Indexing Books / Edition 2

Hardcover (Print)
Buy New
Buy New from
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $8.47
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 82%)
Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (17) from $8.47   
  • New (8) from $26.41   
  • Used (9) from $8.47   


Since 1994, Nancy Mulvany's Indexing Books has been the gold standard for thousands of professional indexers, editors, and authors. This long-awaited second edition, expanded and completely updated, will be equally revered.

Like its predecessor, this edition of Indexing Books offers comprehensive, reliable treatment of indexing principles and practices relevant to authors and indexers alike. In addition to practical advice, the book presents a big-picture perspective on the nature and purpose of indexes and their role in published works. New to this edition are discussions of "information overload" and the role of the index, open-system versus closed-system indexing, electronic submission and display of indexes, and trends in software development, among other topics.
Mulvany is equally comfortable focusing on the nuts and bolts of indexing—how to determine what is indexable, how to decide the depth of an index, and how to work with publisher instructions—and broadly surveying important sources of indexing guidelines such as The Chicago Manual of Style, Sun Microsystems, Oxford University Press, NISO TR03, and ISO 999. Authors will appreciate Mulvany's in-depth consideration of the costs and benefits of preparing one's own index versus hiring a professional, while professional indexers will value Mulvany's insights into computer-aided indexing. Helpful appendixes include resources for indexers, a worksheet for general index specifications, and a bibliography of sources to consult for further information on a range of topics.

Indexing Books is both a practical guide and a manifesto about the vital role of the human-crafted index in the Information Age. As the standard indexing reference, it belongs on the shelves of everyone involved in writing and publishing nonfiction books.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

The Indexer
Mulvaney's book is widely used as a textbook in North America, and the release of a revised second edition will quite likely ensure its continued popularity. . . . I have utmost respect for anyone with enough patience to write, let alone revise, a thorough textbook that covers all aspects of indexing. Mulvaney's pertinent . . . discussions of important issues facing our profession gives this volume an importance beyond the realm of mere instruction.

— Ruth Pincoe

C&RL News
"[Indexing Books] should be on every aspiring indexer's reading list."
Technical Communication
When you are an acknowledged leader in your field, and you have literally 'written the book' on indexing, what do you do for an encore? If you are Nancy Mulvany, professional indexer and author of the industry standard Indexing Books, you write a second edition that reflects the concerns of indexers in the 21st century.

— Dick Evans

I am a huge fan of this book. It is engagingly written in jargon-free English with a well-designed format. I highly recommend it for all faculty of information studies libraries and those libraries that may have among their users would-be indexers or authors that are interested in knowing about the methods of indexing their books. . . . This second edition should replace the first edition on library shelves." 

— Jean Weihs

The Indexer - Ruth Pincoe
"Mulvaney's book is widely used as a textbook in North America, and the release of a revised second edition will quite likely ensure its continued popularity. . . . I have utmost respect for anyone with enough patience to write, let alone revise, a thorough textbook that covers all aspects of indexing. Mulvaney's pertinent . . . discussions of important issues facing our profession gives this volume an importance beyond the realm of mere instruction."
Technical Communication - Dick Evans
"When you are an acknowledged leader in your field, and you have literally 'written the book' on indexing, what do you do for an encore? If you are Nancy Mulvany, professional indexer and author of the industry standard Indexing Books, you write a second edition that reflects the concerns of indexers in the 21st century."
Technicalities - Jean Weihs
"I am a huge fan of this book. It is engagingly written in jargon-free English with a well-designed format. I highly recommend it for all faculty of information studies libraries and those libraries that may have among their users would-be indexers or authors that are interested in knowing about the methods of indexing their books. . . . This second edition should replace the first edition on library shelves." 
Library Journal
Give a hearty welcome to this much-needed and highly understandable handbook covering the mechanics of book index preparation. Written by a professional indexer, this thorough how-to guide covers such topics as the book production process, assigning headings and subentries, laying out and editing an index, rules for proper names and alphabetizing, cross references, indexing standards, and methods and tools for indexing, including a list of available indexing software. While it does not cover a broad theoretical base and is limited to ``back-of-the book indexing,'' Mulvany's extensive work will be an excellent supplement to Donald and Ana Cleveland's Introduction to Indexing and Abstracting (Libraries Unlimited, 1990 . 2d ed.) and Hans Wellisch's Indexing from A to Z (H.W. Wilson, 1991). Of value as a reference source and as a textbook, Indexing Books will be of immediate use to indexers, teachers, authors, editors, technical writers, and library school students. Highly recommended for academic and public library professional collections.-- Angela Washington-Blair, Texas Woman's Univ. SLIS, Denton
Expanding on the discussions in the standard style guides, explains to authors and professional indexers aspects of analysis and judgment such as what to include and exclude from the index, the structure, how indexing fits into the publishing industry, whether to do it yourself or hire it out, deciphering publishers guidelines, and choosing appropriate software. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR
Read More Show Less

Product Details

Meet the Author

Nancy C. Mulvany is a professional indexer and the owner of Bayside Indexing Service. She has taught many indexing courses and is the publisher of i-TORQUE, a newsletter for indexers.

Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt

Indexing Books

Copyright © 2005
Nancy Claire Mulvany
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-226-55276-7


Information Overload 3 Open-system vs. Closed-system Indexing 4 The Future of the Book 5 The Index as Paratext 6 The Long History of Indexes 7 What Is an Index? 7 What an Index Is Not 8 The Index as Hypertext 9 The Index as a Knowledge Structure 10

The Purpose of an Index 10 The Audience: Who Uses Indexes? 13 Specialized Subject Knowledge 14 How Are Indexes Used? 14 The Ideal Index 16

Terminology 17 Main Heading 17 Subheadings 18 Reference Locator 18 Cross-reference 18 Entry 19

References 19 Standards 19 Style Guides 19

I just googled Google. I typed "google" into Google's search field and in 0.10 seconds over 152 million results were returned. Yes, this is an extreme example of being flooded with information. However, in early 1998, Google did not even exist. No one would have understood my first sentence at that time. Very quickly, Google would become the most popular search engine on the Internet. The explosive growth of the Internet combined with increasingly sophisticated search tools has made us all more aware of the need to access relevant information efficiently.

Information Overload

In 2003 the School of Information Management and Systems at the University of California, Berkeley, released a report, How Much Information? 2003 (Lyman and Varian 2003). The study attempted to estimate how much new information is created each year. The report surveys a broad spectrum of information sources: "Newly created information is stored in four physical media-print, film, magnetic and optical-and seen or heard in four information flows through electronic channels-telephone, radio and TV, and the Internet."

These researchers found that in 2002 the print, film, magnetic, and optical storage media produced five exabytes of new information. "How big is five exabytes? If digitized, the nineteen million books and other print collections in the Library of Congress would contain about ten terabytes of information; five exabytes of information is equivalent in size to the information contained in half a million new libraries the size of the Library of Congress print collections." Furthermore, the report estimates that the amount of stored information in these four physical media grew by 30 percent per year between 1999 and 2002.

The sheer volume of information has led to the coining of the phrase "information overload." Donald O. Case (2002) devotes a portion of a chapter to "Information Overload and Anxiety" and offers this amusing thought:

Given the proliferation of media in our time, with the World Wide Web now competing with television in the degree to which it juxtaposes strange images on a screen, it is inevitable that overload will become an ever more present distraction in making sense of the world. A January 1999 feature in Inc. magazine claimed that there had been over 3,000 newspaper and magazine articles on "information overload" published in the previous two years, and that there were over 15,000 Web sites that mentioned that concept. What irony: even our awareness of overload is overloaded! (101)

A Google search on "information overload" produced 620,000 results in early 2005. I am sure that all would agree that a massive amount of information is of little value if there is no access to relevant content of that information. What is not so well understood is that an index is a device for providing access to relevant information-and that is what this book is about.

We see the word index in many contexts-index of leading economic indicators, mutual fund index, consumer price index, indexed database files, the Roman Catholic Church's Index Librorum Prohibitorum, index of refraction, index finger. Even within the indexing and information science communities, indexing processes cover a wide spectrum of applications. There are indexes to books, periodicals, databases, newspapers, e-books, Web sites, and in help files for software.

Open-system vs. Closed-system Indexing

A useful framework for discussion of indexing is provided by Susan Klement in "Open-system Versus Closed-system Indexing: A Vital Distinction' (2002). Klement distinguishes the two systems in this way: "Closed-system indexing assists people in finding a unit or units of relevant information within a document, while open-system indexing is designed to facilitate the retrieval of one or more documents that contain relevant information' (23-24). Internet search engines are examples of open-system indexing. The back-of-the-book index is an example of closed-system indexing. Open-system indexing often deals with collections that grow, while the focus of closed-system indexing is on a text that is static and fixated in a particular form. For information about open-system indexing processes, see F. W. Lancaster's Indexing and Abstracting in Theory and Practice (2003). We are concerned here with the preparation of a closed-system index. The focus of this discussion is the indexing of books. Most books are closed systems that contain a beginning, middle, and end. Books have two delivery formats: printed on paper and displayed as pixels on a screen.

The Future of the Book

It may seem quaint in the twenty-first century to discuss the printed book-after all, the demise of the printed book has been predicted for years. In the concluding volume of his trilogy about the world of books, Nicholas A. Basbanes (2003, iii-312) reminds us:

When people gather today to talk seriously about "books of the future," the discussion inevitably is driven by what some see as the ubiquitous triumph of modern technology and the certain obsolescence of print. The book as we know it, in other words, if not dead, is certainly moribund. Curiously enough, this kind of debate is not especially new, and has been argued in one form or another for decades, often with great passion and conviction on both sides of the issue.

In November 2003 the Italian novelist and scholar Umberto Eco spoke at the newly opened Bibliotheca Alexandria. He has no doubts about the future of books:

Good news: books will remain indispensable, not only for literature but for any circumstances in which one needs to read carefully, not only in order to receive information but also to speculate and to reflect about it. I think that computers are diffusing a new form of literacy, but they are incapable of satisfying all the intellectual needs they are stimulating. Up to now, books still represent the most economical, flexible, wash-and-wear way to transport information at a very low cost. Computer communication travels ahead of you; books travel with you and at your speed.

The future of book indexing is intricately tied to the future of the book. Keeping the notion of a closed system in mind, I have no doubts about the continued existence of the book. It matters not what delivery format the book takes on, print or electronic. While the e-book industry strives to standardize itself, the printed book will continue as the most efficient and pleasurable reading device ever invented.

Although the discussion in this book will focus on closed-system indexing, the methods presented have far-reaching applications. It is worth recalling what Jessica Milstead wrote: "Whenever a collection of information, by reason of its size, its location, or the medium on which it is stored, cannot conveniently be scanned in its entirety by any would-be user, the quality of the index determines its value perhaps more than any other factor" (Milstead 1984, 192).

The Index as Paratext

Another way to think of book indexes is as paratext. This term was introduced in the 1980s by Gérard Genette. In the foreword to Paratexts: Thresholds of Interpretation (Genette 1997) Richard Macksey includes this description of paratextuality: "liminal devices and conventions, both within the book (peritext) and outside it (epitext), that mediate the book to the reader: titles and subtitles, pseudonyms, forewords, dedications, epigraphs, prefaces, intertitles, notes, epilogues, and afterwords" (xviii). Nicholas Basbanes (2003, 229) provides an enhanced list of paratexts: "titles, illustrations, dust jackets, indexes, appendices, paper, type design, and bindings." The paratexts all contribute to how a book is received. For example, a poorly chosen typeface or an unappealing dust jacket will not encourage sales of a book. The paratexts, when done well, add value to a book.

Genette points out that the "most essential of the paratext's properties ... is functionality. Whatever aesthetic intention may come into play as well, the main issue for the paratext is not to 'look nice' around the text but rather to ensure for the text a destiny consistent with the author's purpose" (1997, 407). He concludes, "The paratext is only an assistant, only an accessory of the text" 410).

As paratext, the book index bridges a gap between author and reader. It reconciles the vocabulary of the reader with that of the author. The functionality of an index, and other paratexts, was described well in the preface of The Columbia Guide to Digital Publishing (Kasdorf 2003) in this way:

The third major avenue into the Guide is the Index. This is a particularly notable feature of the Guide. Indexes are taken for granted in print and, unfortunately, rarely provided online. Whereas the Glossary provides a shallow, topical view of the content, and the Table of Contents provides a logical, structured view, a good index provides an intellectual view of the content unavailable by any other means. It is the result of an intelligent reading by an indexer trained in recognizing and documenting the interrelationships of the intellectual content; the indexer not only notes topics and subtopics, but also makes judgments about them, selecting the most important and relevant sections to direct readers to. (lvi)

The Long History of Indexes

Information that cannot be located might as well not exist. The index is one of the oldest information retrieval devices. When the earliest scribe produced a document that could not be easily browsed, the need for an index emerged. Hans Wellisch (1992, 70) writes,

Indexing of books did not begin, as is commonly thought, after the invention of printing. It started with the rise of the universities in the 13th century. Although no two manuscripts of the same work were exactly alike and folio or page numbers were seldom used, indexes to theological treatises, lives of the saints, medical and legal compendia and, most of all, to collections of sermons were compiled, using chapter and section numbers instead of pagination.

Bella Hass Weinberg (1997) has dated a Hebrew manuscript citation index back to the twelfth century. Although the exact date of the first index is a matter of debate, we can safely say that indexes have been around for several hundred years. Nonetheless, the answer to the question What is an index? is not self-evident.

What Is an Index?

In the United States, the National Information Standards Organization defines an index as "a systematic guide designed to indicate topics or features of documents in order to facilitate retrieval of documents or parts of documents" (Anderson and NISO 1997, 39).

The International Organization for Standardizatioris ISO 999 (1996) defines an index as an "alphabetically or otherwise ordered arrangement of entries, different from the order of the document or collection indexed, designed to enable users to locate information in a document or specific documents in a collection" (3.5).

The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) takes us back to the Latin root index (n), the forefinger, index (v), to point out. The OED devotes many column inches to the various meanings of the word index, both as a noun and as a verb. For more on the history and meaning of index, see the fascinating discussion "Index: The Word, Its History and Meanings," provided by Hans Wellisch in his Indexing from A to Z (1995, 199-210).

Merriam-Webster Unabridged online dictionary produces no fewer than 107 entries that include the word index. These entries run the gamut from alveolar index to wholesale price index. The type of index of interest to us is defined as "a usually alphabetical list that includes all or nearly all items (as topics, names of people and places) considered of special pertinence and fully or partially covered or merely mentioned in a printed or written work (as a book, catalog, or dissertation), that gives with each item the place (as by page number) where it may be found in the work, and that is usually put at or near the end of the work."

In his classic Indexing, The Art of (1979), G. Norman Knight turns to the British Standard of 1976, the standard current at the time he wrote his book, for a full, cogent definition: that work states that an index is "a systematic guide to the location of words, concepts or other items in books, periodicals or other publications. An index consists of a series of entries appearing, not in the order in which they appear in the publication, but in some other order (e.g. alphabetical) chosen to enable the user to find them quickly, together with references to show where each item is located."

I myself find the following definition useful: An index is a structured sequence-resulting from a thorough and complete analysis of text-of synthesized access points to all the information contained in the text. The structured arrangement of the index enables users to locate information efficiently.

What an Index Is Not

An index is not a concordance, a list of all the words that appear in a document. A concordance lacks analysis and synthesis. It is simply a list of words. (See chapter 10 for an example of a concordance.) A concordance, even in alphabetic order, does not provide an "intellectual view of the content unavailable by any other means" (Kasdorf 2003, lvi).

An index is not a mere appendage to a book. It is a separate and distinct written document. Indexes are written, not generated. As creative, authored works, indexes are granted copyright registration. Like other types of writing, indexes are communicative by nature. The writing of an index differs from other types of writing in that an index employs only the most basic writing tools needed for ultimate clarity. Index writers strive for directness, succinctness, and clarity without the use of prefatory remarks or complete sentence structures. Communication goals are achieved with a minimum number of communication tools.

An index is not a more elaborate version of the table of contents. Neither is the index simply an outline of the book. The term index, as it will be used in this book, is not an umbrella under which any alphabetic list can huddle. An index serves only one purpose: it enables readers to locate information efficiently.

The Index as Hypertext

Hypertext is a method used to link related information within a document or between documents. Readers can choose to review linked topics in a nonlinear way. For example, an electronic encyclopedia that discusses Abraham Lincoln may refer to the Gettysburg Address. The phrase "Gettysburg Address" may be highlighted in some way to convey to readers that it is a linked topic. If they wish, readers can select the Gettysburg Address link and be shown its complete text.

While Ted Nelson is credited by some with popularizing the notion of hypertext, the theoretical prototype of hypertext can be traced back to the early twentieth century. W. Boyd Rayward (1994, 237) writes, "In 1934, some ten years before Vannevar Bush published his ideas about a memex, some 35 or 40 years before Ted Nelson began to develop his ideas of a fabled information Xanadu, Paul Otlet published a magisterial work of synthesis, the Traité de Documentation.... The Traité is perhaps the first systematic, modern discussion of general problems of organizing information." In 1918 Otlet described his Monographic Principle based on note cards. "What fired his imagination was the realization of the bibliographical uses to which standard three-by-five-inch cards and later loose sheets or leaves of standard sizes could be put. Here was a simple technology to be exploited by those who had the imagination to see the potential implicit in it. Cards permitted the 'analytical' recording of single, separate pieces of information, be they bibliographical or substantive, and so effectively the creation of what in hypertext are nodes or chunks of text" (Rayward 1994, 238).


Excerpted from Indexing Books by Nancy C. Mulvany Copyright © 2005 by Nancy Claire Mulvany. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Read More Show Less

Table of Contents


1. Introduction to Book Indexing
Information Overload
Open-system vs. Closed-system Indexing
The Future of the Book
The Index as Paratext
The Long History of Indexes
What Is an Index?
The Purpose of an Index
The Audience: Who Uses Indexes?

2. The Author and the Index
The Book Contract and the Index
The Writing Process and the Index
Who Should Prepare the Index?
Relationship between Author and Indexer
3. Getting Started
The Book Production Process
The Nature of Indexing Work
What Not to Index
What Is Indexable?
How to Index the Indexable Material
Interpreting the Publisher's Instructions
Usability and Index Style
Estimating the Size of an Index

4. Structure of Entries
External Structure
Internal Structure

5. Arrangement of Entries
Order of Characters
Word-by-Word Alphabetizing
Letter-by-Letter Alphabetizing
Basic Rules Affecting Both Alphabetizing Orders
Other Alphabetizing Guidelines
Nonalphabetic Arrangement in Indexes
How to Choose an Arrangement Order

6. Special Concerns in Indexing
Abbreviations and Acronyms
Uppercase and Lowercase Letters
International Characters
Numerals, Symbols, and Other Nonalphabetic Characters in Entries
Multiauthored Works
Multivolume Works
Multiple Indexes
Single-source Indexing

7. Names, Names, Names
Personal Names
Names with Only a Forename
Roman Names
Obscure Names
Names with Particles
Non-European Names
Geographic Names
Organization Names
Alphabetizing of Names
Names of Works

8. Format and Layout of the Index
Overall Index Style
Indented Style
Run-in Style
Other Styles
Cross-reference Format and Placement
Special Typography
Final Submission Formats
Layout of the Index

9. Editing the Index
Editing by the Indexer
Review by the Author
Editing by the Editor
Reducing the Length of an Index: Tips for Editors
Revising an Index for a Revised Edition

10. Tools for Indexing
Manual Methods
Automatic Indexing
Computer-aided Indexing
The Future

Appendix A: Index Specifications Worksheet

Appendix B: Resources for Indexers
Professional Associations
Standards Organizations
Internet Discussion Group
Training in Indexing
Publishers of Dedicated Indexing Software
Winners of the ASI-H. W. Wilson Award for Excellence in Indexing
Internet Resources


Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)