Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Why do I love this job? Partly because the job description includes being able to sit and read books I enjoy, like C.S. Forester's Age of Fighting Sail, a classic history of the war of 1812. There are all these little moments when your eye scans something that at first glance appears perfectly pedestrian, then you have this "Whoa! I can really use that!" moment and suddenly you're rushing back to the computer to tweak your text.

Which leads into my real rant for the day, "Why Books Are Better Than The Internet". I hang out in a writers' group where we're often asked to recommend this website or that for information. Primary information. I'm old fashioned enough to wave my cane in the direction of the person posting the query and say "You young whippersnappers! The best information still comes from books! You should make books your primary source and the 'net your secondary source!"

Why? Because if you're reading a book you can pick up all kinds of ancillary information you didn't know you needed until you read it. Sure, a website can help you nail down a date when something happened, or show you a picture of Revenue Marine uniforms, but if you're reading a book about the history of the Revenue Marine you're likely to pick up little anecdotes and snippets you might not get off a website. Plus, there's always the danger of lack of editorial control at websites. At least you can presume with books from respected publishers like the Naval Institute Press that there's been some editorial oversight of the material being published.

So there's a place for research on the web, no doubt about it. But for serious research for writing, I still have to recommend books, or interviews with real people and visits to real places.

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