Saturday, November 05, 2005

Nat'l Writers Union Needs Tonic For Its Troops

A press release today by the at-large chapter of the National Writers Union urges union members to donate reference books to independent writers from the Gulf Coast whose livelihoods were affected by Hurricane Katrina. No specifics on the type of reference materials needed were given, other that they be new or "gently-used".

Freelancers acquire peculiar references unique to the fields they work in most. A writer who follows the auto industry has few reference needs in common with one who writes about shoe culture.

The Union's call for used reference books doesn't make sense to me. Writers will acquire the specialized paper resources peculiar to their field. Everything else is bits and bytes on-line, and played out in keystrokes, not page-turning. I've seen those tired and outdated reference tomes at countless Friends-of-the Library book sales, and they're just that, tired and outdated, and dusty. Its the computer age, baby. Those folks need computers, not books.

Set those displaced writers up with a machine and subscriptions to one or more electronic reference media such as Oxford Reference Online. This enormous reference library contains hundreds of maps, charts, illustrations, timelines, and, oh yeah, reference books.

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