July 4, 2013

"For this reason, 'This Town' contains no index; bold-face Washingtonians can’t just find their pages, see how they’re depicted, and read no more."

WaPo doesn't seem to understand that in a world of ebooks and "search inside the book" Amazon pages, you don't need to look names up in an index to see whether and where they appear in a book.

I suspect that if there's no index in this book, it's to save printing expenses and because they wouldn't want anyone to assume that if a particular name isn't in the index, it isn't in the book. Now, you might say, but maybe Amazon won't have "search inside the book" for this particular book, and if people want to do a search within an ebook, they'll have to buy the ebook, so more books will be sold. But that assumes there are cheapskates — among the super-busy Washingtonians — who would go to a physical bookstore, find the actual paper version of this book, and look up names in an index. Anyone who cares that much would just download the damned Kindle edition from Amazon, which would take about 10 seconds. The search would be accomplished in well under a minute. Even if it's overpriced at $12.74, what is your time worth? And by "you," I mean some Washington entity who is important enough to imagine he'd get mentioned in a gossipy book by a NYT reporter, and yet not important enough not to care.


Sam L. said...

WaPo: Still behind the times, and losing ground.

cassandra lite said...

It's not printing expenses that are saved by not having a traditional index; those are marginal, at worst. It's to save the not insignificant cost of compiling an index. In a physical book, professional indexing is a labor-intensive (read: expensive) job.

traditionalguy said...

Right on, Professor. The new digital tools are out pacing most of us. That's why we value your lessons given at a very reasonable price indeed.

gadfly said...

In the morning wake me up
And tell me everything
So I can understand your world
And you can understand my dream
Yeah I could be anywhere
And you could be there with me
But I just want to be a ghost
And see everything
~O.A.R. "This Town"

LL said...

I agree somewhat with you but a print or online index is a good thing and a tool to help the reader. Sure, you can simply do a keyword search but if it is a concept rather than a unique word then a keyword search is going to be cumbersome and frustrating. Cassandra is correct, indexing is labor intensive but it is a good thing.

edutcher said...

In search of ego.

But what if they don't have a "damned Kindle" or don't want to buy one?

If only for size of print (there are other reasons), I would still like real books.

robinintn said...

If you don't want to buy a kindle, you can put the free kindle reader on your computer. Also, font size is adjustable on the kindle.

edutcher said...

I have a kindle reader on my Tab2.

Some people, The Blonde f'rinstance, don't want anything to do with e-books.

I can see their utility, particularly as textbooks, but they do have a few drawbacks.

They won't replace the coffee table book, particularly for artworks.

Greg Hlatky said...

Don't they just get some unpaid intern to read it for them and mark which pages mention them?

Big Mike said...

@Greg, beautiful, just beautiful. Captures the people in Washington just perfectly.

Danno said...

I saw an article on same book on the Politico website earlier today. The people of DC are enough to make you vomit. A neutron bomb would be a good solution!

Ann Althouse said...

There's an "index" function in my word processor (Word). Is it really so difficult these days?

Beldar said...

You can word-search every Kindle publication that I've ever come across.

(Caveat: I know they're available, some by subscription and others free, but I haven't yet made a serious try at reading the Kindle version of any magazines, newspapers, or periodicals. I think most of those are text-searchable, though, or that exceptions are quite rare.)

Most new Kindle publications from major publishers have an additional sort of electronic indexing that Kindle calls its "X-Ray" feature, and it's got a dedicated icon in the on-screen menu. It substantially enhances search and indexing capabilities. As described in the current user manual:

"The X-Ray feature lets you explore the 'bones' of the book with a single tap. For example, you can see all of the passages in a book that mention specific ideas, fictional characters, historical figures, and places or topics."

I'm finding this X-Ray feature incredibly useful in practice, much moreso than I'd have predicted.

And it's one of the reasons I haven't bought an on-dead-trees book in more than a year, but have eight Kindle devices on my account that I've distributed among my family members; we're all sharing a growing library of books that we can recommend and discuss with one another.

My daughter is en route back from a month of volunteer work in Nepal. She has had occasional internet access via internet cafes on her laptop. But she's found her Kindle, with its huge capacity, easy downloading, and extraordinary battery life -- to be her most useful and essential electronic device while there.

So we're big fans of Kindles.