Is scanning the indices of all your books worth the effort?

I’ve been thinking about scanning in the indexes to all my books, so that I have a sense of where everything is. I have a Scansnap SV600 scanner-- and a few hundred nonfiction books.

Has anybody done anything similar, and if so, was it worth the labor? Can devonthink make sense of just the index?

Probably no.

Make sense of the index in what way?

I have about 20.000 PDF indexed in several databases and do searches over all content, not only each document TOC.

It’s not as involved as scanning in ones entire library page by page. But it is a lot of work. I’m wondering if the expected results (e.g obtaining a list of possibly relevant books) are worth the effort. Indexes are after all, sparse, and prone to OCR errors.

I wouldn’t think this would end up being worth the effort, personally.

I do capture tables of contents for books but I could see that it might be useful to grab the indices as well in some circumstances.

Whilst DTP is my catch all repository for all kinds of papers, news items, links and so forth, I don’t include my book library in it.

I have a “knowledge base” built in the TheBrain which sits alongside DTP and Zotero. It is there that I consider the c. 650 books in my professional library of books. My “knowledge base” is for more settled notes rather than work in progress so to speak (which is often in DTP)

I capture tables of contents on a case by case basis as I’m reading or reviewing a book in my library and elaborating my ideas in TheBrain. If I think it useful, I capture the ToC into a note on a book node. Later I might break out some or all of the chapters into further notes or connected nodes. (One can often find the relevant ToCs in digital formats on the web which can be quite quickly copied)

The bibliographic data comes from Zotero which can export in TheBrain format so that gives me the basis on which to work. I sometimes link papers from DTP or import them but mainly this is centred on books.

I’ve not previously thought of capturing the indices of books but that could be interesting. I think those would be better in DTP rather than TheBrain as DTP has search and suggesting features which could allow one to identify topic clusters from common terms, e.g. ‘decision making’.


I would not expect a complete index to be useful to you. Better would be to capture what few things you found especially valuable from each book and exactly where more detail can be explored.

Compare your index to a Google search. There is a huge amount of information on the web for nearly any topic. When you perform a search, you do not read through all the results found by Google because they are not all of equal value. The results presented are ordered by a quality metric built into Google’s alogrithm.

You likely want to do the same thing with your DEVONthink database. Your manual indexing effort will force you to focus only on the highest quality references.

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