Learn From Books

Don't rely on the internet

February 1, 2024

So I’ve finally decided to get into 3D printing. Because I’ve gotten into 3D printing I’ve decided that I need to learn how to use some 3D modeling software so that I am equipped to make my own designs and solve my own problems. The thing that a person in my shoes has to figure out is what the best way to go about learning a new skill like that is. The modern internet has given us plenty of ways to learn things, there are simple YouTube videos, online courses, and interactive tutorials; but the best learning tool is much older than any of those things. Quality books are the best way to learn, if you want to learn something, find a book catered to your current skill/knowledge level and read it, if it is a workbook work through it.

When I was a computer science student in college C++ was the first programming language that was taught to me. Except I don’t credit any teacher or course for teaching me how to code, it was the textbooks which deserve that credit. They were well-written and whenever I was diligently reading them before class I didn’t have the same sort of struggles other students were having with the material. In fact it eventually became clear to me that the students who were struggling in class weren’t reading their textbooks. When other students came to me with questions about the material I’d try to open up the book to the page that taught the concept that they were struggling with because that is exactly what I would do when I was struggling with something or couldn’t remember how something worked. I’d find myself opening up my first semester textbook to answer my questions throughout my entire college career.

Could I have learned C++ through video tutorials or something like that? Yes, but I don’t think I would have been as successful doing that. Reading a book takes effort, watching a video series doesn’t, learning should require effort. Also how easy is it to go back and reference past material in your learning? If you’re learning C++ through video tutorials and you forget the proper syntax to read data from a file you’ll have to go back to your video tutorials, try to remember which video contained the information you needed, then scrub forward and back through the video until you’ve found the exact frame you needed, or worse, the exact quote. Depending on how lucky you are this could take several minutes. If you are using a book to learn you just have to open up to the chapter on working with files and flip a few pages until you’ve found what you are looking for. If you are familiar with the book you are using (which you should be since you’d be spending several hours with it) then this process would take you less than thirty seconds. A familiar textbook is a much greater tool to a person than an internet search can ever be.

Coming back to my quest to learn 3D modeling, I’ve chosen to learn from a book called Mastering Fusion 360 by Jake O Sugden and Joshua Manley. I chose it because it was featured in a 3D Print General video and it seemed to be a good resource as Sean was able to feel confident designing things after working through the book. I tried to find reviews on similar books I could use to learn CAD (I would have preferred to learn FreeCAD over Fusion 360 since it is open source and isn’t cloud based) but I couldn’t so Mastering Fusion 360 it was then. I’m currently working through chapter 4 and have been happy with my experience with the book so far, it’s been enough for me to be able to design a replacement hard drive cover for my Thinkpad X220.

Something that I found a bit concerning in my search for reviews on other books to learn CAD and 3D modeling was that the reviews didn’t seem to exist. Even with the book I did end up buying the 3D Print General video I mentioned earlier seemed to be the only one. Internet people have shifted towards promoting online courses and tutorial videos rather than much more reliable books. I’m of course not saying that these courses are all bad, I’ve never taken one so I’m in no position to say that; but if the authors of your online course didn’t write a book to go alongside that course then you’re going to have trouble going back to find old information from the course later down the road. You need a physical book to be able to do that.

Now many people these days are hesitant to try learning things from a book because they don’t think they can. At some point within the last several years people have latched onto the pseudoscience of some psychologist and have adopted the belief that there are different ways to learn things and because they are a “visual learner” they can’t learn anything by reading a book. This is not the case. The biggest factor in your ability to learn something is your motivation to do so, not the results of some personality quiz your middle school guidance counselor made you take. If you struggle to learn things from books, especially textbooks, it probably isn’t because you are a “visual learner” or something, it is probably because you never actually learned how to read a textbook because your middle school guidance counselor led you to believe that you could never accomplish such a feat. Again, (unless you have a learning disability) you struggle with textbooks because you need more practice using them, not because there is something wrong with your brain.

Anyways, I’ve rambled on this topic long enough. If you want to learn something buy a book about it and read it. If you’re a beginner get one written for beginners, don’t try to read a textbook designed for college seniors on the topic. The For Dummies books out there are usually pretty good so start there if you can’t find anything else. Books are better than the internet, and to quote Mark Twain, “The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read.” Go read a book and learn a new skill with it.