Chinese Books Lack an Index

Yet even if some technological fix were to be devised to solve the problem of character entry, the non-alphabetic nature of the writing system still results in other serious and long-standing “invisible” problems. For example, the inclusion of a standard index to books, manuals and reference materials is made orders of magnitude more difficult by the Chinese writing system. The result is that to this day, the vast majority of non-fiction books published in China do not have an index, or anything like it. This fact seems incredible to those firmly ensconced in the alphabetic world, for obviously the lack of an index considerably lessens a book's usefulness. Removing indexes from Western library books would be like an atomic bomb being dropped into academia. Yet their lack is a mundane fact of life in China.[6]

Why do Chinese publishers not provide readers with this simple but powerful convenience? First we must ask, how should the index be ordered? The obvious method these days would be pinyin rather than the nightmarishly frustrating character radical ordering, but of course this adds the usual level of extra processing that plagues Chinese character input, i.e., one must first convert the characters to pinyin. Including both the characters and their pinyin romanization increases the size of the index considerably, and thus the cost of the book, as well. And even if pinyin indexes were to become common, it is doubtful they would be taken advantage of to the extent that indexes in English books are, simply because of the added layer of processing involved. At some point the trade-off becomes too great, and readers will prefer to flip through the pages to find the desired passage, or simply to mark everything important in the margins. Given all this, is there any doubt why Chinese publishers choose not to incur this extra cost and hassle? Of course, the general readership of China is not rising up to demand indexes, simply because they have never had the opportunity to use them, and cannot imagine the convenience they are being deprived of.


Folksonomies: writing chinese sinology

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China:Country (0.909044 (negative:-0.279995)), China.:Country (0.440736 (negative:-0.516651))

Chinese character (0.965626): website | dbpedia | opencyc | yago
Chinese language (0.949997): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc | yago
Classical Chinese (0.618876): dbpedia | freebase | yago
Unicode (0.556365): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc | yago
China (0.549957): geo | dbpedia | ciaFactbook | freebase
Chinese input methods for computers (0.545232): dbpedia | freebase
Pinyin (0.537729): dbpedia | freebase | yago
Vernacular Chinese (0.488151): dbpedia

 The “Invisible” Writing on the Wall
Electronic/World Wide Web>Blog:  Moser, David (8/19/2006), The “Invisible” Writing on the Wall, Retrieved on 2014-07-23
  • Source Material []
  • Folksonomies: sinology


    07 AUG 2012


    Studies in Chinese classical literature and philosophy.