Digital Trends Task Force

Welcome to the Digital Trends Task Force (DTTF) page of the American Society for Indexing

The ASI Digital Trends Task Force (DTTF) was formed in 2011 to address the continuing and rapidly increasing evolution of book publishing from traditional print to eBook formats. DTTF initiated an outreach campaign and is currently engaging with publishers, hardware manufacturers, and software developers to design and create “smart indexes” for the digital age.

Indexes and eBooks: The issue

E-reader search features alone do not meet user needs for finding and accessing information within published texts. The American Society for Indexing, via DTTF, is taking a lead in the development of “smart indexes” and other information access tools that will be compatible with the new digital publishing technologies and formats.

eBook indexes, when they exist, are often not interactive; if they do link to content, the links are often to what corresponds to the top of the printed page and not to the exact location of content. Some self-publishing authors and book publishers have chosen to drop indexes from non-fiction eBooks, as the creation of high-quality, interactive indexes is seen as too difficult. There is also a mistaken belief that simple “Search” is adequate and that the time, trouble, and expense of creating indexes is “not worth it.” However, the fact is that using word-search to hunt for information in an eBook can be a frustrating, time-consuming, trial-and-error event. The DTTF is now recommending tools and techniques that can help publishers get an interactive index in their eBooks, so that the process can be simpler.

Like users of traditional print books, users of eBooks need a structured display, in the form of an interactive index, where they can quickly and easily locate information. A high-quality, interactive index is a useful feature which enhances the value of an eBook for the user, and which helps distinguish the eBook from its print counterpart. Additionally, semantic metadata indexes can be combined with Search to invisibly enhance the user’s search experience, and the publisher’s ability to create buyer discovery tools across the spectrum of their publications.

DTTF’s Mission

In May 2011, the American Society for Indexing established the Digital Trends Task Force (DTTF) to:

  • Gather information about changes in digital publishing practices as they affect indexes
  • Interface with leading digital publishing companies, digital eReader hardware and software suppliers, and industry partners to find solutions to ensure inclusion of usable indexes in nonfiction digital book formats and eBooks
  • Inform ASI members regarding digital trends in timely manner so that indexers can prepare for and participate in technology-driven and process changes

DTTF LinkedIn Group

The ASI DTTF LinkedIn Group is the best way to keep updated on DTTF initiatives. Membership in the Group is open to any interested individuals from related publishing and online industries. Group discussions focus on developing indexing standards, new publishing tools, research for online indexes, news and articles about new developments, and more. We welcome your input! A new discussion for eBook news is created every month. There are a variety of other discussions focusing on various tools and techniques. You do not have to be a member of the American Society for Indexing but you must have a free LinkedIn account to become a member of the Group. Search for “ASI Digital Trends Task Force” under “Groups” on the LinkedIn home page.

EPUB 3.0 Indexes Working Group

The International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF) is the organization managing the specifications that make up EPUB 3.0. ASI is a member of the IDPF. In October 2011, the DTTF submitted a proposal to have IDPF consider adding tagging for indexes to the EPUB format. The proposal moved forward quickly and an Indexes Charter document was published for a vote. The IDPF approved the formation of the EPUB 3.0 Indexes Working Group in December 2011. The Working Group, composed of DTTF members, other indexing society representatives, publishers, and industry partners, developed and wrote the specification. The final draft (December 2013) is EPUB Indexes 1.0. This document includes an index to the specfication as well as a document showing the spec’s index tagged using EPUB 3 coding.

Charter document:

Wiki for EPUB 3.0:

The following documents were submitted to the IDPF as part of our proposal to have the IDPF consider index markup in EPUB 3.0:

The IDPF Index functionality document is the explanatory document submitted to the IDPF by the DTTF team, outlining how indexes can work in EPUB 3.0

The ASI DTTF sample index XHTML.htm is a sample index encoded in XHTML (the markup that EPUB books use). This is one of the proposed ways to mark up indexes for use in EPUB.

The ASI DTTF sample index HTML.htm (N.B., HTML, not XHTML) shows the same sample index marked up as normal HTML

The DTTF XHTML as text.docx shows the sample index’s codes in XHTML, or what you would see if you chose “view source” in your browser.

The ASI DTTF sample as pdf.pdf shows how the sample index looks when compiled.

Association of American Publishers (AAP) releases EPUB 3 Implementation Project White Paper:

Twitter postings

@ASIndexing #ePrdctn hour (every Wed morning, 11 am Eastern, 8 am Pacific) #indexing #dailyentry @isc/csi

Studies & Surveys

ASI Survey 2011

Index Versus Full-text Search: A Usability Study of User Preference and Performance, by Carol Barnum, Earvin Henderson, Al Hood, & Rodney Jordan

Let’s Get Useable! Usability Studies for Indexes, by Susan C. Olason

Usability Studies in Textbook Design (Copyright Clearance Center)

Using Online Indexes (BNA)

Articles & Blogs

An Executive Summary for Publishers on Indexes in eBooks by David K. Ream

Understanding Publisher/Indexer Workflows: Check out this document to find out about different ways to get an index into documents, and how each way affects the workflow and files.

Kevin Broccoli’s Mashup Page:

Joe Wikert’s article: The Uber-Index by Joe Wikert

The Indexer March 2012: including:

  • Editorial: Digital Trends by Jan Wright
  • The Tyranny of the Page by Mary Coe
  • New Technology and Public Perceptions by Bill Johncocks
  • The Devil is in the Details: Indexes versus Amazon’s X-Ray by Jan Wright
  • Hand-helds as eReaders: Exploratory Thoughts on Hand-Held Devices and Indexes by Pilar Wyman
  • Visualizing Back-of-Book Indexes by Ceilyn Boyd and Mitch Wade
  • The Semantic Web: an Introduction for Information Professionals by Matt Moore
  • Publishing, XML and Indexers by Nic Gibson
  • XML Indexing, by Michele Combs; and
  • Special links section on eBook and digital indexing resources.

Anatomy of an EPUB eBook by David K. Ream

Current Ebook Indexes

eBooks with Indexes that Reorganize Conceptually (Xerox Parc)

eBook Ninjas on New Index Interfaces (Jan Wright, Joshua Tallent, Toby Stevenson, and Chris Casey)

Hugh McGuire interview from April 2013 Key Words. McGuire discusses his blog post “A Publisher’s Job Is to Provide a Good API for Books; You can start with your index.”

Human or Computer Produced Indexes? by James Lamb

Kindle and the Index by James Lamb

The Matrix 1: Indexing Tools and Output Options by Glenda Browne, Michele Combs, David Ream, Jan Wright, and Pilar Wyman

The Matrix 2: Linking to vs. Embedding in by Glenda Browne, Michele Combs, David Ream, Jan Wright, and Pilar Wyman

Matrix Resources List

Missing Entry: Whither the eBook Index? by Peter Meyers

Linked and active indexes are now a requirement for the Publishing Innovation Awards’ QED Seal for eBooks

Search inside eBooks by Peter Meyers

Why are we still using page number references for index links when they have no value in e-books? by Bill Kasdorf

Why ebooks still need indexes by Peter Meyers


“Indexes and You” (6 min.): In this entertaining spoof of 1950s educational films, “young Timmy” learns about the advantages of indexes over Google search for locating information.

“Indexing and the Google Generation: What You Don’t Know Will Hurt You” (60 min.): This is a presentation by Chuck Knapp of BNA at the 2004 Conference for Law School Computing (CALI). Chuck discusses text searches vs. using indexes, and cites usability studies to support his conclusions.

Tools & Conversions

InDesign scripts and documentation:

This document addresses how to change the default EPUB index indenting to a more readable format: InDesign EPUB index indenting

Adobe InDesign CC now exports active indexes for eBooks. Information for publishers and Information for indexers


Leverage Technologies is also developing tools to assist with legacy and backlist eBook index conversions.

Anatomy of an eBook by David K. Ream

Converting a Legacy Print Book by David K. Ream

DTTF Volunteers

The work of DTTF volunteers in 2011 is deeply appreciated.

DTTF Contact Information

General email contact:

DTTF members:
Michele Combs, Carpe Indexum:
David Ream, Leverage Technologies:
Charlee Trantino, Writers Unlimited Inc.:
Jan Wright:, @windexing
Pilar Wyman, Wyman Indexing:, @pilarw
American Society for Indexing: