Q. The CMOS standard is to paginate front matter with lowercase roman numerals, and then use arabic numerals in the text and back matter. This causes a problem when I publish an electronic book in PDF format. PDF numbers the book sequentially, ignoring the different numbering of the front matter. Reading between the lines in CMOS 16, I have come to believe that numbering the front matter separately is a historical artifact. When the text was written first, followed by the front and back matter, and all were done mechanically, one could not number everything sequentially from the title page. In these electronic times, though, sequential numbering takes seconds, literally. Why then use a separate numbering scheme for front matter?
A. This “historical artifact” is still useful in printed books. Chicago books use roman numerals for front matter because it’s still common for pages to be inserted or deleted after the book is typeset (a dedication page is suddenly needed; a promised preface doesn’t arrive), and having to repaginate the entire book is expensive. In addition, a change in pagination in late production could cause inaccuracies in the index. In PDF, repaginating is a snap, but if there is a back-of-the-book index, reindexing may or may not be easy, depending on how the index was compiled.