Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Scripture Indexing

On Deinde, Danny Zacharias has an interesting post on the trials of preparing a scripture index:
If you are an author, do you do the indices yourself (you or a student) or do you pay the company to index it? And if you do the index yourself, or are a TA who does it for your prof, how do you go about doing it? What is the method to your madness? I am very interested to know. Why, you ask? Because it takes a really long time, and if someone has a simpler method, I want to know!!
It's an interesting question. My answer is that Sheffield Academic Press, who published my first book (Goulder and the Gospels), did the Scripture / Ancient Literature index themselves, so too the Author Index. They used to say that they had software that did it and it was a service they offered to all authors. Alas, I had a lucky introduction into the world of indexing, assuming that this was standard. More recently, I've come to realize that it is rare for publishers to do this work and they do rely on authors to do it. I did all indexes for The Case Against Q and Questioning Q, for example, and the authors for the Library of New Testament Studies are also asked to produce their own (or pay a fee to Continuum to do it).

I am interested to hear that some authors ask TAs to do this work for them, something I'd not realized before. Here in the UK, I'd say that the use of TAs by lecturers is uncommon -- we are not that well resourced. Perhaps things will be different for me when I am at Duke. I hope Danny is getting paid well for it because it is tedious work.

And no, I don't have any great method myself, except to make sure that I have everything available on PDFs so that I can search them easily. But I think I've done it all manually.

Update (Thursday, 21.16): On Deinde Danny Zacharias comments further:
. . . . Finally, Mark Cannon from Asbury sent me an email pointing me to this link which is a process for indexing. From what I read, this is a bit of a dated process, and is more geared towards a subject index (if I am not mistaken, I think publishers usually take care of the subject indexing, someone correct me if I am wrong!). . . .
You are wrong! Well, at least in my experience, publishers like Continuum and SPCK require authors also to take care of subject indexing. But more importantly:
So, almost immediately after I blogged on indexing, I had an epiphany. All this technology, and nothing to help poor me in this process? Well I wouldn't stand for it. So I went to and, made a request for a program, and whammy! I have already found a coder who is willing to make the program for a very small fee in a cross-platform code (Java). Why no big fee? Well this info will come in handy for me, and perhaps for you as well. There are alot of competant coders out there who need experience to put on their resumé, so money is not a problem, they just want you to give them a good online rating. I am excited. If the guy can do what I want the program to do (and he assures me it will be no problem) then it will cut the indexing time down more than half....and if it doesn't, well I'm no worse off than now. I will inform everyone on how the program works, as I have two indexing projects come August for my profs. If after that the program is working well, it will be for sale from the author (part of the low fee deal...I'll encourage him to keep the fee low) and I will let you know about it. Oh happy day!
Great! Keep us informed, Danny.

1 comment:

David Mackinder said...

Certainly from the 1980s, it's long been the case that most publishers expect authors to produce indexes (it's generally built into the contract). Basically, you have two choices: do it yourself or get someone else to do it. Whatever you choose, make sure it's done properly. Either actively teach yourself how to compile an index (there are some good guides available) -- you never know, you might actually enjoy it (the real skill is subject indexing, but one can derive some satisfaction from the more mechanical tasks such as scripture and author indexing); or employ someone who already has the skill, but be prepared to pay a professional rate, as one would do for any other practitioner's service (the late Bernard Levin understood and valued the indexer's role, and used always to make a point of thanking his indexer and mentioning the Society of Indexers). PS, indexes can even be fun to read -- have a look at Julian Barnes's Letters from London; there are even a few respectable theology books that have sly jokes hidden in their indexes, but that's another story.