The Corner

Pixels Versus Paper

My last few blegs for academic stuff have revived one of my oldest peeves about the internet. It’s still not nearly good enough and might never be.

If you think the internet has arrived as the be-all and end-all of research, I’m afraid you’re still wrong and I’m still right. While researching my book, I’ve been amazed by how much stuff isn’t on the web. And I don’t just mean scholarly articles and essays, I mean even references to some major and a great many minor events, institutions, people etc. I’m working on some issues from the New Deal era and I’m astounded by how little there is out there on specific legislators, legislation etc. Even in Nexis, it’s difficult to find useful articles on a vast swath of history. Except for — I would guess — the top .01% pretty much all of the important things ever written are still hidden away in books, on microfilm, or in bound journals. That’s all fine, I suppose, except that I know for a fact that a huge number of college kids think that if something isn’t on the web it doesn’t exist. The internet is a wonderful thing, but I’m afraid it’s also responsible for a lot of collective forgetting.

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