Here’s a post titled, “Are books history?” on the InfoWorld blog by Sean McCown; while it sounds as if he’s crowing for the triumph of e-books, I think he’s really asking, “Are tech books history?” And to that I say, “Hooray!”

McCown makes software and Net training videos, and he’s been seeing more and more requests for video podcasts that allow people who need to learn tech procedures to learn them quickly and easily. He says:

Let’s face it. With podcasts becoming more ubiquitous in IT, and with screencasts (like with Camtasia) becoming more and more engaging and popular, do we really need books anymore? Wouldn’t you rather learn by watching someone actually DO it?

What I think he means is: “Do we need those big fat tree-killer computer manuals any more?” The answer, of course, is “no way.” How many of those big fat phonebooks that train people in Macromedia Dreamweaver or Windows 98 or other out-of-date software do you still have on your shelves? Macromedia, of course, has not existed for a while – Adobe bought the company in 2005 – and of course, Windows 98 was about three operating systems ago.

But lots of libraries keep those big bricks of books on their 000 shelves just in case someone wants them – which they almost never do. I just weeded our software shelves and threw these books out, but I’ll bet plenty of other libraries still own them.

Computer books and printed instructions were inferior to seeing someone fix your tech problem from day one; we only used them back in 1995 or 1998 because there was nothing better or more reliable back then when we had to solve a problem on our own. And, of course, lots of kids never read them at all to begin with – or watched the videos, either; they just waded in and solved the mysteries of a new piece of software by trial and error.

I, for one, will be glad when we no longer need to buy or own those fat computer books that go stale so quickly, but sometimes (like when your Net connection goes out and you must get back online) they can be lifesavers. Videos, if they’re well-made, are much more effective than print for things that can be recorded and can demonstrate, step by step, how to operate your PC and use your software. But, unless I’ve misread his point here, it sounds as if McCown has carried on to suggest that books (I mean books in general) are on their way out because a tech-instruction video is better than a few pages in an elephantine computer manual.

Actually, I don’t think he has; but I can’t help, simply from the way he wrote the piece, daring McCown to create a video that discusses in detail the arguments between Darwinists and creationists on the kind of budget most tech trainers have. Or to describe for us on video the political forces at play in the years leading up to World War II. Or to read us a full-length novel. For the moment, there are things that print still does a whole lot better than video.

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