Getting Started in Ebook Indexing for Indexers

Indexes in ebooks are startlingly unused at this point in ebook development. To answer this need, the American Society for Indexing has focused on educating and creating standards for indexes in ebooks. The vision is that search in ebooks can integrate with indexing, and that the indexing can inform the search, making it better and more productive. ASI feels that the user should be able to browse the index when needed, and that a dead chapter that looks like an index in the back of an ebook does no one any good.

For indexers, the priority is to get locations within the text hyperlinked to index entries. The work requires developing the index for both print and ebook use, and then coding, which must be created and inserted into the book’s files. The critical piece is to have anchor point codes in the ebook’s files before compilation, so that the index has landing points for each entry. This embedding/linking can be accomplished:

  • automatically with software that embeds and hyperlinks entries with its own ebook engine
  • manually by the indexer
  • with macros that will take the index information and encode entries into the files
  • by creating a separate index file containing hyperlinks to the anchors

Anchor points (codes) for the links must be present in the publisher’s files and available for the indexer’s reference and use, either in the live files (the “hot potato” files), or copies of the live files that the indexer just refers to and doesn’t change. InDesign allows the indexer to ignore the coding aspect, and just embed index entries. Other processes that do not use InDesign mean the indexer faces heavier coding issues and knowledge requirements.

It is important for indexers to understand the process of embedding indexes and which tools or macros work with all the differing book layout software packages publishers use. Reviewing the Matrix tables by Glenda Browne, David Ream, Pilar Wyman and Jan Wright will give indexers the overview of the variety of tools and options to use:

It’s also good for indexers to have familiarity with the International Digital Publishing Forum EPUB 3.01 Indexes Working Group Specification.

When taking on an ebook project, it is critical for the indexer to know more about the project than the usual back-of-the-book index project. Ask the client some questions to get perspective on their process and their desired outcomes:

  • What software tool are they using to create the ebook, and what version?
  • How precise do they want the links—To the top of what was the printed page, to the paragraph level or to the precise point within the paragraph?
  • Are they relying on the software to create the ebook, or do they use a conversion house?
  • Will they allow the indexer to embed codes in their files?
  • What kinds of output are they going to create? EPUB, Amazon formats, PDF, HTML other?
  • Will they allow a test compile of the ebook with indexing to make sure everything works as planned?
  • What is their schedule?
  • Will they allow the indexer to make recommendations on the indexing tools, process, and timing of the indexer’s work within the project?

With this information from the client, go to the Matrix and review the options for the client’s software and needs. Some projects will be easy: for example, InDesign embedded indexes translate directly to ebook indexes, so the indexer needs to only InDesign knowledge to embed the entries. Other client tools and processes will be harder, and require macros, workarounds or special tools to activate the links. An example of a harder process would be an ebook published using Microsoft Word and Amazon’s CreateSpace, which would require embedding anchor points in the Word files and hyperlinking the index, as well as a practice run to see what CreateSpace does with the files.

Knowing which tools and software are part of the client’s process is critical, so that the indexer can evaluate when to create the indexing, and how to link the indexing.



International Digital Publishing Forum EPUB 3.01 Indexes Working Group Specification

General Information:

Guide to Working with Clients:

Tools and Technology

The Matrix:

InDesign tools

  • KPS IndexUtilities, plugins from Kerntiff Publishing Systems Ltd. to enhance the indexing module of InDesign, including importing, exporting, and activating indexes
  • InDesign EPUB scripts, from Wright Information, for:
    • editing CSS style sheets to fix indexing in InDesign exports and
    • indexing older versions of InDesign for ebook export
  • WordsFlow, from Em Software, for Microsoft Word imported into InDesign
  • DocsFlow, from Em Software, for Google Docs imported into InDesign
  • Index-Manager, from Klarso, for an integrated indexing approach to embedding indexing in InDesign, Word, and XML files
  • IXMLembedder, from Leverage Technologies, which embeds index file entries into InDesign (currently unavailable)

Word tools

  • Index-Manager, from Klarso, for an integrated indexing approach to embedding indexing in InDesign, Word, and XML files.
  • TExtract, from TEXYZ, semi-automated indexing of PDF or Word files, including output as EPUB.
  • IndexLinker for Word, from Editorium, creates hyperlinks from an index’s page numbers back to the Word document text.

HTML tools

  • HTML/Prep, from Leverage Technologies, for Web, EPUB2/3,  and XHTML output
    (currently unavailable)

XML editors

PDF tools

Text comparison tools

The content of this page was contibuted by Jan Wright.