Could you become a doctor if you read 50 articles on random subjects covering medicine?
The same question goes for law, computer science, art, and music.
Articles are not bad per se. And they could be really instrumental in certain cases—especially when you’re reading about a very narrow subject or something innovative (since writing and publishing a book requires a solid amount of time and “new age” content gets outdated quickly).
There are different reasons why reading books is important.
1. Books cover the entire landscape of the subject.
Again, reading an entire book on something will give you a thorough explanation of all areas regarding the topic you’re interested in.
Some may appear to be boring. And some may be outside of what you’re really looking for.
But that knowledge combined is often crucial when applying the knowledge in a practical manner. There is a good reason why authors discuss a broad set of topics. This is based on their own industry experience and they know that all of that combined matters to readers.
2. Articles are often SEO-driven.
One of the problems of many articles in blogs and magazines is that they are SEO-driven, not knowledge-driven.
Here is the thing. Online readers often look for quick tips and advice on a niche topic.
If an article writer dives too deep, readers may skip it and go read something else. This isn’t beneficial for the blog.
Also, it increases the bounce rate of the page and de-ranks the article accordingly (even lower view count).
And in order to rank higher, authors are often tempted to push fluffy content stuffed with keywords that attempt to rank better. This can drastically reduce the quality of the article – and even its integrity.
Think of articles as “TV ads”. Within 30 seconds, you get the gist of what the product does in an interactive manner aiming to keep you entertained. But they don’t give you a detailed overview of the brand, the company behind it, the pros and cons of the product, and the like. And they may be deceiving if you don’t read between the lines.
3. Books can be consumed without distractions.
Articles are usually consumed while you are online—browsing at work or from your mobile phone.
Both connected devices are usually crowded with tabs, pop-up notifications, and constant reminders about other things you are assumed to look into.
Also, articles are hosted on a blog with other ads and banners here and there, links to different resources, occasional pop-ups, and whatnot. This is often annoying and you can easily miss the context of the piece.
But you can purchase a hardcover book and read it in bed in the evening or over the weekend, away from your devices. Or download an ebook on your Kindle and read it on a plane (while you don’t have tons of distractions anyway). This matters when you pay attention to the content.
4. Great books are often not related to your specialty.
Successful people often read books that don’t have much to do with their core specialty (be it a certain profession or business).
For instance, Business Insider shared 14 books that inspired Elon Musk. While some seem related to AI or space, you’ll also find “The Lord of the Rings”, some Sci-Fi, biographies.
This isn’t the type of content that you can easily assimilate through an article. Even a Wikipedia bio long 30 pages isn’t as comprehensive as a 400-page book covering different aspects of one’s life.
And people often look for creative ways to apply different paradigms into their own day-to-day. Some could be spiritual or philosophical as well.
5. Books are often of a higher quality.
In addition to the SEO element covered above, writing a book generally requires more time and effort. There are professional editors and publishers involved in the writing process. The tone is calibrated and justified for maximum impact.
Plenty of articles are produced by freelancers who charge $10-$20 apiece. This often leads to content that may be misleading instead of helpful. Sure, top magazines, science journals, personal blogs by experts go in-depth, but some of them are hard to find or expect a certain level of understanding from the audience within a limited piece (which still requires you to browse for dozens of explanatory articles or get a book describing a topic in-depth).
In conclusion, articles could be helpful and valuable in certain cases. But books are extremely valuable most of the time—and could give you a deeper understanding of a specific subject (or food for thought).