That woman over there, by the Psychology section, is leafing through the very last pages of a book she just grabbed off the shelf. I know what she’s looking at. She seems pleased to find the information that she wants in the book as she turns to the page where the index directed her.
On the sofa, a guy tries to hang on to his latte while poking the keys on his Kindle. Maybe he’s searching for a term in one of his ebooks. He grimaces slightly and wrinkles his brow. I bet he’s surprised at how many times that term appeared in the book. Well, what can you do? Kindle’s Search feature is not like an index. If it was, he’d have found the topic by now.
The man at the table next to me seems to be logged into a corporate intranet. (I probably shouldn’t be looking.) But I can’t help noticing that he’s been using the intranet’s search engine over and over. He can’t seem to find what he wants. If the information is really important, the company could have used more than just a search engine. It’s just too messy, all those “hits” and no way of knowing which is the one he wants without lots of reading.
I think I’ll finish my croissant now. You know, these things have been around since 1839? So much advancement in so many things, but you still can’t replace a croissant. And indexes? Some say that they have been around since the 13th century (coincidentally, they originated in France, like my little breakfast treat). And despite computers and high-level programming, you still can’t replace an index written by a human being.
But you can make it a whole lot snazzier. You can attach them to the end of ebooks and link the page or section numbers to the text (so the reader can just click and jump to the info she wants).
And you can create super-effective information retrieval tools for corporate intranets.
So sure, drizzle that croissant with chocolate or fill it with baked apples, but the best ones are still made by hand.Authors, get tips on writing your own index