Who Reads Indexes?

An index written to generally accepted indexing standards should perform flawlessly, and provide quick efficient access to information. However, if the index is poorly written, the reader becomes frustrated and will very likely move on to the next book.

How exhaustive is the index? A book that is over-indexed lists too many names and topics that are trivial and have little value for the reader. An index that is under-indexed has the opposite problem: the omission of many indexable terms which short-changes and annoys readers who can’t find what they want.

Successful authors recognize that readers prefer to buy books with well written and organized indexes. A good index has a “perceived value” because it gives the readers quick access to information they need within a book.

The index is a map to the book; the gateway to the author’s ideas

The index is for readers who actually read the book but want to look up specific terms used by the author without having to leaf randomly through the book in hope of finding what they want. 

The index is also for readers who do not read the book but who are seeking information by searching for various key words in the index, quickly and efficiently. 

The index is for those readers with very specialized knowledge, who use the book essentially as a reference book, to search for specific terms and concepts quickly and efficiently.

The index is for readers with little time or patience to read the whole book.

The index is for book browsers who want to compare books and decide which to buy.

The index is for librarians who make recommendations on purchases of books, andwho search for information for their clients. Librarians prefer books with indexes.

The index is for academics and scholars who rely on indexes to find very specific information critical to their research.

Based on the above, books with a quality index have increased book sales. In contrast, books published without an index are not generally taken as seriously by readers, reviewers or librarians, and book sales reflect the absence of a quality index.


Miguel De Cervantes “… and for the citation of so many authors, ’tis the easiest thing in nature’. Find out one of these books with an  alphabetical index, and without any farther ceremony, remove it verbatim into your own; at least, such a flourishing train of attendants will give your book a fashionable air, and recommend it for sale.”