Happy birthday, Wikipedia




  Wikipedia just passed its 15th birthday. Sometimes it’s hard to remember what online information and online research were like before it burst on the scene. It is one of the first and by far the largest ventures in user-written content. It is not, I repeat, not an authoritative source of information suitable for student papers or other serious research—unless perhaps it is the only available source. But that’s not because Wikipedia is created by volunteers instead of recognized experts. It’s because it’s an encyclopedia. … Continue reading






Victory for Google Books, larger victory for the public




Have any of your Google searches turned up pages from a book? Google began to experiment with scanning books in 2002 and announced plans to establish a digital library, now known as Google Books, in 2004. The project quickly became mired in controversy as the Authors Guild, some individual authors, and several major publishers sued Google for copyright infringement. The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit recently upheld a 2013 district court ruling on Authors Guild v. Google that Google’s activities constitute fair use under copyright law. The Authors Guild plans to appeal to the Supreme Court. … Continue reading






Writers write about reading, writing, research




Not everyone who reads is doing research. Not everyone who does research in the broadest sense (looking up useful information) writes about it. But everyone who publishes research must read first. Indeed, anyone writes anything must read first. A friend of mine wrote an autobiography, and compiled as much documentation as he could find in order to refresh his memory and insure accuracy. Novelists must not only read other literature voraciously, but if they want respect for their novels, must conduct research to make sure that they describe places, customs, etc. accurately. Whatever else they write about, writers often write … Continue reading






Reference books and sets you must read in print




In my last post, about editing, I cited my father’s entry in Contemporary Authors, a still-growing set with more than 200 printed volumes. I couldn’t find the photocopy I made several years ago when I first stumbled across it. I found an online version in WorldCat, but it’s available only at 8 libraries, none within 500 miles of my home. I had to go to a local library to consult the print version. How many other important reference works are available only in print? … Continue reading






Library of Congress: government websites you should know




It’s not like you can go into the Library of Congress and check out books. It’s not an ordinary library. But it’s as much your library as your public library. Unofficially, the Library of Congress is the national library of the United States. You can, if you want, get a reader registration card and use the reading rooms. None of the collection can leave the buildings, of which there are now three. Most people never go to the Library of Congress, or if they do, it’s as a tourist. On the other hand, it offers so many services online that … Continue reading