The internet has opened a means to research in an esoteric array of subjects for people everywhere. Libraries, though still beneficial, are essentially on their way out as more and more books are scanned and put online and others have online ebooks often sold secondarily to their primary titles. Further, in the past, researchers would often collect cards for a particular newspaper clipping or journal article for which they were searching. All of these things are available to the modern scholar at a mere click of a button or a few keyboard strokes.
This has been primarily the result of the growing role of search engines. Popular search engines today, such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo, have collected data, and even caches, on websites everywhere. This data is than indexed with pointers allowing users to visit the respective sites and find exactly the information that they were looking for. And the process is so much shorter than that of looking around for the correct number at a library.
Libraries of course are not yet outdated. Much of the material available at a good library can’t be found online, and other works can’t be published online (legally) as the publisher retains their products’ rights. However, for the academic, the internet has opened up a wealth of previously unavailable material. Whereas once, the researcher may not even have known of a relevant text in his or her field, he can now find it online. And if he can’t find it online, he can find the link to a reseller online and than find a way to contact them and purchase a hard copy. All of this has paved the way for advancements in science, in a better understanding of history, and many other subjects, unlike ever before. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that schools and individuals are taking great care to avail of these benefits.