February 7, 2004
Vol. IV, No. 5
"Amazon.com Gives Back"
Without a doubt, the Internet is a wonderful thing but there are times when the frustration outweighs the convenience. For instance, many times when I perform a search on a topic, a large percentage of the returned results are books at Amazon.com. That doesn't do me much good since I can't see inside the books and I certainly can't buy a book every time I need a piece of information.
The good news is that Amazon.com has started a program called Search Inside the Book. It was brought to my attention by an article in Wired magazine, "The Great Library of Amazonia" (see Articles Library below). Search Inside the Book allows you to search the contents of approximately 200,000 books that Amazon.com has scanned into a database (approximately the number of books in a typical brick and mortar store). While other programs also offer the contents of books online (see Featured Links below), they tend to focus on old and out-of-print books. What makes Amazon.com's program different is that it offers the ability to search the contents of popular and current titles. Here's how it works:
For demonstration purposes I chose a topic that would give a good set of results. Let's search the contents of books in the database for references to JS Bach's father. Click on this link:
In the "Search Books" box on the upper left-hand side of the page, type in Johann Ambrosius Bach. Each of the books in the list of results is accompanied by an excerpt from that book with your search word(s) highlighted. You can click on that reference or click to see a list of all references in that book.
If you click on say page 14 link of "The Cambridge Companion to Bach," you will be taken to a scanned page of that book. It's big enough to read on screen and you can browse a few pages in either direction. If you want to read an extensive excerpt you would have to buy the book which, I guess, is how Amazon.com intends to pay for the program.
Once you're in a particular book, you can search for other words. For instance, in "The Cambridge Companion to Bach," searching on the word Tempo yields some profitable reading. I first used Search Inside the Book while reading Conroy's "Body and Soul." It enabled me to quickly find a particular character's first appearance in the story. Search Inside the Book may not entirely revolutionize research but it is a welcome addition to the tools at our disposal.
Click this link to read comments and offer your own:
Added are the Paul Fritts organ at Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, New Jersey, and the Charles M. Ruggles organ at Lakewood Presbyterian Church in Lakewood, Ohio.
Added is Project Gutenberg which has been around since 1971 and specializes in plain-text versions of non-copyrighted literature and reference books. They do not offer much in the way of music-related texts but I have used them to download classics by Edgar Rice Burroughs and Jules Verne.
Also added is the Million Book Project which specializes in older titles. Accessing their offerings is a bit more complicated because you have to download and install a browser plug-in. However, if that doesn't discourage you, they have a bit more in the way of music-related books and even scores. A search on Bach resulted in Johann Nikolaus Forkel's biography of JS Bach (otherwise out of print) and Hermann Keller's "The Well-Tempered Clavier" (also out of print)
Added is "The Cambridge Companion to Bach," edited by John Butt and Jonathan Cross. "The Cambridge Companion to Bach goes beyond a basic life-and-works study to provide a late-twentieth-century perspective on J. S. Bach the man and composer. Benefiting from the insights and research of some of the most distinguished Bach scholars, this Companion covers cultural, social and religious contexts, surveys and analyzes Bach's compositional style, traces his influence, and considers the performance and reception of his music through the succeeding generations."
Added is the article from Wired magazine mentioned above: "The Great Library of Amazonia." "The fondest dream of the information age is to create an archive of all knowledge. You might call it the Alexandrian fantasy, after the great library founded by Ptolemy I in 286 BC. Through centuries of aggressive acquisition, the librarians of Alexandria, Egypt, collected hundreds of thousands of texts. None survives. During a final wave of destruction, in AD 641, invaders fed the bound volumes and papyrus scrolls into the furnaces of the public baths, where they are said to have burned for six months. 'The lesson,' says Brewster Kahle, founder of the Internet Archive, 'is to keep more than one copy.'"
WHAT I'M READING..."All the Stops: The Glorious Pipe Organ and Its American Masters" by Craig R. Whitney. I've made good progress, finishing off the lengthy introduction as well as the first four chapters. Never having had time to focus on organ history, this book has been very helpful in filling the gaps in my knowledge, some I didn't even know I had. Click the link below for more information on this book:
Click this link to see all selections in Dan's Book Club:
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Have a great week and take a walk on the inside!
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