Books for Learning

Books, printed books, despite the promise that e-books will kill them in the age of the Internet, they’re still there and sold in millions by Amazon and the like. But I observe, that they’re still on the decline. Not because everyone would only read them in electronic form only. For this the smartphone is simply not really convenient. You need a tablet/iPad to enjoy reading e-books IMHO. No, it’s because books aren’t used anymore for learning. 

When I look around me at work, nobody other than me has books besides his desk and seems to read any book for work. Maybe they only read prose for pleasure, fine as well. But even that you see less and less in public transportation. What I see is that people don’t use books for learning but use other media instead. They watch videos, listen to podcasts or read articles in the world-wide web as they need it. You have an issue, you search and find some resource that tells you how to get ahead. On-demand learning, so to say. 

A book is something longer-term, you buy, you watch is waiting for you and you spend weeks, if not months to digest it in one piece if it is a good one. That takes time and effort and persistence to do. That’s not like a two-page article or 20min video that comes right to the point. I guess this is really the point, these other internet-based media are easier to digest and solve your problem of learning that you have right in this moment.

But this type of learning is a shallow one. You don’t really learn the fundamentals of the technology or topic. You learn how to solve exactly this one problem and the next day you’re as dump as you were. This is why people always say “I have no idea”. Really I avoid this phrase like hell. I do want to have a clue, an idea on the topics, I speak about, otherwise I shut my mouth. 

And for this you need deep knowledge, expert knowledge. Books are written usually by experts, at least if it’s a good book. They build up the topic from the grounds and systematically consolidate the matter using examples and give you reasons and arguments. At the end you are maybe not an expert yourself, experience is missing. But at least you have the feeling that you have profound knowledge to start from. 

There is the model of “cone of learning” from Edgar Dale, I think. It explains how good media are for learning. The book is doing pretty bad in this model. It is passive learning and you remember only small parts of what you read. In contrast a video or podcast is remembered much more. And that is probably right in the general. How long do you remember what you read a year ago in a book? Nevertheless the depth is a different in a book in contrast to other media. and I would say it needs to stay in the learning mix also these days, electronic or not. 

There is one more aspect, that I reflected about. Exactly that is the point, writing a book is equally more effort and takes more time than creating a podcast, video or writing an article (like this one, lol). So there is so much preparation going into writing a (good) book. A good friend of mine, Barbara Hoisl, wrote a book last year. Content-wise this is a completely own article, but she worked for more than a year only on the book, left apart the time for thinking about it and preparing the steps to get to start at all. But this is not only time, it is reflection and thinking time. And a book includes this reflection and thinking of months and years. It is maybe courageous to talk about wisdom, but a book certainly captures more wisdom than other media. And this is why one should read books in addition to consuming internet-based media.

Well, think about it, yours


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