I am a graduate student studying history, and I am in the market for a new digital camera for the purpose of photographic images off of microfilm machines, and also old books and documents that I find in my research in archives. Many libraries charge an arm and a leg for copies--and often documents are too fragile to put into a copy machine or scanner--so the digital camera route is something that I am very interested in.
I have used Canon PowerShot cameras for many years, mostly to take pictures when I am on vacation, and I've been very happy with them. I am looking to make a long-term investment in hardware which I'll use for at least a few years, but I'd rather not pay hundreds of dollars for an SLR (I want it to be highly portable). Rather, if there aren't too many drawbacks, I'd prefer to use a point-and-shoot so I can use it both for my research, and when I go out with friends.
Is it reasonable to use a point-and-shoot for this purpose, or will it simply not work? What are some of the characteristics that I should be looking for in a camera/tripod combination for such uses?