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#30791 - 06/19/00 08:29 PM Paper or plastic?
deborah Administrator
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Ching Shih


Registered: 05/27/00
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Many of us probably have quite a few beloved reference books, not to mention several dictionaries. Because it was being cleared out for only $5, and because I find myself generally unable to resist reference materials in any form, I bought a copy of the American Heritage Talking Dictionary on CD-ROM. The hook with this thing is that is pronounces the words for you; when I first got the CD, Professor Frink and I laughed ourselves silly over the pronunciation of the word "homeboy." It's not so much that the pronunciation itself was funny, but the odd voice delivering it cracked us up. Anyway, it also has features like the WordHunter, which will look for words by their meanings, and the Wildcard, which helps you find words when you don't know all the letters. But all this extra functionality aside, I just don't find myself using it at all. It's not an aversion to computers; I just have such an extremely strong preference for paper and physical books.

Now, when it comes to online encyclopedias and search engines, I'm all over those like a dirty shirt. I have lots of great reference books and whatnot, but the speed of doing research online combined with the serendipity factor brings me back to Dogpile and its rivals again and again.

Do any of you find yourself gravitating more to electronic references than paper ones? Anyone amassed a huge collection of books that are now gathering dust?

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#30792 - 06/19/00 09:35 PM Re: Paper or plastic?
ElectroCute
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Registered: 06/01/00
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Loc: Ottawa, Ontario

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Paper. I don't like cd-roms at all. (I secretly think they're blank and that the little man who lives inside of my computer is just making it up as he goes.) I just don't trust them some how.

I like having to look stuff up in the encyclopedia's index because usually I get distracted and end up learning about something totally unrelated that I wasn't looking for in the first place but that I'd always wondered about. Same thing happens when I use one of my beloved dictionaries: I accidentally learn words I needed to know but didn't know I needed to know. This doesn't happen with my computer; I just learn what I wanted to know and that's the end of the story. Besides looking at my computer screen makes my eyes hurt.

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#30793 - 06/20/00 09:21 AM Re: Paper or plastic?
kitten
Ching Shih


Registered: 06/05/00
Posts: 85
Loc: Toronto, ON

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I love paper. LOVE. PAPER. I couldn't possible have too many reference books. Having said that, however, I use online tools to get the quick answer, and if it's something I don't have a book on, I make a little note and add it to my 'list.'

I've been begging for an atlas for a while now. No real reason...I just want to check out how the world's laid out these days. Tzimmi bought me an atlas on CD, and I won't use it. It just doesn't seem right. It's probably great for cross-referencing stuff (and I love a good cross-reference), but I just can't bring myself to use it.

The OED on CD would be great. But part of the fun is tactile, so nothing could ever replace my books.

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#30794 - 06/20/00 10:31 AM Re: Paper or plastic?
cat
Ching Shih


Registered: 06/02/00
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Loc: Northern California

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The problem I have with online/on-computer references is that they are rarely as browsable as book references. It's like closed-stack libraries. When I go to the library, inevitably the most interesting book I find is next to the one I thought I was looking for--but it didn't turn up in my careful searches. I haven't really found that lucky-browse factor yet in the resources I've used--Deborah, how does serendipity enter into searches in the online encyclopedias you use? I was interested that you said that, because to me that is exactly the factor I've found lacking--most searches are too narrow.

I used the OED online when I was in grad school, but there was just something missing.

Kitten, an online atlas just seems wrong. I don't like maps on computers; the onscreen quality isn't good enough yet and so the little things are too hard to read. I, too, am yearning for a really good atlas--I can lie around looking at one for hours. Especially reading the index.

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#30795 - 06/20/00 12:07 PM Re: Paper or plastic?
TraceyB
Ching Shih


Registered: 06/06/00
Posts: 1483
Loc: Minneapolis, MN

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I got a new dictionary for Christmas a couple of years ago - the American Heritage one that comes with the CD-ROM. I've yet to use the CD-ROM. I really like picking up a book and leafing through it to find what I'm looking for. Besides the pleasure I get, books seem a lot more efficient for routine uses.

For example, my atlas (kitten, of course you want one!): when I'm doing the New York Times crossword puzzle and get desperate because I can't remember the capital of Uzbekestan, and I've been working on this damn puzzle for four hours but there's still this one little area I haven't filled in yet and nothing else is getting done and I have to go buy some groceries because there's no food in the house...well, out comes the ol' atlas and voila! Crossword complete. With a CD, well, I'd have to boot up Methuselah, my computer, which takes forever, and find the CD and do the search, and, well, ugh.

This may be the only group I know where I could admit to having asked for, and received, a dictionary for Christmas without fear of eye-rolling. And I get eye-rolling elsewhere. I have also received, as Christmas and birthday presents, the above atlas, my Roget's Thesaurus, and Bartlett's Familiar Quotations.

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#30796 - 06/20/00 03:40 PM Re: Paper or plastic?
emjaybee
Ching Shih


Registered: 06/01/00
Posts: 38
Loc: Arlington, TX USA

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I am always torn (is that a pun?) about the paper issue. CD-ROM's can't even compare to a good paper dictionary, for all the reasons mentioned.

And yet, those poor trees. I really hate how many trees paper printing uses.

I believe that IBM and others are developing electronic "books" with plastic pages that are supposed to eventually look like/read like paper but have downloadable, changeable text. I think that's a great idea for disposable stuff...magazines, trashy novels, newspapers. But I don't think the feel/convenience/durability of paper books can be surpassed.

Plus, where would you scribble marginalia?

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#30797 - 06/21/00 07:17 AM Re: Paper or plastic?
kitten
Ching Shih


Registered: 06/05/00
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TraceyB, I have a dictionary collection. Guess how many 'eye rolls' I get? Lots and lots.

A while back I was in a used book store and came across a dictionary from the 1800's for $4. I was like, "Oh my god! Why has no one snatched this up? Who's the fool who sold this?!" Of course I bought it. Of course everyone looked at me like I was a moron. Of course I gave them weird looks back.

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#30798 - 06/21/00 07:59 AM Re: Paper or plastic?
ragdoll
Ching Shih


Registered: 06/01/00
Posts: 332
Loc: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

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Oh, I am so torn. I agree with everyone's posts -- there's just nothing like doing research in a library or opening your dictionary to find the exact word you're searching to define (or in my case:spell).

But actually seeing a printing house, and physically looking at all the paper they use (an entire warehouse represents just one week of printing), I'm starting to think I should get used to using the internet and CD-Roms for reference purposes.

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#30799 - 07/06/00 05:11 PM Re: Paper or plastic?
deborah Administrator
Chief Bibliofreak
Ching Shih


Registered: 05/27/00
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cat, you asked how the serendipity factor enters into my online searching. What I was referring to is the way I frequently find what I'm looking for by following links on one of the sites my search turned up. This happens enough that even though the first few sites in a search may seem useless, I will usually look at them quickly to see if they have a page of links. This is very often fruitful.

I think this is (at least in part) because not all sites are equally well indexed or registered or keyworded or whatever, but lists of links circumvents this issue.

Earlier this year I was working on a very (nightmarishly) difficult research project that required me to find sites that provided information about sources of financing in France for independent film and video makers. Without the serendipity factor, I wouldn't have found half the sites I ultimately located.

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#30800 - 07/07/00 12:31 PM Re: Paper or plastic?
Poodle
Ching Shih


Registered: 07/05/00
Posts: 34
Loc: Twin Cities, MN, USA

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I'm in the paper camp. I will never forget the joy of looking something specific up in my childhood World Book Encyclopedia only to find 3 or 4 hours had passed as I paged through, looking at different topics. If memory serves, the "D" volume was my favorite because it had the color page of dog breeds.
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