Essential Reference: Not an oxymoron

Over at The Millions (a blog “offering coverage on books, arts, and culture since 2003”), they ran a piece The Millions Quiz: Essential Reference.

Contributors (scholars, authors, book lovers/critics) were asked:

In the age of Google and Wikipedia, reference books seem anachronistic, but some have not been superseded by the internet in their usefulness and convenience and even in their ability to divert and entertain. What is the one reference book you couldn’t live without?

Atlases (example and example) and dictionaries (Webster’s or compact OED) of varying kinds seemed to be the most popular.

The range of responses, and the passion folks have for their favorite reference titles are really interesting. I also found the contrast between “Kevin” who claims that “The dictionary, though, neither needs nor responds well to the type of advantages the Internet has to offer.” and “Emily” who proclaims that “the online version of the OED is the reference I can’t do without” to be pretty interesting. I can’t help but think that Kevin might like online dictionaries if he gave them a try.


Mike Lindgren: Chicago Manual of Style. It would not be readily reproducible online, and it is essential for anyone serious about the business of words.

I absolutely agree that Chicago Manual of Style is essential … which is why I love the online version.

Bottom line, reference titles still matter. Some scholars still like print, and some can’t do without the online reference titles that access to research libraries provide them.

1 Response to “Essential Reference: Not an oxymoron”

  1. 1 More on reference books « Feral Librarian Trackback on May 4, 2009 at 10:25 am

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