Rare Book Monthly

Articles - February - 2004 Issue

Search Engines: A Growing Force in Books

Adall

The most conveniently organized book search engine.


By Bruce McKinney

The term book search engine would seem to be a generic term. To a layman this is a piece of software that searches your expressed criteria in the more than 25 book listing sites on the web, aggregates the results and reports them to you in a reasonable time and in a comprehensible order. In a perfect world this is true. Welcome to the real world. It isn’t quite that easy. Have you ever wondered why a search engine does what it does without asking for even a penny from you? The three search engines we are looking at in this article: Bookfinder, AddAll and UsedBookSearch are free to use and at the same time make a living by directing would-be buyers to listing sites that pay commissions. These commissions are quite small so the process needs to be fully automated. The buyer searches. The search engine locates specific titles on the various sites they search and links would-be buyers to them. For this they get a few pennies. It’s a tough business.

Each of these search engines has a specific group of sites they search. No, they don’t search exactly the same sites though there are five listings sites they all search (in green). The listing sites that each search engine searches are listed in columns (see page two).

Bookfinder lists the most used-book sites as “partners”: 40. UsedBookSearch of the UK lists 13 sites they search and AddAll lists 16 they search. Bookfinder mentions that it searches 50 million titles, UsedBookSearch 45 million, and AddAll simply describes their coverage as 40 bookstores, 20,000 book dealers and millions of books. They are all substantial but they are not the same. How they differ is important to understand and let’s start with this. For the three titles we searched the total number of matches found by UsedBookSearch was 1,002, Bookfinder 89, and AddAll 335.

In searching the complex inventories of the listing sites each search engine takes a unique approach. UsedBookSearch makes a serious effort to show you every match available on the sites they search. It can be slow but if you wait you’ll see a great deal of material. AddAll seems to be running against a clock. Their searches are quite fast but they accomplish this by limiting some of the matches if the total material they locate is substantial. For uncommon books this is rarely the case. Bookfinder creates files of matches rather than a single list, obscuring the fact that they aren’t providing as many matches as the other search engines.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>19th Century Shop’s Catalog 170 Great Books and Photos. Please inquire for a copy.</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Exodus 10:10 to 16:15. Complete Biblical scroll sheet in Hebrew, a Torah scroll panel. Middle East, ca. 10th or 11th century.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Copernicus Refuted. (Astronomy.). Scientific manuscript of a course of studies at Collège de la Trinité, Lyon. 1660s.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Israel’s War of Independence and the Early Days of the IDF. 58 photographs presented to Israel Ber, IDF officer and later convicted spy.
    <b>19th Century Shop’s Catalog 170 Great Books and Photos. Please inquire for a copy.</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Early Unpublished Darwin letter on the races of man. Autograph Letter Signed [to Henry Denny]. Down, Kent, June 1, [1844].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Classic Image of American Slavery. Kimball, M. H. <i>Emancipated Slaves</i>. New York: George Hanks, 1863.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> (Underground Railroad.) Scaggs, Isaac. Important Runaway Slave Poster: $500 Reward Ran away, or decoyed from the subscriber…
  • <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Newton. <i>Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica</i>. London, 1687.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Josephus. <i>De antiquitate Judaica.</i> Lubeck, 1475-76.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Carlerius. <i>Sporta fragmentorum, Sportula fragmentorum</i>. Brussels, 1478-79.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Fridolin. <i>Der Schatzbehalter</i>. Nuremberg, 1491.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Pinder. <i>Der beschlossen gart des rosenkrantz marie</i>. Nuremberg, 1505.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Isidorus Hispalensis. <i>Synonyma de Homine</i>. Nuremberg, 1470-71.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Durer. Sammelband including <i>Underweysung der messing</i>. Nuremberg, 1525-29.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries: Fall 2017 Auction Schedule</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 19: 19th & 20th Century Prints & Drawings</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 28: Printed & Manuscript Americana</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 5: African-American Fine Art</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries: Fall 2017 Auction Schedule</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 17: Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 19:<br>Art & Storytelling: Photographs & Photobooks</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 26: Rare & Important Travel Posters</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries: Fall 2017 Auction Schedule</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 2:<br>Old Master Through Modern Prints</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 7: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 14: 19th & 20th Century Literature</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries: Fall 2017 Auction Schedule</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 16: Contemporary Art</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 5:<br>Maps & Atlases, Natural History & Color Plate Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 14: Illustration Art</b>
  • <b>Announcing a new Books for Sale platform hosted by Biblio</b>
    <b>List your books simultaneously on Rare Book Hub and Biblio</b>

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions