Published on Bending Genre: Essays on Creative Nonfiction’s website, “Essays and Encyclopedias” discusses the relationship of research to middlebrow culture and essays. You can read the full essay here.
I’m no expert but as I said, I do know how to look things up. The reference books on my shelves still get some use, but I’m no fool. I know the Digital Age means publishers will no longer be printing dictionaries and encyclopedias. Why would they when a digital version is so much easier to search? We say Google makes us stupid, but our iPads and smart phones have resurrected Diderot’s dream. All of us have all of the answers right at our fingertips. Google Books makes every book available to everybody, or at least it will, says Google, if we can loosen the copyright laws and usher in Lewis Hyde’s gift economy. Then, everyone will have borrowing privileges at Borges’ Library of Babel, which contains every possible book.