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Amazon.com as the Librarian’s Assistant for Book Analysis

By Terry Cavanaugh - Posted Jan 1, 2007
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While you might not have noticed, Amazon.com's online bookstore section is supplying some excellent reading analysis resources that can be useful for teachers and students. Using its online abilities for providing more information than a regular "in-person" bookstore can, Amazon.com has added extra features to the information that it provides about its books. This useful information is much more than just the blurb on the back cover or the dust jacket. These books are identified by the Search Inside! logo on their book cover images at the Web site (see Figure 1). They have additional descriptive information and statistics about their content. The information that Amazon provides with the Search Inside! feature breaks down into three main categories beyond searching for specific terms within the book: Concordance, Text Stats, and Inside the Book.

Concordance

Concordance collections are lists (usually alphabetical) of the main words used in a book, document, or collection of work. Historically—as in the days before computers—only very special or important works ever had concordances made because of the amount of time, difficulty, and expense required to create them. But by scanning in documents and using optical character recognition tools, Amazon has created concordances for most new books as they are released. A list of the 100 most frequently occurring words in a book is created. Amazon's analysis excludes common words such as "and," "of," and "it" from the concordance. The words are listed on the screen with the text size proportional to the number of times that the word occurs in the book (see Figure 2). If you hold your mouse pointer over a word, the number of times that the word occurs is displayed. For example, in Christopher Paul Curtis' Bud, Not Buddy, the mouse hovers over the word "looked," which occurs 151 times (see Figure 2).

Teachers can use this concordance list to develop book-related word walls for their classrooms. The list can also be used for book enrichment activities, such as creating crossword or word search puzzles, by copying parts of the list into Web programs such as the one at http://puzzlemaker.school.discovery.com/WordSearchSetupForm.html. The concordance words could be used in teaching activities such as with a class-developed KWL (know, want to know, learned), as part of a prediction prereading activity, or for vocabulary mapping.

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This article is available in its entirety in a variety of formats — Preview (free), Full Text, Text+Graphics, and Page Image PDF — on a pay-per-view basis, courtesy of ITI's InfoCentral. CLICK HERE.


 
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