Searching The Old Book Sites&#58;<br>Just Who Is The Best?

- by Michael Stillman

ILAB provides a keyboard of non-English characters to use in searches.

Amazon is the largest bookseller, if you include new and old, and when you look at their site, you wonder how they do it. The obvious answer is they got there first, built a huge audience with the dollars gathered during the internet stock "bubble," so everyone goes there. They also sell new books more cheaply than the typical bricks and mortar store with which they compete. Still, I cannot imagine how they would do it without the advantage of being there first with the most dollars to spend. Perhaps they would still do all right with new books, but old books? This is one confusing site, a cacophony of attempts to sell you everything under the sun. This morning when I visited, and evidently based on the information they have about me, the first item they tried to sell me was a coffeemaker. I guess they do know what I like, but they don't know my lazy work habits. I prefer the ease of preparation and clean up that comes with instant coffee. Sorry, Amazon, but you missed this time.

The first step with Amazon is to locate the "Books" tab at the top of the page. That brought me to a search box where I could search either "Books," "Used Books," "Collectible Books," or "Bargain Books." Huh? What if I'm looking for something that is all four? Since I prefer a search where I can place terms in various fields such as "title" and "author," rather than a single field, I clicked on "Advanced Search" instead. This gives a well-designed search page into which I entered the author and title for the first book on my list, Howard Stansbury's 1855 Expedition to the Great Salt Lake. I click "search" and Amazon responds with four titles by Lemony Snicket. Say what? Was Snicket one of the early Mormon pioneers?

After awhile, I realize the Snicket snippets are recommendations, not matches. My account is actually in my wife's name, and Amazon has determined that she likes Lemony Snicket books. This is something not even I knew about her. This is scary. What other secrets of hers can I find? Here's what. Everything she's ever purchased from Amazon. What I haven't been able to find yet is a copy of the Expedition to the Great Salt Lake. We’ll get back to this in a moment, but for now it's time to move on to the next site.