November 15, 2011
The Mystery of the Missing Index
There’s always something new in publishing in the digital era.
Gilad Sharon’s biography of his father, Ariel, which I reviewed here not long ago, bulks up to 626 pages, but the U.S. publisher of “Sharon: The Life of a Leader” apparently decided to save a few dollars on the printing bill by leaving out the index.
For those of who us need, use and value an index, it is necessary to go to the HarperCollins website, where the index is displayed online.
Some bloggers have complained about the missing index, and it struck me as an odd way to cut down the size of the book. I found the on-line index awkward to use since it requires those of who still read printed books to look back and forth between the bound volume and the computer screen.
The inclusion of an index is still a benchmark of a certain degree of seriousness in general publishing, and it is recognized as such by discerning readers. Indeed, I learned a practical lesson about the value of an index when, some years ago, I appeared on an author interview show that was taped in advance of the official publication date of my book, “God Against the Gods,” a book about the history of religion.
After the taping, one of the camera operators approached me with a complaint: “I was looking at your book, and when I saw that it didn’t have an index, I realized that I couldn’t take it seriously.”
I hastily picked up the copy that my publisher had provided to the producer. All of my books include an index, and I was alarmed and concerned about the omission. I shared the cameraman’s assumption that an index was an essential element of a non-fiction book.
What I discovered is that my publisher had resorted to sleight of hand to solve a scheduling problem. Finished copies of the book were not yet available on the day of the taping, and so the publisher put the dustjacket of my book on another volume of approximately the same size — a novel, as it turns out. I quickly pointed this out to the skeptical cameraman and assured him that the book as published would include an index, too.
If the same question is asked of Gilad Sharon, of course, the answer to the question will be: “Look for it on-online.”
Jonathan Kirsch, author and publishing attorney, is the book editor of The Jewish Journal. He can be reached at email@example.com.