Indexes versus Searching in Publications

Many publishers and technology experts are foregoing including indexes in web, eBook, and other electronic products. At times this is understandable, after all indexing the entire content of the World Wide Web is not humanly possible.

However, when a book is put onto eBook platforms, when journal articles are loaded on a web site, there is no excuse for not including an index. The rationale usually given is that full text searching is available and so indexes are needed, are obviated by the technology, or are obsolete in this new electronic landscape.

“... trying the usual search keywords, and getting the usual mountain of junk ... was like combing through stellar radiation for signs of extraterrestrial life.” — Lev Grossman, 2011

If what is being searched for is a very discrete (and often unique) word or term, then searching may find what is being sought for instance, IRS Form 941 or Mark Twain. Adding more words to the search can narrow down the result set.

In fact this is not the case for various reasons:

Little research has been done on this issue. So quotations and thoughts have been presented. For these and other comments on this topic, click here. One study was done showing indexes were superior to searching by BNA, Inc.