With the proliferation of educational content on YouTube, will written resources eventually become extinct? Let’s dig into the YouTube vs. Books debate.

My friend Stephen is an actual genius, and most of his learning has been self-taught. He’s a graphic designer and produces YouTube videos for other people. For the most part, he experiments. Using the features on computer programs to see how they work, he creates pictures and animation. Then, he re-does his creations to reach the desired goal. He doesn’t like reading, only does it when necessary, and only for a specific goal.

I, on the other hand, learn from books, magazines, Internet articles and cereal boxes. Part of the difference between me and Stephen is generational. With more than 20 years age difference between us, I’m a generation older than Stephen. So, electronics played a greater role in his formative years than they did mine. We approach learning differently. I suspect my knowledge of a variety of topics is broader and deeper than his because that’s what great writing offers.

Learner Differences

Differences always exist with learners, even within the same generation. Personalities, preferences, and experiences make us different people. To make matters even more complex, subject matter also affects how we learn. Complicated and abstract topics require much more than a quick demonstration in a video. On the other hand, we can learn simpler and more isolated information through videos or PBS programs.

Even those who produce videos will argue in favor of books. For example, Ivan, a coder with a Youtube series, explains how a book provided him with a basic and solid foundation for computer programming. The exercises in that book gave him the practice he needed to learn a complicated process. This allowed him to expand that knowledge later through other means.

Ivan weighs in on the YouTube vs. Books debate.

Book exercises provide the hands-on learning necessary for so much of what we need to know. Nobody ever mastered driving a vehicle from that little DMV booklet. Practice is an essential part of learning difficult material or processes. 

Advantages of videos

However, videos can also encourage learning and create more curiosity about the world. Coyote Peterson, a naturalist with his own YouTube channel, makes nature accessible and fascinating. When learning is engaging and enjoyable, people are much more likely to do it — always a great goal.

Person sitting on a stack of books with feet on a second stack and book open in their lap.

Books shouldn’t be put on the endangered species list yet. The written word isn’t going anywhere anytime soon with the Internet offering so many new avenues for publishing and people able to read just about anywhere because of electronic mediums.

Many young people, however, increasingly focus on non-written forms to take in information. The production of high-quality, compelling, and effective educational videos, even if those are disguised as entertainment, has become of the utmost importance. And if the producers of videos also promote reading, they can provide an essential service to education in general.


  1. Books have very little advantage over well crafted video learning. One doesn’t need to watch a video, then have a video creator suggest a book to make their learning complete. Video creators can create exercises for their viewers to perform, link to a site they have crafted to share even more information, or when it comes to e-learning portals like Khan academy they combine video and practical exercises within the same frame. So, yes, books are out of date, cumbersome, more wasteful of our money, and cause slower absorption of information. One can gain a deeper and far more broad understanding across subject matter with online learning. With the Internet you can go from watching an expert give a speech, to listening to another expert on a podcast, you can pop in on an explainer video to get the bigger fundamentals. You can jump around from philosophy, politics, social sciences, math and so forth. The biggest enemy of our technology is not that it lacks the deeper details, but that it competes for our attention on the same hardware and websites with kitten videos, music videos, ASMR, influencers and fashion.

Comments are closed.