It’s easy to add a table of contents to an ebook. But how do you add an index to a digital book?
For print books, you can create an index easily and automatically with most word processors. It will be in alphabetical order with page references.
But an ebook doesn’t have page numbers, so you need to create a hyperlinked index.
When a reader clicks on an ebook index entry, it will take them to the word or phrase in the text.
Add an ebook index
A table of contents is easy to create. If you use headings such as Heading 2 for your chapter titles, you can insert an automatic table of contents.
Most ebook publishing platforms recognize these headings, so you often don’t even need to create one in your manuscript.
However, unlike adding an index to a print book, you can’t one at the end of an ebook automatically. You will need to create your index manually.
It’s not difficult, and you can use Microsoft Word, Apple Pages, or any other word processor.
If you are publishing fiction books, you would rarely bother. But for authors of nonfiction books, an index is often a necessary element.
You might have an index in your print book and would like to replicate it for your digital version.
If you follow the steps below, you can start building a clickable index for ebook files by creating jump links.
Step One: Create an ebook index page
At the end of your manuscript, add a new page and give it a title.
You would probably use the word Index. Then format it to Heading 2, so it will show in your table of contents.
After that, add your alphabet index headings in normal text.
You could use groups such as A-K, L-Q, R-Z if your index is relatively short.
Step Two: Bookmark a word or phrase
Within the text of your book, find a word you want to add to the index. You can use the Find search tool in your word processor to locate words.
Select the word or phrase, and then click Bookmark from the Insert menu dropdown.
You can see that I have chosen the word crime.
In the Bookmark Name field, type in a name for your entry. If it is more than one word, you can’t have any spaces.
So if your entry is Mount Everest, you will need to type in, mounteverest.
Click Add, and you are ready to create your first index entry.
Step Three: Add an index entry
Type in your entry in your index.
You can see below where I have added the entry, Crime.
Select your word, and then from the Insert menu, select Hyperlink. (For Apple Pages, select Add Link and Bookmark from the Format menu.)
From the popup box, select your Bookmark.
You may need to click on Document, then Locate, then the dropdown arrow for Bookmarks.
Click, OK, and you have created your first index entry.
You will see that the entry is now a blue hyperlink.
Repeat the same procedure for all the entries your need to add to your ebook index.
Step Four: Multiple index entries
It’s common to have multiple listings in an index. On a print page, you would have the indexed word followed by the page numbers for its location.
For example: Imagination, 7, 34, 96, 175.
But this is not possible in indexes for ebooks. The only workaround is to create numbered entries. When you bookmark a word multiple times, add sequential numbers.
For example: imagination1, imagination2, imagination3
Then, when you add the bookmarked word to your index, use Imagination (1), Imagination (2), Imagination (3).
You can format your entries in one line, or on separate lines.
You could also choose to only link the word and not the number in brackets.
Imagination (1), Imagination (2), Imagination (3).
This allows more space for a reader to click the entry.
Step Five: Test your ebook index
When you finish creating your index, it will work in any ebook format, including mobi and epub files.
You can do a quick check by uploading your manuscript to Kindle Create.
Scroll down to your index, and click on a link. If your jump link index is working correctly, it will jump to the entry location in your ebook.
You can also use Calibre to convert your Word file to .mobi and .epub so you can check your index on your Kindle, the Kindle App, or iBooks on your iPad.
Digital indexes are easy to create, although it is a little bit time-consuming compared to a print index.
But if you want to give your ebook readers the same experience as your paperback readers, it is worth the effort to create a jump link index.
The ebook is a great innovation. But there are still some restrictions, including the creation of any form of automatic indexing.
So until the technology improves, the only way to have indexes present in an ebook is to create them manually.