Amazon Content Search
Amazon has recently (I write this on 10/23/2003) begun to offer a new search service: on any of their pages that sport their search widgets, if you select the search for books, the results returned include not merely books whose titles and keywords match your search terms. The contents of the books are searched as well, and the results show you an excerpt where your search terms appear. If you merely try it a few times the deep value of this service starts to sink in; it should be a boon to research.
I was first alerted to this great service by Gavin Bell, who correctly pointed out, I think, that “most of the world’s knowledge is still in books;” however, the 120,000 books included in Amazon’s search are such a small fraction of the world’s store that, in a sense, this search service should be thought of more as a convenient window on recent works than as a comprehensive tool for scholarship. Nevertheless, it is a wonderful thing as far as it goes.