For a few years, until a couple months ago, I was on a video lessons subscribe spree, registering for video lessons on almost every topic on earth. Drawing lessons, piano lessons, programming courses and so on. Not only those, but also several YouTube channels for entertainment – fun facts, interesting science stuff, crime reports, movie star interviews … just about everything was videos, videos, videos. The explosion of videos on YouTube and the tons of video courses that were dead cheap, had me thinking there’s so much I could learn for so little money.
As I was thinking all is well, they gave me an ebook library subscription at work. I went on to pick a couple ebooks on it and went about reading them. That’s when I realised, videos are no match for reading. I’m not sure if this is just for me or whether it applies to everyone. I find that it’s much faster to read from books than learn from videos. I also find reading more effective.
Reading is actually faster. It takes only a few minutes to read almost any article such as this blog. This is because we are trained to skip a lot of words and move through the text very fast. Over the years I suppose our brains have developed to a state where they know what is being read without having to read the entire syntax or even all the words. We read by keywords. Also, reading was at my speed. If the material was difficult, I read slow, if it’s easy, I read fast. A video would read at the presenter’s speed. I can maybe do 1.5x or 2x speed on the video but that’s not even the same thing.
It’s possible to copy-paste. If I’m going through a tutorial or a lesson on an ebook or an internet article, when I want to try out some command or a code snippet, I can simply copy-paste it. Even when I want to use it as a sample and write my own code, I still copy-paste it to my text editor as a reference. Needless to say, this was out of the question when my search results sent me to a YouTube video.
Progress only if I’m there. If my mind wanders off mid way for a few minutes, when I come back I’m not even sure where I left the video at, it keeps running anyway. This is not a problem while reading. You can simply return to the spot on the page where you were before you started day dreaming.
Less distractions. Of course it’s being extremely difficult to be without distractions today. But still, there’s a big distance between reading and watching videos in this matter. Almost all video sites constantly badger you with ads, suggestions on what to watch next, related videos, comments and so on. These are all much lesser when you are reading. And practically non-existent if you are reading an ebook.
Correctness. I believe text material such as books and reference websites are inherently less error prone. Simply because making text is much simpler and hence there could be more focus on accuracy. And another more important reason is that most video makers don’t bother to edit and repost their videos in case there is a mistake. Maybe they’ll drop a comment or a note in the description – which we might not notice. But books and articles are easy to update in case an error is spotted.
It’s more entertaining. When you are consuming for entertainment, reading a story engages you much more than watching it on a video. You imagine the visuals and sounds as you read the story. It builds more connections in your brain and it is a more active task for your mind. The TV used to be called the idiot box for a reason.
There are a few areas in which videos excel – for example in presenting 3D pictures – like how are electrons positioned in an atom, in presenting art-related education – like how to play a musical instrument and so on. But these are only a few. For the most part, especially if I’m trying to learn something, I find reading is definitely more effective than watching.