It hasn't always been that easy. Growing up in the pre-internet days (some of you are old enough to remember), looking up answers was more difficult. If you had a question, you had to remember it long enough to go to the library and check out a book. Of course, that was assuming that your local or school library had a book on that topic. This was good, but not easy. The local library was not walking distance and the school library came with restrictions (only 2 books at a time, can only keep them for a week, only go on Thursdays, etc...). Sometime in the late 70's, my parents made a decision that may have changed my life. They purchased a set of World Book Encyclopedias! This was an extravagant purchase for them and I know it involved some personal sacrifice, but they listened to the sales pitch and decided that this would be a good investment in the education of their children. I can't speak for my siblings, but it was definitely true for me!
I was hooked from the beginning. The fancy leather-bound books with the gold edged pages sat on a shelf in the closet at the end of the hall. Flipping through the pages felt exotic. These pages were different- thinner and silkier than a normal book. They felt important. If there was anything that I was curious about, I could walk to the end of the hall and pull out the appropriate volume and read. There were entries on everything I could think of and more that I had not even imagined. There were pictures, maps, and diagrams. There were drawings of the human body with plastic overlays of the different systems- skeletal, muscular, nervous. I could learn about countries from the other side of the world, various types of rocks, and unusual weather phenomenon. I could pull out the M encyclopedia and just start reading about whatever started with M! This was my very geeky idea of fun :-).
The set of encyclopedias also came with an extensive two-volume dictionary. Two big thick volumes of A-K and L-Z. Can you imagine all of those wonderful words in one place? I was in heaven! I would look up a word and then just start reading all the words that came before and after it. How could you not? So many words to learn! I thought this was fairly normal behavior until I got to college. My friends would laugh at me when I got out my (much smaller) dictionary to look up a word because they knew I would be "lost" for awhile. It isn't as easy to do that on the internet now, but give me a hardback dictionary and expect to lose me for at least 20 minutes. For some reason, not everyone is as interested as I am in hearing all of the unusual words that follow the word esoteric :-).