The Reference Shelf: Still a useful tool in the Internet Age

dictoionaries and other references

A reference shelf

This weekend had me rearranging books on the shelf, by which I mean gathering them from the stacks they had managed to gather themselves into on the floor around my desk among other places. Many dictionaries, mostly the same clones of Webster's editions that had left copyright protection lie waiting for judgement on whether I'll bother to put them on a shelf or find some other end for them to meet.

Even with a variety of reference materials readily available online though, for some reason I prefer the familiarity of a well consulted reference book. When writing for print no amount of wiki documentation, or collected web pages can replace the Chicago Manual of Style in my workflow. Even with Google Translate existing I find myself over time wanting to acquire more foreign language dictionaries and grammars rather than less.

Sure, money could instead be spent on books offering greater entertainment, but the only book I've purchased in recent years that I might have consulted as frequently as the Chicago Manual of Style is Siddhartha Mukherjee's biography of cancer, The Emperor of Maladies. With BitMit closing down I might hope that a better Bitcoin auction house might emerge so that I can unload some books I'd like to cull, but who in their right mind would trade Bitcoin for unwanted books?

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