Academics are worried that the surge in popularity of e-book readers is causing a catastrophic loss of Google search skills, which may mean a chronic shortage of research expertise in the next generation of professionals.
According to a report published this morning, a whole generation is becoming seduced by the convenience and reliability of "books" available on their Kindles and iPads, meaning that many have only the vaguest understanding of the learning methods used by their parents.
"It's a time bomb waiting to happen," claimed report author Brian Renfrew of Cambridge University. "Once these kids get introduced to books, it's like an addiction. They get gripped by Pipe's history of the Russian Revolution, and all best practice of simply googling the important dates just goes out the window. I've seen them slumped in corners of the library, nothing but the relentless flick of the turning pages. Some of them can't even be bothered to play FIFA Soccer on the PlayStation when they get home - you can almost see their thumb muscles wasting away..."
Representatives of student groups have strongly defended the new-fangled "book-learning", pointing out the benefits of having a set of definitive references in front of you in one place, without the tedium of wading through sponsored adverts and porn. But this view was condemned as "short-sighted in the extreme" by Basil Snoddy, careers advisor at the University of Hull.
"It's all very well running to books every time you need an answer, but those Google skills won't come by themselves. What happens when they get a career as a cricket commentator, say? It'll do them no good leafing through some reference book when they've got just seconds to find the name of England's top run-scorer, will it? They won't have the experience to pop open Google and see that the answer is of course 'Nobby Stiles'," he explained.