Amazon Introduces (sort of)<br>A New Search Engine with<br>“Search Inside the Book”
By Michael Stillman
Amazon-Dot-Com, the world’s largest bookseller, is sort-of making another move beyond its core business. Of course Amazon moved well beyond that core ages ago. A look at their website today reveals a myriad of categories beyond books from which to buy: apparel, electronics, toys, home and garden, tools and hardware. As I look at their site this morning, I also see offers for software, the Star Wars DVD, music (or should that be “music”?), a digital camera, and gourmet food. What don’t they sell? But, a search engine? This seems surprising even for Amazon, but here it is. Amazon is testing its own search engine.
This is clearly still in the test phase. Amazon has not made any major announcements. At least in its initial stages, they have been content to make a few oblique references, just enough to allow a few people to try it and generate some feedback. The search page itself is labeled “Beta,” computerese for “this is not yet ready for prime time,” and the site and company name is “A9.com, Inc.,” not Amazon. I’m not sure, but that “A” probably stands for “Amazon.” It’s only at the bottom of the page that it states that A9 is “an Amazon.com company.”
So what is the point of another search engine? What does “A9” do that others don’t? Well, a couple of things. First, Amazon gives you three columns of search results instead of one. The first is a normal internet search. The results are primarily supplied by Google, so the results in this column are almost the same as those you get on a Google search. Almost. I did a search for “William Rufus King” (Franklin Pierce’s vice-president) and found these differences. First, Google sometimes shows second pages from a site. A9 does not. The advantage of seeing another page is it lets you quickly locate the reference you want on that second page. The disadvantage is it reduces the number of different sites that show up on a page, so it may take longer to review all of your results.
The next difference I found is that some sites are really PDF files. If you click on the link, it downloads the file onto your computer. You may not want this. Google states when it is a PDF file, and in most cases, allows you to look at the file as HTML (which means you aren’t creating a file on your computer). Amazon does not tell you this. You click on the link, assuming it’s a website, and it downloads a file on your computer.