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Using Amazon to Keyword Search & "Shepardize" Books

Have you noticed some of the really cool features in Amazon.com lately? Although only available for books in which they have scanned the full text (you can tell by the "Search Inside" logo above the book's photo), this number is growing rapidly.

Back in September, I wrote about some neat statistical comparison features in the "Inside This Book" section. This includes statistically improbably phrases (book's distinctive phrases), a concordance of oft-used words (in a neat word-could format) and readability calculations.

The other day, someone clued me into a couple other useful features. Did you know that you can keyword search the full-text of books in Amazon? When you come upon a book that's available in full-text, just mouse over the book's image to get a search box - or click on the image to bring up a search page. To test it, go to the Amazon record for the book above, The Devil in the White City.

Maybe this has been around for a while and I've just been clueless - I don't know. I thought that the "search inside" thing was just for the first few pages and table of contents. Don't get me wrong - that's useful too, but not as cool as keyword searching the whole book.

Another useful feature I learned about is the Citations section (think "Shepardizing" for books). According to Amazon:

  • If a book cites two other books, we show you which two books it cites, and provide links to the pages in the book where the citations first appear.
  • If a book is cited by two other books, we show you which two books cite it, and provide links to the pages in those books where the citations appear.
One caveat here is that the "Books that cite this book" function only works for other books that are Appleby on Amazon in full text. But, still, this could be pretty darn useful.

Thanks to UW-Madison librarian, Amy Kindschi, for sharing this information at the campus libraries Reference Retreat.