This is a rather idle comment, so don’t take it too seriously and get all outraged. I’m sitting here putting in, and fixing, footnotes in my book. I try to put them in as I’m first writing, but sometimes I write one from memory and don’t pause to look it up; or I find it in another book and don’t have the original book to look it up in; or I’m quoting something I had used in a less scholarly publication; or I’m just on a tear and don’t want to pause for footnotes. So I’m making a final pass, and I see an incomplete footnote. It’s from a book I already returned to the library. So I put the phrase in Google, and it takes me to a page of that book in Google Books, and I put in the page number. The next footnote is from a book that’s sitting on my piano, but it’s six feet away, and I’m comfortable in my Adirondack chair with my cigar. So I put the phrase in Google, and it takes me to Google Books and I get the page number and publication information. And then I start imagining footnotes I’d like to put in. Like, I had wanted to quote Richard Strauss’s boast that he could represent a fork in music, but I’d never really read that, I only heard it. So I Google “Richard Strauss” + fork, and bang!, fourth try, there it is in Brian Gilliam, The Life of Richard Strauss (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), p. 81. And it’s even better: Strauss claimed that he could differentiate between a fork and a knife in his music. And since I’ve looked up a hell of a lot of published footnotes myself lately, it occurs to me that it would be simpler for my reader to put the phrase in Google himself and find where I quoted it from than it would for him to note the chapter and page number he’s in and leaf through the footnote section in the back of the book until he finds the right footnote number.
So remind me: why, in the age of the internet, are we still using footnotes?