You cannot open a book without learning something. Confucius

October 18, 2017 | Activate Learning | 3 min read


The words of Confucius still ring true today, and despite how often we hear that people don’t read anymore or that books are relics of the past, the truth is books are as relevant today as they were over two thousand years ago. Audiobooks, for example, are one of the fastest growing media formats in the retail space; while looking at the consumption patterns from our mobile app, we know nearly 80% of the content consumed is, in fact, books. Believe it or not, the mobile usage of books eclipses videos! That said, today’s definition of a “book” is not the traditional hardcover, leather-bound tome of the past. No, today a book equates to the most accessible digital content on the internet.

This realization of the enormous popularity of books compelled us to truly understand and further validate what we were observing with our own customers. We wanted to confirm, to empirically prove that books are more relevant than ever. So last year, Skillsoft embarked on an unprecedented project to analyze modern learners’ consumption patterns, user preferences, and content modalities. This massive undertaking included a study of over 2,000 end users from a variety of online learning vendors, client and expert interviews, as well as a look into millions of usage patterns within the Skillsoft environment.

Our goal?

To get a clear and comprehensive picture of what people like best to use when they want or need to learn.

The results?

Books are very much still essential to learning. Over 80% of respondents said books were an essential part of their learning experience and contrary to popular opinion, we found no real variation across generational groups. Rather, as we got more specific, we found that it was, in fact, Millennials, not Gen X or Boomers, who identified books as more important when it came to learning new IT skills and roughly the same as their counterparts when it came to business skills.

We also discovered that books are the preferred method when the learning is completed to gain meaningful and measured outcomes; a certification, or accreditation for example. Learners know that books are vetted and checked for accuracy and quality, and therefore the material contained within can be trusted. The same cannot always be said of free internet content. Books were also considered better at explaining or breaking down and covering complex topics as they tend to give a more thorough understanding. Lastly and perhaps most importantly, no other learning resource is more suited to targeted search and review, a process that is critical to success in high-stakes assessments, certifications and licensing exams.

Overall, the consensus was that books are a critical component in the preferred overall learning path that blends a variety of resources and tools to acquire, apply and test knowledge. It isn’t books and nothing else- it is books plus video plus online instruction; a mosaic that draws upon and utilizes technology to provide each learner with a variety of methods for optimum learning.

As our study shows, if you want to learn something – open a book!

Mark Onisk is the Chief Content Officer for Skillsoft