Indexes for eBooks (are they necessary?)

I have been banging my head about this issue for a while now.

  • If my printed book has an index, should my eBook?
  • If the book was written and indexed in InDesign, how do I convert the index to clickable hyperlinks for my eBook?
  • Does an eBook index add any more value than the ability to search the digital book?
  • Isn’t the ability to search an eBook much more convenient and intuitive than having an index?

I have converted many types of books to eBooks (ePub and Mobi). Some have included short indexes. Some have no indexes. I have even done one where I included the print book index, but called it “Index of suggested search terms for eBook”, and did not make them clickable.

I am now working on a GIANT cookbook conversion for a 900+ page cookbook that includes an 80+ page printed index. Translated to ePub or mobi, this index list will probably be close to 1000 pages when viewed on a Kindle, iPad, etc. device.

Does this really make any sense?

After thinking about this for a while this morning, I have come to some personal conclusions about indexing for eBooks:

  1. Long indexes have no place in an eBook. The ability to search the content covers any need for it.
  2. A very short index is ok, as long as it doestn’t span more than a few iPad, Kindle, etc. pages.
  3. Printed indexes are convenient because you can quickly flip through the pages with your fingers to find what you are looking for. And then you go to that particular page in your printed book.
  4. Long indexes also tend to break eBooks when reading on certain devices, because it is just too much information for the device to handle.

I am curious as to other people’s thoughts on this subject.



ePub Samples

Here is a small sampling of some books that I recently converted to ePub.

Note: All of these books were initially designed and laid-out (using Adobe InDesign CS4 or CS5.5) for the purpose of traditional printing. Using those same files, I exported to ePub, created custom stylesheets (CSS), and cleaned up the code using Oxygen.

The very nature of the ePub format is to allow enough flexibility so that the books can be read on any size/type of device/reader that can read ePubs. Because of this, the files may look slightly different when compared from one device to another. However, great care has been taken so that the content looks good and is legible on all ePub-compatible readers/devices.

With that said, these ePubs have been optimized for the iPad (since it is by far the most popular ePub reading device). So, the sample images that you are about to see are screen grabs from the iPad.


Art Space Tokyo

Ashley Rawlings & Craig Mod, Pre/Post
(Adobe InDesign CS5.5)

AST Table of Contents

Art Space Tokyo cover and TOC (Horizontal view)

AST chapter start

Sample chapter start with Title and Map (Vertical view)


Map zoomed in to fit the screen (Horizontal view). (You can double-tap images in iBooks in order to zoom in)

AST Interview

Start of Interview section with intros (Vertical view)

AST Interview

Sample Interview section (Horizontal view)


Google SketchUp Cookbook

Bonnie Roskes, O’Reilly Media
(Adobe InDesign CS4)

GSC Table of Contents

Google Sketchup Cookbook cover and TOC (Horizontal view)

GSC spread

Sample spread with images and Note (Horizontal view)

GSC spread

Sample spread with image (Horizontal view)

GSC sample page

Sample page with image and sidebar (Vertical view)


The Geek Atlas

John Graham-Cumming, O’Reilly Media
(Adobe InDesign CS4)

GA Table of Contents

Geek Atlas Table of Contents (Vertical view)

GA page

Section start with title and map (Vertical view)

GA spread

Sample spread with sidebar and image (Horizontal view)


Building the Perfect PC, 3e

Robert Bruce Thompson & Barbara Fritchman Thompson, O’Reilly Media
(Adobe InDesign CS4)

BPpc Table of Contents

Building the Perfect PC cover and TOC (Horizontal view)

BPpc sample spread

Chapter start (Horizontal view)

BPpc sample spread

Start of Hardware Design Criteria section (Horizontal view)

BPpc sample spread

Sample spread with Warning (Horizontal view)

BPpc sample spread

Sample spread with images (Horizontal view)

BPpc sample page

Sample page with table (Vertical view)