Thursday, March 29, 2012

I love you, internet. But it's complicated.

Do you guys remember libraries? They were those places where all the books were. Sometimes libraries smelled a bit weird and stale. There was this crazy secret code called the Dewey Decimal System, and Philosophy was at the beginning and History was at the end, and EVERYTHING ELSE EVER was in between them.

But sometimes your library -- either the public library or the university library -- just didn't cut it. Sometimes you wanted a tiny shining gem of information, and you couldn't shake it out of any of those books on any of those shelves.

I love books, really, I do. But when it comes to research, the internet is my friend. Sometimes it's my friend who talks utter crap, but it's still my friend.

Today I wanted to know what sort of car someone might drive in the 1920s. What was it called, what did it look like, and how much did it cost? Can you even imagine how long this would have taken with microfilm and periodicals? Thanks to the internet, I had this is seconds:



That's the love out of the way. What about the un-love? 

Everyone talks about the lack of references on the internet -- how do you know the information you're seeing is correct? -- and that's a valid concern. What's more valid, for me at least, is the distraction factor. Because while it only took me a second to find that poster about Daimlers, it took me at least an hour to get the hell off Words with Friends.  

Because sadly those words aren't the ones I should be writing. 

***
Do you still use libraries? 
How do you like to research? 
Do you ration your time online? Or are you completely undisciplined like me? 

17 comments:

  1. I read an article once about how Google is making us stupider because of the information readily at our fingertips. We don't have to work hard to retain information anymore! But I still like having things bam, right there when I need it!! :D

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    1. That's a really good point. Cortney! We don't have to remember facts anymore, do we? We just have to remember Google.

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  2. I don't think I've stepped into the local library for years.
    Part of that is probably due to the money mentality I have: pay $2 to lease the book for a set amount of weeks vs. $2 to own said book, in better condition, from secondhand store.
    Guess what option I pick every time. ^_^

    (I live closer to the library that's 'outside my council's zoning', go figure)

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    1. You have to pay for library books? Ours are free here!
      And I do love second hand book stores. They're like treasure troves that nobody except me and old age pensioners know about! And the old age pensioners are usually busy cleaning out the Mills and Boon shelves while I'm digging around everywhere else.

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  3. I used to go to Bowdoin College for their twenty-volume collection of Maine's historical documents. I'd stand in line and photocopy pages from these huge books at ten cents a page.

    Ten years later, I looked up that collection online, to see if I could buy an old copy, and found the entire collection ready for download here. In both photo scans and converted text.

    And the really weird thing? The same exact books, with their Bowdoin College stamp. It was friggin' magic.

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    1. That is an awesome link. You're trying to distract me, right? Mission accomplished!

      I can remember the days of carrying stacks of books to the photocopier in the uni library, watching as it slowly chewed through your credit. And then you had to lug it all home on the bus.

      I'll stop now, before this turns into a "Kids today" rant!

      Delete
  4. I love using libraries, but only for fiction writing. I don't think my method of picking the prettiest cover (shallow, I know!) would work for research.

    Internet does have a lot of complicated relationships with writers, doesn't it? I wonder how much writers wrote before the internet and other distractions we have now a days.

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    1. I think there are worse ways to research than picking the prettiest cover! You could find all sorts of interesting things with a system like that!

      And while the networking and researching on the internet is fantastic for writers, I can't help thinking I would have got more done if I was starving to death in a garrett and spending the last of my money on absinthe, tuberculosis medication, and prostitutes.

      In my mind I hang around in 1920s Paris with Hemingway and the rest of the Lost Generation.

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  5. I use the library all the time, mainly for my fiction reads. I can look up books exactly like I would on Amazon (or my local equivalents), and get books from any of the libraries in my region delivered to my local library. Then I can pick them up and keep them for 2 months for free. How cool is that?

    I do also borrow the occasional non-fiction book, but the internet is generally my first port-of-call. I use the library for pretty non-fiction books that are almost more inspirational that informational.

    As for wasting time on the internet... erm, yes. We can probably never be disciplined enough.

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    1. Charlotte, your reply reminds me about what is awesome about libraries -- they're free, and you can get anything. I'm compulsive when it comes to books though -- if I think I will love it, I order it off Amazon straight away.

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  6. I like to sit in my local library and work, but the Internet (when I'm not procrastinating) saves a lot of time book searching... although sometimes the Internet will recommend a book that sends me to the bookshelves in the library.

    Plus being at the library stops me 1) losing hours on websites like TV Tropes and 2) marathon watching various TV shows online :P

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  7. That's a great idea about going somewhere else to write.
    The only downside is I would have to change out of my pyjamas, right?

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  8. I loved the libraries of my childhood - old Victorian buildings, with that polished wood smell combined with musty old books. I always remember the little tickets that went inside the book you were borrowing, and the library card you had in order to borrow books. Plus that silence bordering on reverence, like being in a church.

    But the libraries of today, at least the ones I have access to, are more akin to meeting/drop-in centres for gangs of teenagers who have no interest in books or reading and conduct irritatingly louder than necessary conversations, or messing about on their mobiles and hogging the internet whilst watching YouTube videos.

    I no longer use libraries. The ones I know of no longer resemble anything near to the ideal I have of what a library should, and used to be.

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  9. Love libraries, but I don't go that often anymore. Most of my research is on the internet. If I go the library, it's usually to get some quiet time to write.

    I can see the day when libraries become just indoor public places for groups to meet, and for people to get internet access. Actual books would never be loaned out, assuming they'd let you touch them at all. My cousin suggested books would be tossed by then, but I hope at least some will be saved.

    I'm very addicted to internet time wasters, especially internet videos. Youtube and Nostalgia Critic are not my friends :) Well, Youtube has been useful for research. Flint knapping is easier to understand when you see it being done.

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    1. Oh wow! You have led me to Nostalgia Critic. How fun is that?

      I like the idea of libraries becoming community meeting places, but I hope you're right about books. There is some very tactile about a proper book, that ebooks will never match. It would be a shame to lose that.

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  10. Yep, completely undisciplined ;-)

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  11. I'd say join the club. Sarah, but I'm too disorganised to send you a membership form. :)

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