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Google ebookstore – Research Tool?

[Unfortunately, the Google ebookstore no longer works this way.  A search for “W.G. Sebald” will still result in a very interesting and comprehensive assortment of books, but it is no longer always possible to easily discern why Sebald might be linked with certain titles.  The process of “mousing over” book titles no longer produces any result.]  The Google ebookstore provides an intriguing way to do an odd sort of research that anyone can take advantage of without ever buying a book.  Go to the ebookstore and type a search term in the search box at the top right.  For example, typing “W.G. Sebald” in the search box results in about 420 titles, although only a handful on the first screen (shown above) are books that are by or about Sebald.  Why the other 400+ titles?  Simple.  Somewhere in that book there is a reference to W.G. Sebald.   To learn more, simply mouse over any of the titles and a small box will pop up that contains a quote from the book using the term “W.G. Sebald”.  Now, mouse into the pop-up box and click on “View sample” and you will be taken to a sample page of the book.  (An alternate route is to click on the book in question and then click on the “View sample” button.)  Magically, to the left of the sample page is a scrolling sidebar (shown below) containing what appears to be the complete set of search results for “W.G. Sebald” in that particular book.  If the quotations fall within the free sample pages, the links will be live and you can click on those search results and go directly to the page to read the full context.  But if the search results are not in the sample pages, the search results are grayed down and the links aren’t live.  Either way, this is a nice tool to let potential readers gauge the potential usefulness of certain books to their research.

For example, I wondered about the connection between Sebald and J.M Ledgard’s book Giraffe.  In this case, the single search result led me to a page of blurbs called “Praise for Giraffe.”  And there we find two blurbs that likened Ledgard’s book to Sebald.  In the case of Eric L. Santner’s On Creaturely Life (shown in the screen shot below), there are twenty search results for W.G. Sebald, two of which are in the free sample pages, the others are not.

I’ve recently posted my first responses to reading Sebald’s Austerlitz via Google Ebooks here.

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. graham head #

    I’ve been trying to measure Sebald’s awareness on contemporary visual culture bearing in mind his collaborations with the artists Tess Jaray & Jan Peter Tripp.I’m aware of a linkage/overlap with the painter Gerhard Richter.On P 67 of “September” by Robert Storr makes a connection of how they both broke the German reticence to consider Germany’s wartime past.The other overlap is the filmmaker Michael Haneke and his film “Hidden” which in style and structure mirrors Sebald’s novels

    December 11, 2010
    • Graham, I’m probably not the person to help with this question. I’m sure there were a number of Sebald’s colleagues in Norwich that would know about his level of interest in contemporary visual culture. Sorry!

      December 16, 2010

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