When first composing this blog post, I opened with: "Everyone knows about the usual reference sites like. . . ." Then I listed some of the sites I figured everyone knows before moving to the sites not generally known. Someone reading over my shoulder said: "I don't know about that." Perhaps, I shouldn't assume everyone has common knowledge of certain facts. So here's the new opening.
This list is of reference sites everyone should know about. If these are new to you, bookmark them in a folder labeled Reference. Here are 10 to consider.
Explains the different kinds of copyrights available to you and provides tools that authors, educators, artists, or anyone can use to mark their creative work with the freedoms they want it to carry and to reserve the rights they want for themselves. If you don't know much about copyright and creative commons licenses, educate yourself there.
Internet Movie Database
I'd be lost without IMDB since I do a lot of movie reviews on my other blog. In 2007-2008, I think did about 600 for a client. If you need to know something about an actor, director, screenwriter, etc., this is a fabulous resource.
USA Today Online
Read an online version of the colorful newspaper for free.
International Book and Book Selling News in an abridged format for free online reading. Once upon a time, you weren't a "real" author unless you subscribed to PW. Of course, that was before the Internet.
In its own words, "Wikipedia is a free, multilingual encyclopedia project supported by the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation. Its name is a portmanteau of the words wiki (a technology for creating collaborative websites, from the Hawaiian word wiki, meaning fast) and encyclopedia. Wikipedia's 12 million articles (2.7 million in English) have been written collaboratively by volunteers around the world, and almost all of its articles can be edited by anyone who can access the Wikipedia website." Of course, these two characteristics are the main criticisms about Wikipedia. The articles are only as accurate as the author. No credentials are required to submit articles or to edit them. When someone consults only Wikipedia, without checking other sources, it's inevitable that false or incomplete data will sometimes be used.
The site was launched in January 2001 by Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger. It's now the most popular general reference work on the Internet. (My advice? It's a great place to start, but verify, verify, verify.)
Place a tab on your desktop, and you can easily look up any word. Get the definition, and you can hear it pronounced too. Great vocabulary is a skill to add to your writer's tool kit.
This registry maintained by Domain Tools.com allows you to see if a particular domain name is available. If not, it offers registration information in case you want to try to buy it.
Travel guide and information for just about any destination.
Find out what was happening in the world for any year from 1900 on.
Free Online Novels
Links to free, authorized online novels, not plagiarized or pirated. A link to my serialized romantic comedy Moonlight On Snow is there.
That's enough for now. I'll list more another time.
The Internet is one of the best free resources you can use.