April 2010

Kate Mertes

April 2010

“What will you be doing at the conference?” I’ve been asked that question a lot recently by ASI members. As an officer, I have to fly into Minneapolis Tuesday night so I can go to the board meeting bright and early Wednesday morning – we start at 8am and that does NOT include breakfast. As president I chair the meeting and try to keep everyone on track. (I always bring my gavel in case things get rough!) We deal with old and new business, go over all the committee reports, and set an action agenda for the next six months. The board meeting is open to all ASI members.

This year we’re also having an event for members Wednesday afternoon, which we call table talk. We’ll have a series of discussion topics mapped out – items with which the board has been tooling around, and on which we would really like to get member feedback, buy-in, and participation. If you’re in town and at a loose end, wander over to the administration desk around 3pm on Wednesday afternoon and join in. You’ll get an opportunity to weigh in on some exciting new directions for ASI, and speak directly to the board about it afterwards. Strictly for planning purposes, email me at president@asindexing.org if you’re thinking of coming, but feel free to show up unannounced as well.

Thursday afternoon, I’m presenting a workshop on “Aboutness” (which will, of course, be absolutely fabulous), but I’m free Thursday morning. I’d like to go to Jan Wright’s program on Indexing in InDesign if there’s still room. I do a fair amount of embedded indexing already and I really see it as the future of indexing as we move to electronic book formats. But I may have presidential business to attend to so I’ll have to see.

Friday I’m very keen to hear our keynote speaker, Katherine Barber. She’ll be discussing the nature of the English language and how it affects indexers. As an emeritus etymologist for the OED I’m particularly interested in what she has to say. Alice Redmond-Neal’s program on How Not to Taxonomize sounds interesting, but so does Ken Karpinski’s session on the cultural and communication issues of Working with Offshore Editors. And I’ve heard good things about Ruth Pincoe’s presentation on See and See Also. I already use WordEmbed, but I could probably do with Janyne St. Marie’s refresher course. And I’m very intrigued by Fred Leise’s seminar on the index to the diary of Samuel Pepys.

Saturday morning I’m presenting another fabulous session on Indexing the Bible, but I may be able to squeeze into some of Margie Towery’s Confessions of an Award-Winning Indexer. Richard Shrout and Kay Schlembach will be talking about Working with Subcontractors, though, and since I do that sometimes I should maybe think about attending that session. Decisions, decisions! I often end up “just” schmoozing with other indexers during a session period, though. “Just” is properly in quotes since it’s often the most valuable part of the conference for me. As an ASI officer I often get a really good sense of what’s affecting members just by talking to lots of people at the conference. I not-infrequently pick up an indexing project in the course of discussing business with other indexers, or meet a promising newbie who I can later use for subcontracting work. Plus, connecting with other indexers is always an energizing experience.

Funtime in Minneapolis: Many of us who regularly attend the ASI conferences also use the trip as a vacation opportunity. I was in Edina, a suburb of Minneapolis, recently and I took the occasion to check out some potential adventures. “Ah, adventures,” you may be thinking: “Skydiving? White water river rafting?” Sorry, nothing along those lines. My idea of a really heartstopping time is going to a good exhibition or some classical theater. Probably my top priority is a visit to The Science Museum of Minnesota, which has an exhibition of the Dead Sea Scrolls. These 2000 year old text fragments, discovered by a shepherd boy seeking a lost sheep in caves overlooking the Dead Sea, have transformed the


of the Middle East in the classical era and our understanding of the Bible, and are very rarely exhibited outside of Israel. Go to http://www.smm.org for directions to the museum, booking tickets, and more information about the exhibit.


I’m also interested in seeing the Weisman Art Museum, the teaching museum for the


of Minnesota. Designed by Frank Gehry, and worth seeing for its architecture alone, the museum houses an early 20th century American art collection including works by Georgia O’Keefe, Roy Lichtenstein, and Charles Biederman. It also has a superb ceramics collection, including both modern and historical pieces. And if your interest was piqued by the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit, you might want to check out the exhibit on “Everyday Life at the Crossroads of the Mediterranean.” Read more about the museum and its collections at http://weisman.umn.edu.


And if you’ve got a free evening, you might want to go to a performance of M. Butterfly at the Guthrie Theater. A modern retelling of the Madame Butterfly story by David Henry Hwang, the play traces lines of race, power, and gender through love and deception. The Guthrie Theater, founded in 1963 and now housed in a dazzling new space, is one of America’s foremost treasure houses of classical drama. Check it out at http://www.guthrietheater.org.

Wilson and Hines Awards: The judging committees for the Wilson Award (for excellence in indexing) and the Hines Award (for outstanding service to ASI and indexing) have met, and made their decisions – but I’m not letting the cat out the bag here! Keep your eyes open for a combined email from the heads of the Wilson and Hines committees sometime soon.

e-Books Redux: he biggest member response I’ve ever gotten to anything I’ve written – and I do mean ANYthing – was to my recent posting on e-books. A large number of you have already produced indexes that have found their way onto e-books, knowingly or not, embedded or unembedded. Many of you are already have purchased an e-book reader, and express varying levels of satisfaction with them. Lots of you are deeply interested in where this technology will go and how the various platforms will fare. ASI member Maureen Johnson has produced a wonderful article on why e-books need indexes, which is published on her website and which all ASI members would do well to read. You can find it at http://www.mojosindexing.com.

I’ve also located a source of fascinating information on e-book publishing, a survey done by Aptara (a firm some of you have indexed for) that provides raw data and some cogent analysis of the state of e-book publishing today. You can access the survey for free at http://www.aptaracorp.com/index.php?/eBook-survey1.html.

I was recently checking out some information about the Computer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas this February, and I was just amazed at the number of e-book and tablet platforms now available. It’s a supersized version of the video format controversy in the 80s. While choice is nice, the proliferation of readers and software could lead to real problems. The


are not interchangeable, and if you choose a particular reader and it goes belly-up, all the books you’ve purchased may not be transferable to a new device. So choice and change in the industry is slowing public acceptance of e-books as well as pushing it. At least the only tech support you’ll need for the paper books you own is a new pair of glasses. If you want to have a look at some of the different devices out there, check out PC Magazine’s article on e-readers at http://www.pcmag.com/category2/0,2806,2357246,00.asp.


Kate Mertes, President, ASI