I’m a girl in a digital world. Even as a kid, when I had twenty-plus volumes of Encyclopaedia Brittanica, I only had eyes for Encarta.
However, there are just some things books do better. They’re better for reading in the bath. And they’re better for focussed research.
Wikipedia can give you the essence of the thing, but it’s not detailed enough. Websites can be tended by experts or fools. A book, as a thing, has gone through some sort of curating process – or so I like to hope.
The other excellent thing about books is that you can stick post-it notes to them. (In theory, you can write in them, but I shudder at the thought.)
I read ‘The Suspicions of Mr Whitcher’ in anticipation of writing my first detective novel. For anyone considering the same, it’s an excellent primer on how to portray a mystery and provides a lot of useful background information on detective work and the public perception thereof. I stuck it with two different colours of note, one of interesting elements of the particular mystery and the other for fascinating bits of information on murder in general.
One could argue this is merely a waste of paper. It’s not searchable or indexable. But it’s also a process by which information enters my brain. The act of writing a quote fragment or notable point on the note and sticking its glaring yellow next to the text seems to fix the idea in my mind.
Recently, I’ve been researching for the Underwater Realm feature films. I’ve picked up a book on Celtic sacred places and another on great dive locations. These are more what I consider “mood” books. Like my choice of music while I write, the words and images in these books evoke a mood of mysticism and wonder which helps me set the tone for my writing. They have also been attacked by post-its.
So, if you want to do a piece of in-depth research or just want to set the scene in your mind, I recommend a trip to your local bookshop – and stationer.