Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Search Engine Review: Covering Photography

Covering Photography is a search engine I heard about in a recent edition of Research Buzz, a great newsletter that comes out every week. If you don't have a subscription and you're interested in keeping up with the world of search I highly recommend it.

But anyway. Covering Photography covers book covers- the photographs on them, anyway. From the home page:
Covering Photography is a web-based archive and resource for the study of the relationship between the history of photography and book cover design. The images / book covers contained in our database may be accessed via a number of categories including by Photographer, Author, Publisher, Publication Date and Designer.
It's a neat little resource. The home page is illustrated to look like a flattened book cover. It features a keyword search and allows users to browse by photographer, author, publisher, publication date and designer. There's no information on the about page as to the specifics of the scope or coverage, but from browsing I can see that the database covers classic authors like Thomas Hardy, bestsellers like John Grisham, literary highbrows like Margaret Atwood and popular figures like Pamela Anderson. Publication dates range from 1949 to the present although not every date in that range is represented.

Searching by keyword seems a little tricky. I'm not sure how keywords or search terms are assigned to the covers and it took me a few tries to get results. The words that seemed to work best were terms that described the photos rather than terms of images that appear in the photos- "nude" worked well, for example; "cat" did not. Terms that describe the genre of the books worked well also, like "poetry" or "mystery". Keyword searches will also pull results from words in the title. The advanced search allows a user to exclude words and search by phrase, also helpful. Users can also search by phrase in the simple search by enclosing the terms with quotation marks.

If a user browses the results come back as a list of cover photos; if the user is searching by keyword or in advanced mode, results come back as a text-based list of titles. Since the engine is meant as a database of photos, I think it would be neat to present all results by cover photo instead. But as the creator says in the about page, it's a work in progress so maybe that's something we have to look forward to.

Covering Photography is likely a good resource for photography and book professionals; for the average, non-pro bibliophile, it's a fun resource for browsing and time-killing. Go take a look.

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