The Chore of Indexing

For the hundreds of thousands of you that have been checking the Sky & Telescope Index PDF page every day, intently waiting for the Volume 112 index (also known as the July through December issues), the nightmare is over: it's finally uploaded and ready for you to download.

The semi-annual index used to be bound into the June and December issues. But as economic matters forced issues of S&T to shrink (ah, the days of 170-page issues), and with the growing importance of the Internet, we decided to remove it from the magazine and let people print it themselves. This alleviated the deadline constraints and eliminated the size limit. A separate document allowed expanding some aspects, such as including the titles of the articles in all departments.

Indexing is Fun
Isn't this how we all feel?
Stuart Goldman
Even though the final format has changed, it remains a big pain in the seventh planet to produce. I know, because I've been involved in it for as long as I've worked here. With each change in technology, we think that producing the index will be easier — it never happens. Editorial assistant Katie Curtis now does most of the work by entering the details of every issue into a database. That information is eventually transformed into the articles listed by author and department. I check, and double check, everything. And other people check it again and update corrections. In the end, there are still probably typos, or perhaps a missing entry.

Some of us involved with making the index this round wonder if it's worth the effort. How many people actually use the printed index? I don't. I use our electronic index on SkyandTelescope.com. Otherwise, trying to find an article I thought appeared sometime in the past five years can take a while, especially when it turns out it ran 10 years ago! (Dennis di Cicco has the savant-like power to know what was on the cover of a three-decade-old issue that a particular article appeared.) The online version also lets you search for articles from Night Sky, SkyWatch, and CCD Astronomy, which have never had indexes of their own.

So do you readers actually like the six-month indexes? Add your comments below. I'm sure other editors here use them on occasion. But if my coworkers love them so much, perhaps they can produce them. If readers deem it an indispensable service, however, then I'll change my tune.