Google book search spruced up

Google book search is undergoing a much needed improvement. Unfortunately, its book search engine is not like the main Google search engine. On Google book search, you have to have a pretty good idea of the book you are looking for when you start to search. You can’t just enter a couple of relevant keywords and get returns for lots of near shots. Instead you get returns of books that have titles with your keywords in them.

I find this very strange, because when Google ran Amazon’s search engine, you could key in a few flaky, half-remembered words from a book title or subject, and you’d probably get what you were looking for in the returns on screen 1 or if not, 2. Amazon has now (deliberately) fallen out with Google and runs on A9, its own search engine, which drives me crazy. (Amazon has great plans for A9 beyond selling stuff on Amazon: they see themselves as rivals to Google. Ha!)

But I digress. The Amazon history shows that Google can do it for books. There is a niche, I am convinced of it, for people looking for a dimly remembered book via a few keywords. When I was a student I used to work in the vacations as a bookseller in Blackwell’s. I have lost count of the number of times a customer would wander in and say something like: "I’m looking for the book that was on that table about a year ago, or maybe two. It was blue and about this big [gestures with hands]. Do you still have it?" Ask the customer what the book was about, and he (invariably a male) looked at you as if you were a bit mad. And if you have ever been in Blackwell’s, and have an idea of the size of its stock, you will know who was the mad one.

All this is a rather convoluted way of saying I’m very pleased Google is paying attention to its book search,  and although some of the new features are not much cop (eg who needs more of that "search inside this book" rubbish?), some of them are said to be ways to make it easier to find the book in the first place. So I’ll be checking it out.

Incidentally, while on search, and moving from the sublimely grand to ridiculously minuscule (but pleasing to me), I’ve installed a new "widget" in the left-hand sidebar, a Google search of this blog (that’s the real Google search, not the Google book search type of search). I have performed detailed testing and it really works, unlike the Technorati equivalent, which simply drags you out of here and dumps you in the Technorati wastelands for evermore looking at pictures of Arianna Huffington. So if you put in a keyword or two into that Google search box thingy in my sidebar, and I’ve written posts using that keyword or two, you will find my words of wisdom, and what’s more still be in Petrona.

Interconnected book blogging

My posting of my Case Histories review at the Metaxucafe "litblog network" (the quotes are because I can’t think of myself as being a "litblogger", sounds too important) has resulted in a comment from David Thayer, who says: "Maxine, if your found CASE HISTORIES disappointing at the end ONE GOOD TURN may disappoint sooner. There is plenty of marvelous prose, some great scenes but not much narrative drive."

And wouldn’t you know, a review of One Good Turn has just popped up — on The Millions blog.  "Where Case Histories was dark and brooding, ………One Good Turn is antic and madcap", writes C. Max Magee. I’ve already put One Good Turn on my Christmas list and sent said list off up the chimney to Santa Claus (sorry, Debra),  I can’t do a product recall, so I’ll just have to grin and enjoy the "confection" if it appears under the tree.

While on the topic of Metaxucafe, by the way, the best comment on the tedious OJ book saga is there, by the irrepressible Steve of Sand Storm, whose laconic yet spot-on humour is often to be found in blog comments wherever you go . Thanks for the smile, Steve.

Kimbofo at Reading Matters reviews Christine Falls and gives it 4 stars. She writes of author Benjamin Black (aka John Banville): "he has toned down his usual feats of literary flamboyance: the writing is very immediate and easy to comprehend, so there’s no need to keep a dictionary at hand." (I’ve just discovered that Kimbofo has another blog, Kimbofo, whose template is the very same black template that I applied to Petrona for about 24 hours, until I was forced by reader demand to return to white. I can therefore pop over to Kimbofo every now and again when I am feeling nostalgic — and those of you who missed Petrona in black can see what you are missing by visiting there too.)

One thing about this lovely big type is that it makes posts very long, so I will stop here and return later to write more in another post if I have the time and energy before I fall asleep.

Design dithering

Thanks to everyone who commented during the 24-hour period in which Petrona was black (Clare, you made your comment after I’d switched back, your eyes weren’t deceiving you). As this move was overwhelmingly unpopular, I’ve customised the design a bit by upgrading into a sort of "nervous nellie" Typepad user — not a basic user and not a "pro", but somewhere in the middle, for a "somewhere in the middle" price.

Susan Barr and I can’t read Typepad’s "medium" font size, so I have set the current design’s default at "large".

Please let me know what you think. I am no designer, but have tried to achieve a readable, clear look.

For those who like dark backgrounds, you can see what you think of greeny turquoise at Loopholes of Retreat, or of blue at the Refreshing Tree.