I do a fair amount of general research on all kinds of things from vulcanism to piano tuning, and I use the internet a lot. Google image search and Wikipedia are awesome for getting up to speed on all kind of topics. But the internet isn’t always everything it’s cracked up to be. Information on almost any subject can be found, but it’s not always easy to locate nor very well organized.
I recently spent a whole day researching 16th and 17th century sailing ships. There were a lot things I wanted, including exterior and interior photographs, layout diagrams, history, as well as technical details and terminology. I spent a lot of time searching all over the internet finding bits and pieces. At the end of the day I took a trip to the bookstore and bought a ten dollar coffee table book on ships that included almost everything I was looking for and was much more satisfying to page through.
The advantage of books are many. Primarily, somebody has already gone through all the trouble of gathering the information and photos, organizing it, and presenting it in a way that’s easy to digest. All this means one can spend more time absorbing information and less time looking for it. Don’t get me wrong, the internet is still cracked up to be a lot, and has its own advantages, like immediate accessability and searchability. For some obscure topics it’s indespensable. But there are times when a trip to the local bookstore or library may get more done with a less hassle.