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Authors and Indexes (I)

Sir, -- The solution to the problem of books being published without adequate indexes that John Sutherland identifies (Letters, November 10) appears elsewhere in the same number of the TLS. Mark Kidel describes the new Bob Dylan Encyclopedia being sold with a CD containing an electronic text of the whole work. This has long been the practice with books in the field of Computer Studies and it obviates manual indexing, since any word or phrase may be found by the software. Indexing is a mind-numbing task made necessary by the limitations of paper publishing, and the author who skimps on it can be forgiven since technology will soon make it pointless even for print-only works. The recent works of the author in question, Philip Waller, have been digitized by the Google Books project and the full-text indexes made publicly available over the Internet, and we may expect the same of his latest work unless the author or publisher tries to prevent it. Of course, it is regrettable that the mass digitization of books is being undertaken by a commercial organization rather than by public bodies. The fault for that lies with libraries, authors, and most especially publishers who continue to erect barriers to digitization.

Dr Gabriel Egan, Department of English & Drama Loughborough University