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Ambient Findability: What We Find Changes Who We Become [Paperback]

Peter Morville
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)

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Book Description

October 6, 2005 0596007655 978-0596007652 1
How do you find your way in an age of information overload? How can you filter streams of complex information to pull out only what you want? Why does it matter how information is structured when Google seems to magically bring up the right answer to your questions? What does it mean to be "findable" in this day and age? This eye-opening new book examines the convergence of information and connectivity. Written by Peter Morville, author of the groundbreaking Information Architecture for the World Wide Web, the book defines our current age as a state of unlimited findability. In other words, anyone can find anything at any time. Complete navigability.

Morville discusses the Internet, GIS, and other network technologies that are coming together to make unlimited findability possible. He explores how the melding of these innovations impacts society, since Web access is now a standard requirement for successful people and businesses. But before he does that, Morville looks back at the history of wayfinding and human evolution, suggesting that our fear of being lost has driven us to create maps, charts, and now, the mobile Internet.

The book's central thesis is that information literacy, information architecture, and usability are all critical components of this new world order. Hand in hand with that is the contention that only by planning and designing the best possible software, devices, and Internet, will we be able to maintain this connectivity in the future. Morville's book is highlighted with full color illustrations and rich examples that bring his prose to life.

Ambient Findability doesn't preach or pretend to know all the answers. Instead, it presents research, stories, and examples in support of its novel ideas. Are we truly at a critical point in our evolution where the quality of our digital networks will dictate how we behave as a species? Is findability indeed the primary key to a successful global marketplace in the 21st century and beyond. Peter Morville takes you on a thought-provoking tour of these memes and more -- ideas that will not only fascinate but will stir your creativity in practical ways that you can apply to your work immediately.

""A lively, enjoyable and informative tour of a topic that's only going to become more important.""

--David Weinberger, Author, "Small Pieces Loosely Joined" and "The Cluetrain Manifesto"

""I envy the young scholar who finds this inventive book, by whatever strange means are necessary. The future isn't just unwritten--it's unsearched.""

--Bruce Sterling, Writer, Futurist, and Co-Founder, The Electronic Frontier Foundation

""Search engine marketing is the hottest thing in Internet business, and deservedly so. Ambient Findability puts SEM into a broader context and provides deeper insights into human behavior. This book will help you grow your online business in a world where being found is not at all certain.""

--Jakob Nielsen, Ph.D., Author, "Designing Web Usability: The Practice of Simplicity"

""Information that's hard to find will remain information that's hardly found--from one of the fathers of the discipline of information architecture, and one of its most experienced practitioners, come penetrating observations on why findability is elusive and how the act of seeking changes us.""

--Steve Papa, Founder and Chairman, Endeca

""Whether it's a fact or a figure, a person or a place, Peter Morville knows how to make it findable. Morville explores the possibilities of a world where everything can always be found--and the challenges in getting there--in this wide-ranging, thought-provoking book.""

--Jesse James Garrett, Author, "The Elements of User Experience"

""It is easy to assume that current searching of the World Wide Web is the last word in finding and using information. Peter Morville shows us that search engines are just the beginning. Skillfully weaving together information science research with his own extensive experience, he develops for the reader a feeling for the near future when information is truly findable all around us. There are immense implications, and Morville's lively and humorous writing brings them home.""

--Marcia J. Bates, Ph.D., University of California Los Angeles

""I've always known that Peter Morville was smart. After reading Ambient Findability, I now know he's (as we say in Boston) wicked smart. This is a timely book that will have lasting effects on how we create our future."

--Jared Spool, Founding Principal, User Interface Engineering

""In Ambient Findability, Peter Morville has put his mind and keyboard on the pulse of the electronic noosphere. With tangible examples and lively writing, he lays out the challenges and wonders of finding our way in cyberspace, and explains the mutually dependent evolution of our changing world and selves. This is a must read for everyone and a practical guide for designers.""

--Gary Marchionini, Ph.D., University of North Carolina

""Find this book! Anyone interested in makinginformation easier to find, or understanding how finding and being found is changing, will find this thoroughly researched, engagingly written, literate, insightful and very, very cool book well worth their time. Myriad examples from rich and varied domains and a valuable idea on nearly every page. Fun to read, too!"

--Joseph Janes, Ph.D., Founder, Internet Public Library

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Ambient Findability: What We Find Changes Who We Become + Organizing Knowledge + Foundations of Library and Information Science, Third Edition
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Peter Morville is president of Semantic Studios, an information architecture, user experience, and findability consultancy. For over a decade, he has advised such clients as AT&T, IBM, Microsoft, Harvard Business School, Internet2, Procter & Gamble, Vanguard, and Yahoo. Peter is best known as a founding father of information architecture, having co-authored the field's best-selling book, Information Architecture for the World Wide Web. Peter serves on the faculty at the University of Michigan's School of Information and on the advisory board of the Information Architecture Institute. He delivers keynotes and seminars at international events, and his work has been featured in major publications including Business Week, The Economist, Fortune, and The Wall Street Journal. You can contact Peter Morville by email ( You can also find him offline at 42.2 N 83.4 W or online at and

Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: O'Reilly Media; 1 edition (October 6, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0596007655
  • ISBN-13: 978-0596007652
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.1 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #182,384 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Peter Morville is a writer, speaker, and consultant. He is best known as a founder of the field of information architecture. He advises such clients as AT&T, Harvard, IBM, the Library of Congress, Microsoft, the National Cancer Institute, Vodafone, and the Weather Channel. His work on experience strategy and the future of search has been covered by Business Week, The Economist, Fortune, NPR, and The Wall Street Journal. Peter lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan with his wife, two daughters, and a dog named Knowsy. You can reach him by email at You can also find him offline at 42.2 N 83.4 W or online at,, and

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
112 of 119 people found the following review helpful
Ambient Findability can be summed up as follows: There is a lot of information on the web so it's hard to find what you want, it's going to get worse, and the author claims to know what to do about it but won't tell you.

The book starts out with great promise. I believed it would contain insights, sage advice, and practical details about how to make my web pages findable to my audience. The first couple of chapters were great introductory material, and they whetted my appetite for the meaty material that was sure to follow.

Then, there was some more introductory material, and I began to notice that the author threw a lot of quotes around but didn't explore them very deeply, and threw in illustrations of things mentioned in passing in the book that really didn't illuminate anything. For example, he mentioned the Tower of Babel, and then presented an illustration of a Bruegel painting of it, which illustrated... not much. After a dozen of these you wonder if they were just trying to make the book look bigger.

Around page 100 or so, I wondered if the author would ever stop glossing over introductory material, and actually get to the meat of the book. Unfortunately this never happened as far as I was concerned, and so my frustration. Ambient Findability never delivered any practical tips or any insightful theories that could help an aspiring web designer.

One thing you can say for the author, he has read a lot of great books, and Ambient Findability contains references to many great classics worth reading, including Blink, The Cathedral and the Bazaar, the Cluetrain Manifesto, and Don't Make Me Think. I wish the author had chosen to emulate those books and had worked to develop and present some insights of his own, rather than just drop quotes from other sources. As it is, this book is good for gathering a few references to other better literature, and not much else.
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37 of 40 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great topics but written like a long blog January 7, 2007
By Pat
My everyday work involves search engines, both using them for research and developing the technology. I was deeply impressed by the lengthy and highly enthusiastic reviews posted here. One day, I wandered into a bookstore and saw the book. I bought it without even opening it. I have to say that given the high expectation, I was quite disappointed by the book.

I read the book in detail for most parts of it and skimmed through the rest of it. The book I like most is that it is not just about Google, blog search, myspace, etc. It attempted to give a broad analysis of the topic, mostly from non-technical viewpoints, drawing literatures from very diversified sources, AI, social science, politics, history, etc. I learned terms like folksonomies, boundary objects and a lot of stories and quotes that I can use to make my next presentation on the same subject more interesting. This is what I gained from the book.

The main weakness of the book is twofold. First, the book does not help you understand more about the problem of findability and where the future might be, let alone giving you a hint on the solution; it repeats what most people have already known and re-asserted it with more discussions and examples. Second, the writing adopted a style commonly found in online articles and blogs. Beautiful but confusing statements. The style is good for online writing where creating controversies and arguments is an important goal of writing, but I won't expect it from a book. For example, on Page 38, the author said "... visualization approaches fail because there's no there there." It is not only hard to understand, but once you do you find it not true.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Morville's work is the most appropriate follow-on to the usability concepts so well promoted by Steven Krug in his Don't Make Me Think and Jakob Nielsen in Designing Web Usability. "Findability," Morville argues, is a necessary component in the success and propagation of an idea or detail or fact. Business and non-profits alike will benefit from understanding the value of findability.

Obviously, findability serves more than just internet marketers and hucksters. Morville offers an example of a nonprofit medical research agency and how the findability -- in this case, the search engine ranking of their web content -- affected people's ability to get authoritative, quality information on the web.

"[T]he [web development] team", Morville writes, "had to look beyond the narrow goals of web site design, to see their role in advancing the broader mission of disseminating [...] information to people in need."

Morville could have asked "if a remarkable idea springs up in the forest, but it doesn't show up in the first page of Google search results, is it really all that remarkable?" But findability is more than that, and there's a lot more to the book. Morville discusses findability in depth, considering both its current and possible future implications. Eventually, of course, findability will butt up against our notions of privacy, and Morville explores that as well.

Though the book will serve information architects, software designers building anything related to web content management, web designers, marketers, and PR flacks well, its real gift is to the teachers, researchers, librarians, and public servants who handle so much valuable data that must (or, in some cases, must not) be findable.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Perfect perspective
I needed to know more about how online information and businesses work. The author is a professor, consultant and speaker and his book is highly readable. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Rochelle45
4.0 out of 5 stars great
the amazon order itself went well. the price was great, and the text was shipped to me in a great amount of time. The book itself is a great read!! Read more
Published 10 months ago by Lisa
4.0 out of 5 stars textbook
It's a textbook, so it's not enjoyable, but it's well-formatted and presented, so I can't complain. Plus, it's well-written. So.
Published 16 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Down loaded with out issue
I am in graduate school and I needed this book right away. I purchased this e-book and it down loaded in less than 5 minutes. I will be buying all of my books this way from now on. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Fashionista9
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Collation, Limited Conclusions
I picked up this book based on the past work of the author - Information Architecture. This book is "vastly different". Do not read this book looking for SEO or Ontology details. Read more
Published on February 26, 2012 by V Sridhar
5.0 out of 5 stars This book stays out on my desk, no matter how many times I put it away
Subject lines says it all, don't you think? I keep coming back to this book to help ground my thinking when I'm working with companies trying to figure out how to get information... Read more
Published on February 4, 2010 by SeaCat
2.0 out of 5 stars Great Topic but Poorly Covered
In the preface to the book, Morville begins by asking "How did you find this book?" I thought this to be a great start to a discussion of findability. Read more
Published on December 9, 2009 by M. Schubert
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, But Unsatisfying
Morville covers a lot of ground for such a slim book, but he fails to integrate the material in a coherent way. Read more
Published on July 24, 2009 by Rob Szarka
4.0 out of 5 stars An enjoyable and light read
This is a brief primer on the field of information architecture (which Morville has written a much longer, and dryer, book about). Read more
Published on March 13, 2009 by Trevor Burnham
4.0 out of 5 stars You can't use what you can't find
As a person who appreciates usability and the web, there is one statement that resonated with me when I read Peter Morville's book- "You can't use what you can't find. Read more
Published on February 6, 2009 by Regnard Raquedan
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