Generally speaking I would not recommend reading a newspaper in the hot tub. If that hot tub happens to be of the spa-jet variety then that only makes it worse. If the newspaper is a rare item from the 19th century then surely only a fool would consider it. Yet this weekend I have been doing just that, reading an 1815 newspaper in the hot tub with all the jets massaging my body to bits but without destroying the delicate document.
How so? The wonders of the Internet of course. Specifically the wonder that is the new online archive of British newspapers from the British Library.
The British Library Collection has put a quite mind-boggling two million pages of 19th century British newspapers online, covering millions of articles from a total of 49 regional, national and London based publications dated between 1800 and 1900. As well as being fully text searchable with keywords in context visible in the results list, you also get thousands of illustrations, photographs and tables to wonder upon. I can email articles, save them or print them - although not in the hot tub, of course.
Being able to view the original news reports of the Battle of Waterloo, June 1815, which is what I found myself doing over the weekend, is just brilliant. This is exactly what I always thought that the Internet was for, making information available to anyone no matter where they are and at any time. It is just a shame that it has taken so long to become a reality, and a shame that this information is not free. Sure, there are some publications that can be viewed gratis such as the 'Penny Illustrated Paper' but to view 100 articles over a 24 hour period there's a fee of UKP £6.99 or £9.99 for the seven day, 200 article version. Still, better pay-as-you-go than expensive annual subscription I guess. Students and others whose institution has such an annual subscription can get at the archive free of charge, which is good.