, in whatever form, is easier than creating an index for a new work.

If you didn’t create the first index and want to re-index a book, it’s still useful to see the existing index. The previous indexer may have found a way to solve a problem that will save you a lot of time or you may spot weaknesses that you should avoid.

In Australia, government annual reports are all required to have an index, so this is a boon for indexers in that country. Since the design and the components of an annual report rarely change from year to year, re-indexing is a snap. Basically, once you land a contract to do one annual report, you’ve got it for life. (McMaster has co-authored a guide for non-indexers on how to index annual reports.)

For bilingual documents, you can’t reuse pagination, since the structure and length of the two languages will be different. One possibility is translated embedded indexing. However, Heather Ebbs pointed out that translating an index doesn’t really work, since there are cultural and contextual differences.

As for ethical issues, McMaster once had a publisher reuse his index for a book that he did for Australia that was then repackaged, with a different title, in New Zealand. In Australia, because an indexer is under contract, he or she doesn’t retain copyright of the work; however, McMaster would have appreciated being notified at the very least that his index would be reused (and a bit of additional compensation wouldn’t have hurt, either). Mary Newberry said that in Canada, copyright of the index does belong to the indexer.

McMaster’s presentation brought up the issue of credit; in one of his anecdotes he mentioned that his name was on a book’s copyright page, which led me to ask him whether crediting an indexer is standard practice in Australia. He says that an indexer is credited only maybe 5% of the time. Christine Jacobs had an interesting approach to the credit issue: she invoices for a credit line (and, incidentally, for a copy of the finished book). She asks for a credit on the copyright page, in the acknowledgements, or in the index itself, and lists this as a separate line item on her invoice. In cases where she doesn’t approve of the changes an editor, author, or publisher has made to the index, she simply removes that item, and her name doesn’t appear.