Amazon announced that it has scanned 120,000 books which will allow people to search for terms inside of those books (see explanation of how it works). Some people heralded this as “revolutionary.” I figured it was useful, but not revolutionary.
Well, I’m starting to think that it is at least “incredibly useful.” For example, William Safire’s On Language column in yesterday’s New York Times was about former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson’s use of the phrase “frog-marched” in reference to Karl Rove.
Safire pointed out that Wilson didn’t really know what the term meant (“Wilson’s own understanding of the phrase he popularized was ‘two guys, one on either side, marching somebody out.”). I was wondering how this term had been used in popular literature, and that’s when it occurred to me to use the new Amazon feature. And I pulled up a bunch of examples, including this one. Okay, now I get it. I can search literature using Amazon in the same way I can search the web using Google. Like I said, that could be incredibly useful.
Wired has a good article on the new Amazon feature that suggests it is indeed revolutionary. Apparently, however, not everyone is a fan of this useful/revolutionary service. That includes Professor Bainbridge.