Monday, September 3, 2007

Search Engine Review:

A new search engine launched recently, designed to help readers find short (200 pages or less) books on the topic of their choice, called The premise is simple: "read less. get more," the site says. From the home page:
"Ever read a book that was a few hundred pages longer than it needed to be? Yeah, so have we. Fortunately, there are authors out there that would rather have a concise and effective book than a lengthy and diluted tome, and that's where we come in."
The interface is simple and easy to read. The home page includes the search box, a brief description of the site and a clickable cloud at the bottom with sample "popular searches."

Simply type your topic into the search box at the top left and the engine returns results on a new page. Additional features include new and used prices, a link to buy the book from Amazon, rating stars (this feature is not yet enabled in the beta version), number of pages, graphics to indicate the length in visual terms- one page for each 50 pages- and a link to get a blurb.

It's cute, although the results seemed a little haphazard. A search for "russia" returned some good, on-topic results- the first two results were Afghanistan: A Russian Soldier's Story and Adopting Alyosha : A Single Man Finds a Son in Russia. The rest of the hits, nine in all, made sense. I did a couple of other searches that also returned reasonable hits. The results made sense to me if the engine was doing a topical approach but then I did a search for "library" and "libraries," to see how the engine would handle a search that might not get as many keyword-in-title type hits. The results seemed to confirm that the engine was using the search term as a keyword and not as a subject.

The first result was The Prophet (Kahlil Gibran Pocket Library Series), which has nothing to do with libraries and probably was included because the word library appears in the title. The next four books were children's books and I couldn't figure out what any of them have to do with libraries, especially the second one, Click, Clack, Moo: Cows that Type. I did several other searches for words like "quilting" and "Woolf" (as in Virginia) and "embroidery" and got a variety of mostly-useful results.

I think that LazyLibrary is a fun little tool somewhat useful for finding quick reads in nonfiction, if only because fiction tends to be longer than 200 pages and might be tougher to search by topic. It might be of interest to librarians for light readers-advisory work and to general readers for quick searches and entertainment. I would be interested to know more about the folks behind the site and exactly from where they're pulling their results. How closely is the site affliated with Amazon is one question I have. I'll check back on it now and then and see how it's coming.

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