What do readers expect from book indexes and how do they use them? An exploratory user study

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Current indexing practice is based on assumptions rather than knowledge about the behaviour of book index users. This exploratory user study investigated readers' expectations and use of book indexes in order to fill this gap in knowledge. Qualitative interviews were conducted with six individuals who have regular exposure to books with indexes. Participants revealed that they have a clear understanding of the purpose and use of book indexes, despite being unable to recall any specific instruction in using indexes. They expect to find indexes in nonfiction books, and their choice of a book is influenced by the index. It is apparent from the results that users approach indexes in two ways ' to gain a general overview of a book and to find specific topics in a book ' depending on the context of index use and their familiarity with the book. It was also revealed that users have different expectations for ebook indexes than for print book indexes. The study was limited to participants who liked and used book indexes. Similar research into the expectations and behaviour of readers who do not use book indexes is needed to provide a complete picture; however, the results of this study could inform design of index usability testing and research on navigation within books.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)90-101
Number of pages12
Issue number33
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2015


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