Amazon Advanced Book Search Features

6/25/2008 By:

Recently I mentioned a little-known feature of Amazon.com's "Search Inside" tool that will produce a tag cloud of the 100 most—frequently used words in a book offered by Amazon. This Concordance feature is just one of the tools available to students and teachers from Amazon. Below is another example of how teachers and students may use Amazon to find out more about the books they are reading.

Some of our fourth-graders read a book that was also available on Amazon.com – John Reynolds's Gardiner's Stone Fox. It is a great story—about a Wyoming boy named Willie living with his ailing grandfather on a potato farm and facing some hard times—and I recommend it for your younger readers.

As part of a culminating project, one student was creating a board game based on the book, but she couldn't recall the name of a character, the hero's teacher. Since this is a novel, there was no index. I suggested we try to find it using Amazon.com's Search Inside.

I had already showed her group how to get more information about a book from Amazon, including reviews, bibliographic information, etc. We brought the book's page up and selected the Search Inside feature. Then we entered the search term "teacher," and up came a listing of pages where that word could be found in the book, along with an excerpt highlighting the term. We discovered that on page 43, we are first introduced to Willie's teacher, Miss Williams. Basically Search Inside acts as an index for any book for which Amazon offers Search Inside (not all books, unfortunately).

As for tag clouds, the "Concordance" part of Search Inside claims: "for an alphabetized list of the most frequently occurring words in a book, excluding common words such as "of" and "it." The font size of a word is proportional to the number of times it occurs in the book. Hover your mouse over a word to see how many times it occurs, or click on a word to see a list of book excerpts containing that word."

This comes in handy when creating a vocabulary list associated with a particular book. You will also find information including reading level, complexity, number of characters, words and sentences and some fun stats such a words per dollar and words per ounce.

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