By now, I’ve downloaded a number of public domain books in plain vanilla ASCII. Although I’m sure of the next three books I’ll be turning into web books under my dark mode label, I’m no closer to nailing down a publication schedule for the next three months than I was a few weeks ago.
I’m getting into the sinewy meat of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, and have encountered a beastly index that, in Google Docs, is 47 pages long. And it uses the original page numbers as HTML bookmark links to the item locations in the text.
That’s a problem. For one thing, there are no page numbers anymore. Each chapter will be its own HTML document and every part is equidistant from the home page by means of the menu. Kind of like a dandelion that doesn’t blow seeds all over your lawn.
Plus, ballparking the number of entries to be 450-500, I realized it would take roughly eleventy-thousand hours I don’t have to locate each reference, assign it a unique ID, and link it with corresponding anchor text. That’s a lot of added code, making the file sizes bigger when I need to keep as small as possible to accommodate images.
And for what? Three point six people who might glance at the index?
So what am I supposed to do with 47 pages of index when I can’t justify putting that much extra time into it?
Ockham’s Razor is my go-to when I encounter a challenge like this. My thoughts usually gravitate towards function. If a thing X exists, it must have a function.
Why is the index there in the first place? Is there a better solution now than there was when the index was invented?
Indices allow the reader faster access to specific topics in the text. Which is really useful in a book like On the Origin of Species that talks about a vast array of species, scientific terms and principles, other writings, etc. But readers don’t need the index when they’re already reading the book in a browser. If they want to look something up, they’re one search away from the world’s library of publicly available information on the matter.
So long, index.
Eventually I’ll wind up publishing something I can’t leave the index out of. But now I have time to imagine what that looks like in Pub3. Probably not so linear.