The internet is great to learn specific things. Such as: keyboard shortcuts or how to fix a toilet.
But the internet is probably at its least useful when you are trying to learn a lot about a subject that you know nothing about and you want to gain a better overall understand of a domain.
Besides the obvious – annoying ads – here’s some more reasons to consider paper books to get you learning faster and easier:
- When you buy a book the book was made for the customer. Most of the “free” articles you find on “how to” were written to sell ads, not to help you. The information is designed to get to the top of google search results – it’s not designed to help your understanding. The quality is great for search engines and ads – the quality is not so great to help you. Remember – if you’re not paying for the product then you are the product.
- A book has put everything together for you already. Web pages are typically 1000 words or less because they are targeted at a specific google search. If you want to learn a lot on your new subject, you’re going to have to piece a bunch of google searches together.
- A good book isn’t going to repeat itself and you can get the knowledge faster. With the “internet method”, each time you search, the results have a chance of containing information you already learned from your last search. As you do more and more searches you create more and more redundancies.
- Books that cover a topic in depth will introduce to things you would never know to google for. Unless you know what you don’t know, how do you google for it? When I bought a book about using Instagram I found out about other features and strategies I might never have found.
- Books easily go at your pace. Videos are often slow. (It might not be obvious but this is because the longer the video the more money they video maker gets from ads.) With a written text I can skim to the parts I’m not familiar with, stop and reflect on parts that are harder to understand and easily go at my own pace. These things are possible, but much harder with video.
- You can’t make notes on someone else’s video. I can make all the notes I want in my book. Sure I can make notes while I’m watching a video, but they’re not tied to the information. If I look through my annotated book, it’s right next to material that refreshes my memory. If I look at the notes I took while watching a video or hearing a lecture, the tie to the source information is gone – I might not even know what my note means anymore.
- A good book is written, edited, fact-checked, and organized well – the internet is knot. A good book from a professional publisher has almost certainly been edited for clarity and fact-checked. The web is only edited to get to the top of search results. The information goes in my brain faster when it is written, edited, and organized well.
But not all books are going to be great or work for you. Here’s a few tips on how to find the right book:
- Beware of hype and overpromises, especially on the cover. Flip through the book some before you buy it. Is it filled with specifics or does it endlessly talk about the results you will get or does it show you how to do it? Does it have lots of success stories or does it show you how to be successful?
- Beware of bloggers who have written books. The books are often just a collection of their posts, not a synthesized and logical progression of information. Just regurgitated articles written for the google search algorithm, not for humans. Read through reviews to see if this is a common theme. Flip through the book or look at the table of contents to see if it has a logical structure or just seems like a bunch of blog posts.
- Beware lots of graphics. This is a bit of a personal preference, but I find lots of illustrations very distracting and a waste of trees. Graphs and charts and screenshots are fine. But if it looks like something a 4 year old might be enthralled with then I just say no. Pointless colorful illustration is a sales tool to trick you into thinking learning will be easy. Learning takes work so don’t fall for it.
- Beware free or cheap e-books. You get what you pay for most times. Often these are just ads for their services disguised as books.
- Choose a book by a known publisher. Publishers go through thousands of aspiring author submissions and find the best they can. Let the publishers vet the writers for you. (There are always exceptions, but I think this is a good general rule of thumb).
- Look at the table of contents. Does it seem like the sort of stuff you’d want to learn? Is it too broad? Too narrow? If you just want to learn more about Instagram marketing , you don’t need to buy a book that covers seven social networks, each in a different chapter.
- Don’t look at the Amazon reviews until you sort by date. Publishers game the system by getting lots of good reviews into the system on release day. Sorting by newest will show you closer to what the truth sentiment is toward the book. If the reviews average 4.8 stars but the last 5 reviews are negative.. be wary.
- Don’t buy a new release. Related to the last point, be wary of books that just came out. Publishers do everything they can to make this new book look like the best thing ever.
There’s exceptions to be made for all these rules, but I think if you keep them in mind when digging into a whole new area that will take more than a few hours of study, you’ll get more for your efforts faster by going with a physical book.