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Great Science-Fiction
& Fantasy Works

science-fiction & fantasy literature:
a critical list with discussions

Search Amazon For New Books

"I can find, above and under ground."

--Tales From Earthsea,
Ursula K. Le Guin

Note! In future, you don't need to scroll through this whole page to get to the Search Box: you can just click this Jump to Search Box link. But you should read all this at least once: I put it here for a reason!

Notes On Searching Amazon

The Search Box that is what this page is all about is simple and intuitive enough that you should be able to use it with no explanations at all. But there are all sorts of little things to know that can make your search experience more powerful and less prone to mistakes, so you really should carefully read the material here at least once before actually using the Search Box. This information is mostly about the way Amazon handles searches--not about any quirks of the software I use to query Amazon from your entries here and display the data Amazon sends back--so most of it will be helpful to you whether you're using this page or sometime just searching Amazon's own site directly.

The "Search Box" below has two areas: required "search for" data and optional "how to search" data.

The "Required" Data

In the "required" area, you must enter something in at least one of the entry areas--Author, Title, Publisher, Subject, Keywords, or ISBN; you may enter data in several or all of them if you like, but there must be something somewhere. (Case does not matter.)

Note that if you specify an ISBN--because it uniquely identifies a particular edition--all other entries and option settings will be ignored on an ISBN search.

Generally, if you have exact data, such as part or all of the author's name or the title, you are better off not using the "Subject" or "Keywords" criteria: save those for wide-ranging searches for categories of books.

Author-Name "Gotchas"

Beware this: Amazon attempts to maximize hits, and thus interprets names liberally: so, if you search for, say, just author Jack Vance, you will get back in your results a wild-game cookbook by a woman named J. Carol Vance. While you can eliminate such "ringers" by using the Exact-name option, you then risk missing books that really are by Jack Vance should Amazon list any such Vance books by some variant of his name, such as "J. Vance' or "John Vance".

You can reduce false-hit problems, at least when searching for particular books, by using the author's last name only (using the Start of last name option below the name text-entry area). But you then have to beware this major defect in Amazon's database: authors whose last name is more than one word will often not produce the results you would expect. Here is an example:

There are (or at one time were) 10 editions of books by Ursula K. Le Guin with the word "wind" in their titles available new from Amazon. Doing searches with "wind" as the only title text (and the Title word(s) option checked), searches using variations of the author's name and of author-name options selected gave these results:

ALL editions found: NO editions found:
Ursula K. Le Guin
First name/initials and last name

Le Guin, Ursula K.
First name/initials and last name

Ursula K. Le Guin
Exact name

Le Guin, Ursula K.
Exact name

Ursula Le Guin
Exact name

Le Guin, Ursula
Exact name

Le Guin, (note the trailing comma)
Start of last name

Leguin (words run together)
Start of last name

Ursula Le Guin
First name/initials and last name

Le Guin, Ursula
First name/initials and last name





Le Guin (NO trailing comma)
Start of last name

(The success of the search with the last name run together--"Leguin"--is not universal: it just happened to work in this instance. Trying the same trick with Henrik Willem Van Loon as Vanloon, for example, does not work.)

The following rule appears, from my tests, to be reliable: when using only an author's last name in a search, put a comma after the name (and, of course, select the Start of last name option). You don't need the comma if the name is the usual single word, but always using the comma is a good habit to cultivate.

Title "Gotchas"

Because titles are as prone to erronous entry in Amazon's database as author names, you should at the least restrict your title-data entries to nontrivial words in the title: for example, to look for The Palace of Love, just enter "palace love" as title words.

Warning: Titles beginning with any one of the words And, Or, or Not will likely return false results. (That is because Amazon's query-parsing algorithm may, depending on the exact structure of the search request, interpret those words as logic commands affecting the way the search terms are combined, rather than as parts of the title proper.) So, for reliability, never include one of those words as the first word of a title--just omit it, being sure you have selected the Title word(s) option.

A Useful Rule

In sum, the best way to search for a particular book is to use--

author last name with a trailing comma and the Start of last name option


nontrivial title words and the Title word(s) option

If that gives you too many false hits, you'll just have to be more precise, always at some risk--albeit small--of missing some valid hits.

The "Optional" Settings

"Search in"

This search facility can look for books in any of the six national Amazon divisions: the U.S., the U.K., Canada, Germany, France, and Japan. Here, just as you imagine, is where you select which division to search.

"Sort Results by"

This controls just what you think it does. If your search is for a particular book, the default setting of Price (Low to High) is usually the most useful; if your search is likely to produce more than one title (as with, for example, a search just by author name), then Alphabetical (A-Z) is probably best. The other options are pretty much self-explanatory except Featured Items, the exact significance of which to Amazon is know only to them (try it and see).


If you want to restrict your search to books published before, during, or after some particular year, this field allows you to do so. Its default is since 1800, which should cover most default searches. You should restrict your entries here to:

  • before yyyy (where yyyy is some year--use all 4 digits);
  • during yyyy (where yyyy is some year--use all 4 digits);
  • after yyyy (where yyyy is some year--use all 4 digits);

(Other forms--such as after mm-yyyy--may work, but I suggest you keep to those suggested above; otherwise, results are unpredictable.)

"Show unavailable items as well?"

The default setting (unchecked = No) will cause the results presented to you to omit all books for which the "Availability" listed by Amazon is or includes anything that suggests that the book is not really available, and is listed by Amazon only for "historical" reasons (or to handle third-party used-book sales). That means such Amazon messages as:

  • Out of Print
  • Out of Stock
  • Special Order
  • Limited Availability
  • We are currently unable to offer this title
  • This item is currently not available
  • This item is not stocked or has been discontinued
  • Seller usually dispatches (signifies available used only)
  •  hren wir nicht oder nicht mehr - jetzt gebraucht vorbestellen
  • Actuellement indisponible

If you click a check in this Options box, all found titles will be presented, including those tagged as described above.

"Show real books only?"

The default setting (checked = Yes) will cause the results presented to you to omit all books for which the "Availability" or "Media" listed for it by Amazon is or includes anything that seems "unbooklike". That means things such as:

the "Medium" listed by Amazon is any of:
  • audio
  • board book
  • CD
  • cd rom
  • cd-rom
  • calendar
  • cards
  • digital
  • pop-up
  • poster
  • rag book
  • spiral-bound
  • kassette
or    for which the title or description includes any of:
  • adapted
  • book and charm
  • download
  • abridged
  • audio
  • blank book
  • board book
  • calendar
  • cassette
  • cd rom
  • cd-rom
  • cliffs
  • coloring
  • colouring
  • comics
  • comic book
  • big comic
  • cookbook
  • disney
  • jigsaw
  • locked diary
  • Lernmaterialien
  • mp3
  • multi media
  • multi-media
  • playscript
  • pop up
  • pop-up
  • postcard
  • tatoos
  • tattoos
  • vhs tape
  • vocal

I list those so that you can understand exactly what is being excluded. It is not impossible for a legitimate book title to contain one of the "taboo" words above, so if you are looking for such a book, turn this filter off.

"Search for missing cover images?"

Sometimes Amazon does not have an image of the cover of a particular book; often, though, such a missing image is available from a different Amazon national division. If you turn this feature On (it is Off--unchecked--by default), the search software will check each title's image and, if it does not exist, will search all the other divisions in turn to see if they have it.

The reason this is an option, and normally Off, is because such image searching will usually slow down the overall search by quite a bit. If you are not in a hurry, and want to see as many cover images as possible, you can elect to turn this featue On.

The Pushbuttons

Their functions are obvious from their titles, with this one side note: It is wise to always start each search anew by clicking the Clear Form button before entering search data, even if you are just modifying a prior search. (Some browsers "remember" settings that have apparently been changed or erased.) But note that "clearing" the search-box text entries with that button also resets the search options to their default values.

Miscellaneous Considerations

Editions Found

This Search Box does not work the same way as the similar-looking one on Amazon's own pages: this search will turn up all editions of the sought book or books, not just one example of each. To elaborate:

Normal Amazon searches usually return lists that are incomplete. That incompleteness consists in their presenting, for a given edition, only one format (that is, hardcover or paperback or audio or whatever), even when there may be others available. For example: at one time, a search from Amazon's own version of this page using John Gardner as author and Grendel as title would come back with one hit--but clicking on more... under Editions on that page would bring up a new list with nine hits! But your search from this page would always find all nine (minus any the filtering blocks) on the first go.

Search Times

This is very largely a function of Amazon's response time to the inquiries my software generates from your entries, and it can be very variable. A search that returns its first page of results in 8 to 9 seconds can, when repeated exactly only a moment later, take over a minute! It all depends on the instantaneous load on Amazon's servers when your inquiry arrives, and you can see the same sort of variability in response time just doing ordinary searches on Amazon's own site. Sorry, there's nothing you or I can do about that. (Of course, your connection speed will make a difference too, but that's a "fixed overhead".)

Cover Images

When Amazon has available an image of an edition's cover, you will see that image to the left of the book description. If no such image appears, Amazon simply doesn't have one. (When images are available, the individual-book details pages--the pages you get to by clicking on titles in a search-results list--show a much larger-sized image of the cover.)

Editions Not Found

I have already mentioned editions entered in Amazon's database with errors in either the author name or the title or both, and there are lots of such entries. Obviously, then, no search can reliably find all editions that should be matches. If you are bound and determined to try to find every available edition or title, you can use a multi-step iterative procedure: do a search by the author's name, then do a search on every title turned up in that search and look for any variant forms of the author's name, then do searches on those, and so on till you find no more variations in either author name or title--or till your patience runs out.

Another problem with Amazon's database is that sometimes books are not listed by their actual author. (One example: The Best of Avram Davidson, a selection of his work, does not include Davidson in the author listing, which shows the editor's name instead.) So, if you don't find a book you believe exists--especially if it's a collection or omnibus of some sort--try a search on just the title, or variant title forms.

Also be aware that Amazon's searches only occasionally return any omnibus volumes that contain the book you're searching for. For example, a search for author:Vance, and title word Wyst does not return the omnibus volume Alastor, which contains that and two other related novels. You can only reliably find omnibus volumes by doing an author-only search and examining all results. (Amazon does not note omnibus volumes in any special way, nor list their contents, though sometimes "Reader Comments" will contain such information.)

The "Search Box" Proper

Please be sure to read the explanatory material above before using this search facility.

Required data (there must be an entry in at least one field)
Optional (defaults as shown)
= Author
    Exact name First name/initials and last name Start of last name

Search in:

= Title
    Exact start of title Title word(s) Start(s) of title word(s)

Sort results by:

= Publisher
    Use only significant words (such as "Acme" for "Acme Publishing, Inc.")


(see notes in text above)

= Subject
    Subject word(s) Start of subject Start(s) of subject word(s)

Show unavailable items as well?
(see notes in text above)

= Keyword(s)
    Keyword word(s) Start of keyword(s)

Show real books only?
(see notes in text above)

= ISBN/ASIN    (10 characters--omit hyphens)
    (If you enter an ISBN, all other entries are ignored.)

Search for missing cover images?
(see notes in text above)

This starts the search with the current entries here.

Please be patient: this may take some seconds.

This wipes all current entries here.

it also resets all options to their default values.

You loaded this page on Friday, 21 October 2016, at 11:17 GMT
it was last modified on Thursday, 1 January 1970, at 00:00 GMT

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