From Wikipedia Signpost:
Reference books? Give me Wikipedia - In response to a professor calling Internet sources "white bread" (see archived story), the author of this article states that the notion that the Internet is eroding our research skills echoes the past mantra that the lower classes should not be taught to read. He argues that the professor is blaming the messenger and not the message, and the problems that are blamed on the Internet have always plagued students: the way that their work is marked may be reinforcing that using predigested material is acceptable. The author questions the assumption that because something is bound in book format, it is therefore more reliable.
It's nice to see this argument coming not from a wizkid but a seasoned journalist.
Recently I witnessed several people being highly critical of sources like Google Print. They rant about "selective quoting" and how people will not read books but just tiny paragraphs or sentences.
So what? I have read many books. And in 90% of cases (non-fiction wise), the traditional rule that 'most of everything is useless' holds true quite well. Most of books have some useful arguments or facts - but much more filler. Being able to Google through hundreds of books in few dozen minutes, and find what I am looking for is extremly useful. Sure, I may miss some useful random snippets I'd otherwise find, but you know what - I will find them anyway, reading other books in the free time generated by the fact I am not reading others :)
The increase in research productivity that is being generated by easy access to searcheable databases is only just begining. With more and more sources being accessible full text through open licences, the revolution, not much smaller than the invention of writing, printing or the Internet is upon us. It was one thing to have the theoretical means to access lots of information. It's quite another to be actually able to do so.
And for those who want to preserve their ivory towers... "The avalanche has already begun. It's too late for pebbles to vote."
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