In my senior class, students are working on final copies of the research paper and outlines. While I've received some quality products so far, many students have obviously been settling for the SparkNotes summary. Quotes are generic and brief, explanations seem like they're a copy of a copy, and secondary research doesn't quite fit. It's not to suggest that the students don't know how to perform the research process, or that they can't write (their work has actually been impressive in many cases), but it shows when the actual book hasn't been read. It's like taking a worksheet, making a copy, and then copying the copy. The more copies that are made, the more eligible and cloudy the worksheet becomes. There's something irreplaceable about starting from the source.
My junior class is dealing with the same issue. We're currently making our way through To Kill a Mockingbird and while some are taking the time to read and analyze the original book, it's been clear in our discussions that many have simply read the summaries. Sure, they know who Jem and Scout are, but they have no idea about the author's tone, voice, inflection, or all the other intangibles that have been filtered out. Like drinking salt water, they're constantly left empty and confused why this book is supposedly so good.
While I'm the first to advocate the use of SparkNotes, Wikipedia, and other time saving sites as a way of revisiting books, or double-checking what event happened in what chapter, that's all these sources can really offer. At least once, you have to read the original. Only from there can you reflect, critique, postulate, and regret. I can't count how many old movies I've seen which I hated at the time, but I'm very glad I've experienced after the fact. As for where to find the time to do all this original source reading...well, that's the great challenge of our age.