Amazon and A9’s Limitations

January 28, 2009

I don’t think too much about Amazon. It’s A9 search engine remains an okay system, but it has morphed into an ecommerce search system. Search innovation seemed to stop when Udi Manber headed to the GOOG. Amazon took A9 down a very different path that includes stop overs in Clickriver and Open Search (yep, that iVillage and content is exactly what I need). You can even find out about job openings at, which surprised me. Check out the jobs. One is for someone to tackle relevance. Good idea. Those Yahooligans are available. Some defecting Xooglers are available. Amazon could even tap the Powerset wizards. With companies nuking nerds, it’s a buyer’s market. I use structured information if I know the name of the author or a book. If I want books “about something”, the system is not too helpful in my opinion. In fact, the interface fights with the search box. For example, I wanted to look at Kindle titles which were new releases in a specific category–Greek history. No luck. The interface on the Kindle, as miserable as it is, is more informative than the one on the Amazon Web site. Let’s hope that the Kindle Web page gets some attention when version 2 of the Kindle becomes available. (Fewer weird buttons would help too.)

Amazon blipped my radar today when I read Eric Savitz’ “Amazon: The World’s Most Expensive Internet Stock?” here. The point of the article is that Amazon has a high price earnings ratio. Skipping the MBA double talk, this means that you pay a lot and may not get much back in the way of dividends.

When I scanned Mr. Savitz’s Wall Street story, I seemed to recall seeing references to investments by Bezos Expeditions. What’s interesting is that twice in the few days, I saw references to this investment outfit having taken stakes in search vendors: and If my recollection is correct, this is suggestive that A9 can’t deliver the type of “social” search that seems to be some pundits’ entrant in the Google tug of war.

Forget these alleged investments. Let’s focus on A9:

  1. When will the system permit winnowing to be released new titles from real new titles on Kindle?
  2. How can I find bargains without recourse to a third party tool?
  3. When will the system support concept metadata so I can locate books “about” a topic without the trial and error fiddling I have to do now?
  4. Why not fix up A9 with some social features?

Maybe A9 is a bit of money pit? If anyone has information about the new features of A9 that I have overlooked, let me know.

Stephen Arnold, January 28, 2009


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