Trends in Indexing: E-Books and More

American Society for Indexing Conference Review

The American Society for Indexing (ASI) held its annual conference in San Antonio on April 17–19, 2013. The shift to e-books and digital apps has affected indexing as much as other areas of publishing, so many conference sessions focused on e-books. Speakers included Joshua Tallent (e-book developer and designer), Corey Pressman (digital media strategist), David Ream (developer of indexing and publishing software), Pilar Wyman (indexer and past-president of ASI), and Jan Wright (indexer and active contributor in ASI’s Digital Trends Task Force).

Corey Pressman, a dynamic and inspiring speaker, summed up the current status of e-books the best when he called them the “new incunabula.” Elements of book design that we take for granted today — spaces between words, punctuation, tables of contents, indexes, illustrations, references, and more — were all innovations at one point. Best practices for e-books are still being explored.

Other Conference Sessions

Keynote speaker Judith Pascoe, M. F. Carpenter Professor at the University of Iowa and author of “My Last Index” in the Chronicle of Higher Education, spoke on the secret lives of indexers in literature, focusing on the works of novelist and indexer Barbara Pym. A panel led by Paul Sweum discussed coordinating style sheets with clients. Kay Schlembach and Stephanie Reymann explained content tagging for the Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations app; this involved content analysis of 19,000 quotes by a team of indexers and development of a taxonomy from the bottom up. Kay Schlembach also led a session on image tagging strategies for business. Kate Mertes gave an entertaining presentation on how technology affects the indexing process; technologies discussed included sheets of paper, index cards, word processors, dedicated indexing software, embedded indexing, and Unicode.

I also attended Paul Sweum’s workshop Your 21st Century Marketing Strategy: Preparing to Not Only Break the Ice, But Melt It. Topics included online and print marketing materials, making contacts with prospective clients, and building relationships with established clients. Beginning freelancers in any publishing field would find this workshop useful, as would established freelancers looking to expand their business.

ASI/H.W. Wilson Award

Kate Mertes (indexer) and Liberty Fund (publisher) were presented with the ASI/H.W. Wilson Award for the index to My Thoughts (Mes Pensées), the first complete English translation of Montesquieu’s notebooks. This award was established in 1978 to honor excellence in indexing of an English language monograph or other non-serial work published in the United States. After the 2013 presentation, the name was changed to the ASI/EBSCO Publishing Award.

2014 Conference

Next year’s conference will be held from April 30 to May 3, 2014 in Charleston, SC. Although many conference attendees are freelance indexers, others who do indexing or other content analysis as part of their jobs would also find this conference useful.

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