Specific Searching with Boolean

AbeBooks' Boolean search allows you to perform very specific searches. It's based on a mathematical logic but is actually simple to use. Boolean logic helps you to expand or restrict your search. Boolean has three so-called operators (commands to our search engine) NOT, AND, then OR.

NOT is given the highest precedence in Boolean, followed by AND, and then OR. If you have two Boolean operators in one search, the search will use the order of precedence.

Examples of Common Boolean Searches:

  1. Example 1 Exclude ex-library copies using the NOT operator. Enter a positive term(s) into keyword field eg J.R.R Tolkien, The Hobbit NOT ex-library NOT ex-libris.
  2. Example 2 Exclude a certain publisher using the NOT operator. Enter a positive term into publisher field eg Bloomsbury and then enter NOT Scholastic.
  3. Example 3 Two books in one search using the OR operator. Complete author field (eg Ian McEwan) and then complete title field Atonement OR Amsterdam. Two separate searches will occur but your results will combine both sets of results.
  4. Example 4 Expand a search with multiple OR operators. You want books about war. Enter into keyword field war OR military OR battle OR warfare OR combat.

Invalid Searches include:

Be careful when using Boolean and searching for titles/keywords containing 'and', 'or' & 'not'. For instance, searching for Hemingway's famous books, To Have And Have Not and The Old Man And The Sea, can cause problems as Boolean will recognize the operator words contained within the titles. Avoid this problem by putting the titles in quotation marks "To Have And Have Not" OR "The Old Man And the Sea" - you will be presented with both titles in a combined set of results.

To group a series of words together, use parentheses which will string a series of terms together and properly categorize your results. For example a keyword search of (Khaled Hosseini NOT "A Thousand Splendid Suns") OR (Ernest Hemingway NOT "Old Man and the Sea"). Parentheses are also be used to force the order of processing.

Remember to complete quotes and brackets with the corresponding mark.

Wildcard Searching

Boolean offers single and multiple character wildcard searches within single terms. A wildcard character is a substitute for any character or characters in a word. To perform a single character wildcard search use the ? symbol, ie - te?t

A search for te?t will yield results such as test, text, tent. A search for test??? will yield results such as testing, testers, testify.

To perform a multiple character wildcard search, use the * symbol ie test* (Note that multiple character wildcard searches look for zero or more characters.) A search for test*would yield results such as test, testing, tested, testament, tester.

You can also use the multiple character wildcard searches in the middle of a term ie tran*t

A search for tran*t will yield results such as transport, transcript, transit, transplant.

Fuzzy Searching

Fuzzy search displays results for terms similar to the original search to two character edits. For instance, a fuzzy search for 'history' will also show results for historic, historie, histoire, story, hickory.

A character edit can be a deletion, an insertion or a replacement.

Fuzzy searches are conducted by placing a ~ symbol to the right of your search term ie history~

If you add the number 1 alongside the ~ symbol (ie history~1), it will show results differing by a single character edit.

Proximity Searching

Boolean also offers the ability to search for words that are within a specific distance of each other.

To conduct a proximity search, place the search terms within quotes and then add a ~ symbol to the right of the search terms followed by a number to indicate the maximum required distance ie "house dog"~2

A search for "house dog"~2 will yield results such as Fire House Dog and Dog House Blues and Teach Your Dog House Training.