October 23, 2003

What the Hell is Amazon Thinking???

So Amazon.com has turned on some fabulous new feature. Search inside a book. Allows you to find words that appear inside the text of a book, not just in the title and metadata. Sounds great, yes? And I'm sure it is at times.

But. the. implementation. sucks.

A lot.

Problem is its on by default with no obvious way to turn it off. And its a big problem.

How big? Well I just did a search for Kodwo Eshun who I believe has written all of one book. Amazon now returns 16 results. His book is the last of those 16 results. The proceeding 15 mention him once or twice in the text. What the fuck? That's not an improvement, that's a disaster. More popular authors return almost worthless results. Searching for Braudel and Capitalism like I did last night should give me the handful of books he wrote on the subject, not a few hundred results.

This is a mess. Its compounded by the fact that each result is now twice as long as it was a couple days ago. The lists of results are noisier then a deaf death metal band. Bad. I need to figure out how to turn this off... No luck so far. And yeah you can send email to Amazon here. I'm disappointed.

Posted by Abe at October 23, 2003 08:24 PM


Just choose the More Search Options link and you get the standard Amazon search by Author or whatever page...

Searching for Kodwo Eshun returns 2 books that way...

Well, their old system wasn't that great in the first place. If you wanted to look for, say, a band like "The Fall" you'd be swamped with thousands of other CDs all of which had the word "fall" in it. And seriously, who needs to look for something based on the actual text? If you haven't read the book what do you need that for?

Well, thanks to Joi Ito's ego surfing post I did discover that some of my work appears in a book I had no idea about. Unfortunately my name appears on a different page then the image, so I have no idea what they used... I suspect in the right context this is a great research tool. In the right context, which is not as the default setting of the generic search box...

The key thing here though is they need a better search algorithm. The balance is off, and while jand is right you can do advanced searches, you really shouldn't have to. Seriously how hard is it for Amazon to realize that the Author and Title fields should be weighted far higher then random text on a random page?