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Amazon.com's text search revolution.

Amazon.com recently introduced a much-anticipated feature--"Search Inside the Book"--on its Web site that enables customers to search the entire text of electronic copies of books. The feature currently allows Amazon.com visitors to search and browse for words on more than 33 million pages of over 120,000 books, with more titles becoming available every day.

The service enables customers to type a word, name, or phrase, and receive a list of instances of those words appearing in the pages of one of the books. With a single click, users can access an image of the page on which the search word or phrase appears. Users can view two pages on either side of the citation but can't print the results. Still, the service may render long, tedious library searches all but useless.

To produce its huge digital catalog, Amazon acquired the consent of more than 190 book publishers, who agreed to let Amazon post electronic copies of some of their books on its site.

Amazon executives say the search capability will encourage customers to purchase more books, but publishers have expressed fears that allowing people to search complete copies of books will hinder sales. There are also concerns about whether publishers have the right to let Amazon reproduce so many pages of authors' works.

The recent Newsweek article "Welcome to History 2.0" noted that "we are now on the threshold of a system by which all books are scanned--eventually including even hard-to-find, out-of-print volumes--with their contents instantly accessible ... 'Search inside the book' is part of a revolution made possible by the digitalization of, well, everything. By basing information on a binary lingua franca, it's now possible to sift through masses of data to find just what you need."

According to the article, the next step in the revolution is to make information considered "unarchivable" searchable, too. With the Web, inexpensive storage, powerful computers, and smart software, some predict that physical libraries may soon become obsolete.
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Title Annotation:Up front: news trends & analysis
Author:Swartz, Nikki
Publication:Information Management Journal
Date:Jan 1, 2004
Words:330
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