Re: Indexing Online Books: Cost Effective?

Subject: Re: Indexing Online Books: Cost Effective?
From: Lori Lathrop <76620 -dot- 456 -at- COMPUSERVE -dot- COM>
Date: Sat, 6 Nov 1993 11:31:40 EST

Jon Huxtable wrote:

> I'm sure that we would all agree that a well constructed
> index is a cost effective part of a paper manual - in other
> words, it's a great deal of hard work but worth the effort.

> If the same books are delivered online, with full text retrieval
> facilities, the index still has a value but I suspect the value
> is much less. Anybody got any opinions on cost effectiveness?

And a portion of Joan Stout's excellent response said:

>3. Full-text retrieval and computer-generated "indexes" provide
> little or no structure. A conceptual index gives you a list
> of topics (not just *terms*) and shows how they are related.

>4. In addition to being an access method, an index is also a kind of
> map of what's included in the book. If you access the information
> with full-text retrieval, you have to know what you're looking
> for before you get started. If you take a look at the index, you
> can see what's covered in the book.

Well said! A well-written index, whether it's for printed or online
documentation is more useful than any other retrievability tool. The
real advantage that an index has is that it provides a topic analysis
and shows the reader how topics relate.

Even hypertext links in online documentation are less effective than
an index when readers want to understand organizational and hierarchical

Lori Lathrop
Lathrop Media Services
Georgetown, CO
internet:76620 -dot- 456 -at- compuserve -dot- com
(freelance technical writer / indexer
and member of American Society of Indexers)

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