Find that quote!

Amazon has been doing this search-the-entire-book search for a few weeks now. Here is what the New York Times has to say about it: In Amazon’s Text-Search, a Field Day for Book Browsers

It sounded cool, so I tried it and discovered it really was cool. Here’s my example: for a long time I was trying to remember a quote by Stanislaw Ulam about nuclear physics and the bomb. The quote, paraphrased, was something like, “It’s amazing how a few scribbles on a blackboard can change history.” I had read it in a great big very good book called “The Making of the Atomic Bomb” by Richard Rhodes, but I don’t own the book, and I couldn’t find it on the web, so I had to make a special trip to the bookstore to find and write down that quote. So for my Amazon test, I typed

“stan ulam scribbles”

and in a few seconds I had my answer.

It is still an unending source of surprise for me to see how a few scribbles ona blackboard or on a sheet of paper could change the course of human affairs.

Read what Jon Udell has to say about Amazon’s new service. He points out one of the big advantages of the feature: getting more value out of your own library. Just as I used Napster to grab music that I owned but was too lazy to walk downstairs for, this search tool is a great way to pick information out of books on your bookshelf.

One thought on “Find that quote!”

  1. Here’s mine.

    I searched for “Gully Foyle”, the hero of Alfred Bester’s “Tiger, Tiger!” (later republished as “The Stars My Destination”). The most interesting hit for this name was in “Reading by Starlight: Postmodern Science Fiction”. In this passage, the author is saying that Samuel R. Delany references Gully Foyle’s ship, the Vorga, when he names his character “Korga”. I believe this because “The Stars My Destination” was on the required reading list in Delany’s “Intro to SF” class I took at UMass Amherst.

    This type of full-text search is gold for all sorts of researchers, especially in topics for which there is no comprehensive index. I hope they continue to build their index.

    Amazon seems to have a strategy where they keep adding interesting features just to get people on their site, even if it isn’t exactly clear how they are going to make money from it. Google does the same thing. Early indications are that it is working for both of them.

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