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Inner circle
Portland, OR
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Profile of Turk
As I read through the constant posts on the subject of which is better for learning, books or videos, I am reminded of the rubric: "All generalizations are false...including this one". IMHO, the books versus videos is not an either/or situation. Both are necessary and each complements the other.

In support of videos:

When I first got into magic (i.e., before the age of videos), there were not many magicians that I knew...or with whom I could session...or from whom I could learn...or be mentored. Magically speaking, I grew up isolated and reading magic books and struggling through (and with) the imperfectly written descriptions of complex handlings, sleights and moves. And, like many ohters, not having much experience in magic, I frequently either could not understand the intricate points trying to be made by the author, or, I misinterpreted the instructions...and learned the move incorrectly...and badly. And, learning a move incorrectly or badly never instilled in me the confidence to perform "in the real world". I kept saying to myself "This will never fool anyone", or "You can't get away with doing THAT!", etc. And,..I was right!

And please, don't get me started in acknowledging how inadequate a book is for teaching the timing...or misdirection. Or in teaching simple (but intricate) simultaneous operations that require both hands operating together but performing different operations. Or in teaching complex operations. Such types of operations require the simplest and most direct way to convey and instill such instructions. You don't buy into that premise? OK, try writing the instructions for teaching a person how to tie his shoelaces. Any such written descriptions of such is a chore both for the writer and the reader. Now, watch a simple video demonstrating how to perform this task....and everything "clicks" and the shoelace-tying procedure is almost instantly understood...and learned

When magic VHS video tapes first came out, I was astonished as I watched intricate moves and sleights...particularity those involving timing and misdirection being demonstrated, performed and accomplished before a live audience (and as I watched the magician actually "getting away with moves and sleights" that, in my mind, I was never able to accept or imagine would ever work). It was as if a gauzey film was peeled back from my eyes and I was seeing clearly for the first time. I was entranced and enthralled by what I was witnessing...and learning! And my confidence level immediately rose almost at a geometric rate.

In support of books:

That said, IMHO, the book is the undisputed king on getting a person to turn within himself and to begin running brainstorming sessions within his own mind. Between book learning and video learning, book learning is the more introspective process of the two and, as such, generally more readily stimulates the creative process and gets the reader thinking and becoming more involved in running "what if" scenarios through his he creates, molds and shapes a bare-bones effect into a performance piece that becomes unique onto himself.

I cannot begin to accurately count the number of times I have found myself with a magic book in hand, reading about an effect and its accompanying instructions...and pausing and finding myself transported into my own little world of "what ifs" as I stretched out the boundaries of the effect on which I am presently reading.

In sum, both formats (books and videos) are necessary in order to have a well-rounded education and learning experience in the magic disciplines. They each have their place and are necessary complements of each other.

The foregoing is just IMHO; your mileage may vary...and probably does. (grin) And is offered with all due respect to all...

Magic is a vanishing Art.

This must not be Kansas anymore, Toto.

Eschew obfuscation.
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Wiggle Wiggle
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Personal instruction is ultimately the only and best way to learn.
books and vids are supplemental to the one on one approach.
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Inner circle
Gainesville Fl
3384 Posts

Profile of MeetMagicMike
In the old days when my only source was books there were times when I worked hard on a sleight or routine based on the description. No matter how hard I tried I couldn't make the move look good. I was sure it was me and kept trying. Years later I would see someone do the routine on video and realize I was doing it right...I just don't like the move and would never perform it.
Magic Mike

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Inner circle
Los Angeles, CA
1523 Posts

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This discussion is often needlessly cluttered with issues such as "better value," as a book might include up to 30 tricks while a DVD will have only seven. And twenty years ago people made the point that a book can be read in a hotel room, on the subway. We can put these questions aside because we're making a one-to-one comparison on effective teaching: a trick as described in a book vs. a video. Then there are the agnostics who claim the question is hopelessly subjective and therefore "irresolvable." No, it's not. This is an empirical question.

Here are some reasons why videos are generally superior to books when it comes to learning.

1) Monkey-see, monkey-do. Forget those who cry "I'm a VISUAL learner." Of course you are. This is how our ancestors learned for hundreds of thousands of years. The truly modern technology is the written word (and we've yet to achieve universal literacy). The arguments for books are so bad that advocates are actually reduced to arguing reading promotes "creativity" because we're more prone to misinterpretation.

2) Magic is a visual medium. How does the expression go, "talking about love is like dancing about architecture"? Magic must be seen. Yes, yes, there are exceptions, such as the "theory" books. Of course, those books are not for the novice.

3) The most important part of the video is not the explanation but the performance. Watch the timing, the misdirection. Hopefully it's not that youtube crap-- the performer interacts with a person. Videos also lend themselves to sets -- one trick flowing into another.

4) Earlier (1) I said that people are not natural readers, but it's also the case that magicians (especially) are not natural writers. They're performers. For a book, the magic must be translated into words.

5) Videos are more accessible to foreign speakers.

Now let's talk fallacies: "I-learned-from-books-so-I-KNOW-they're-better". This seems to come especially from an older generation (such as the original poster), and it reminds me of the mistaken belief held by beginning magicians. These are the sort of people who might know a double-lift, so when a fancy, novel alternative fools them, they think the sleight will have an equally tremendous impact on laypeople. Get outside of your own head. Just because books worked for you does not mean they're going to have a similar effect on others. I think it's pretty well-established that books have a steeper learning curve. Once you understand the basics, books become much more readable.
Ellusionst discussing the Arcane Playing cards: "Michaelangelo took four years to create the Sistine Chapel masterpiece... these took five."

Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes: "You know Einstein got bad grades as a kid? Well, mine are even worse!"
Zombie Magic
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Inner circle
I went out for a beer and now have
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On 2013-06-15 12:06, fonda57 wrote:
Just because you rarely met a magician that was doing anything more than a DL doesn't mean that nobody was doing anything else. Top changes, passes, palms, those were around a long time before videos.

Which is why I mentioned seasoned lecturers that encountered the same thing.
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Inner circle
The Netherlands
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Profile of Vlad_77
On 2013-06-15 12:30, Ihop wrote:
According to many studies reading is the least effective learning tool.
Don't get me wrong, I am an avid reader but I learn more from magic videos than from reading. Of course there is an exception, which I mention later.
The order of learning retention from least to most effective is :

Audio such as podcasts, audio tapes, etc.
Visual such as DVD
Practice by doing
Teaching to others

This is pretty much universal thinking from different studies involved in education.
The exception I referred to is:

POORLY done instructional material.

Whether it is a book or a video, many magic instructional media is not prepared with an educators mindset.
I have a small collection of both older and new magic books and even though I am able to follow them, it is quite cumbersome and many times full of errors.
Sometimes at a critical point of the lesson.
Even purchased effects contain unclear instructions.
Older magic books seem to be written for the practicing magician and not for hobbyists.
Let's face it, there are a lot more hobbyists around now than 40-60 years ago.

Many books written for the purpose of teaching a particular topic are edited by educators for the purpose of "teaching effectiveness".
Perhaps that should be done.
If you are an expert in a magic field such as cards, coins, etc., that does not necessarily make you a good teacher.

Also the teaching presentation is a factor. It should keep the students attention.

I was going to continue but I have to go get a haircut.

Hi Ihor,

I would be most interested in these studies you cite as I am involved in curriculum and instructional design. Have you read Michael Apple, Howard Gardner, Jerome Bruner, David Labaree, or Lawrence Kohlberg? I am pretty sure that these people are familiar to you as you utilize a lot of their terminology.

What I do agree with in your well written post is the notion of engagement; engagement involves reflective teaching and a sound constructivist foundation - the behaviorists hate that of course, but, operative conditioning as espoused by Skinner and his ilk was not and is not concerned with cognition and the issue at hand in terms of learning, from knowledge to synthesis, has much to do with cognitive theories, most notably Piaget and Vygotsky.

We know that different people learn in different ways and at different rates, but learner engagement is the constant. Harry Lorayne has been called by many the greatest teacher in magic and the bulk of his work is in the medium of text. Many have commented that Lorayne's style of writing engages them. Daryl in my estimation and that of many others is also an excellent teacher and the bulk of his work is via video.

Learner motivation is also as factor as you know. I would agree that there is more resistance to text than other media, but it begs the question of whether textuality itself is resisted because reading requires more cognitive processes and in older modes of learning, students were forced to read, rote memorize, and metaphorically regurgitate what they read. Knowledge and comprehension were traditionally stressed but not higher order thinking such as analysis and synthesis.

My interest in these studies is purely academic and if you would be so kind as to PM a few citations I would be very grateful. I am curious how these studies were conducted and what the results were in longitudinal and cross sectional studies. SES plays a huge role in learner achievement and motivation and engagement between teacher and student can minimize if not completely overcome SES and other cultural considerations.

Thanks in advance Ihor!

Harry Lorayne
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I sure hope Ihop doesn't have, hasn't read, any of my books! And I sure don't agree with "...different studies involved in education." Ridiculous! (I haven't agreed with most educators since an early book of mine, where I wrote on the very first page - "There is no learning without memory!" And educators screamed. There were many debates - I haven't lost any of those debates yet - because there IS no learning without memory! That's why I don't go along with some of the studies "involved in education." And I sure don't go along with Ihop. Anyway... Best - Harry L.
Harry Lorayne
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Oh, I neglected to stress that I may very well be wrong - since I have only one year of High School to my name! HL.
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I believe a healthy combination of both produces the best result. I think Six put it great using the college course and TED talk analogy. One thing I believe DVDs help a lot with is misdirection as you can see the timing the performer uses to execute each part of the routine. That being said, many DVDs don't include live performances, and this I believe is a major fault.

Another pro I would attribute to books is I believe there is a certain effort that must be applied to learn from a book. If there is an effect that interests you greatly, you will go to great lengths to indulge yourself in the book and learn every intricate detail. Details that would not be available on video. On the negative side though, you may glance over an effect that doesn't seem like your cup of tea but if you saw it performed live you may have second thoughts.
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Profile of WalterPlinge
I don't like it when a trick comes only with a DVD. It may make learning it quicker and easier the first time, but when you want to review, using the written word is much quicker. I also like to read magic books in bed before I go to sleep, trying to find the hidden gem.

In summary, I think it is much easier to learn sleights with video. For the steps to do a trick/routine, books are better, since they are easier to refer back to.
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Profile of duanebarry
On 2013-06-15 03:55, Zombie Magic wrote:
MANY people feel that way. They may say it nicer ( some say it harsher ), but they feel that way. I learned from books starting in the 60's, but I loved when vhs came out.

Before video and dvd, I rarely met a magician that did more than a DL. Ask people that have lectured for years ( Ammar will tell you ). Today, magicians are using passes, top changes, palms, etc.

What changed? I think the introduction of video changed things.

What changed?

Yes, the introduction of video provided an additional path to learning for an additional audience, but it also opened doors for the book learners by being particularly effective for timing-dependent moves. For instance, Allan Ackerman's video showed me not just how to palm, but when to palm.

But books are also far, far better than they used to be, and that has benefited the community of learners as well.

The design of magic books has improved dramatically in several important areas:

- Harry Lorayne brought two major contributions: engaging style, and careful avoidance of ambiguity.

- From there, Richard Kaufman massively elevated conjuring publishing by establishing precisely and generously illustrated large format books with an emphasis on visual clarity as well as clear writing as the new standard.

- To these established standards of written and illustrative clarity, Roberto Giobbi contributed unprecedented organization of content.

Magic books have come a long, long way in the last few decades.

This has been a golden age of instructional publishing in conjuring.
Jonathan Townsend
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Eternal Order
Ossining, NY
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What does the effect look like to the audience?
What must the performer have and do in order to present the item as designed?
What was the performer setting out to accomplish?
What choices did they make as regards realizing their vision?
Of those choices which were personal preference, audience preference and which were technological or physically motivated?
How does their work advance the craft?

Of course one can present the answers to those questions as text or by way of video.

IMHO considered discussion and presentation of those answers developed earlier in books and through writers and is not yet so prevalent in video offerings directed only at "how to do the latest trick". all the coins I've dropped here
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Inner circle
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With my username you might think I would be pro video all the way, but I happen to like books a lot and for some things prefer them.

Things I like about magic books:
You can skip forward and backwards without having to go through some bizarre menu system (some DVD's are terrible).
It is much faster and easier to skim through a book and cull out what you need or are looking for, or just discovering new things you didn't know you needed.
You don't need power to operate and never have to recharge a books' batteries. Much better to travel with.
Certain things I find easier to learn from a book, but this is often because the video was poorly produced while the book was very well written.
Books seem to be more often proofread and double-checked for accuracy, consequently it is generally less often that important info gets left out. It amazes me with some of the videos, I guess it's the youtube mentality but there seems to be this mindset that no preparation or scripting is needed. Especially with the prevalence of "one-trick" DVD's that look like they were cranked out in under 20 minutes. No one apparently ever wants to bother with doing a second take, let alone a third or fourth. I watched one the other day where I had to laugh it was so unprepared, performer had to run off camera to get a deck of cards, then the correct card wasn't on top, then it wasn't in the deck. You'd think by then they'd call "cut", but noooo, the whole thing is explained with the viewer having to imagine that this is the correct card (take 2 is for wusses I guess.) That would never fly in a book, but for reasons I don't understand folks seem to think it doesn't matter in a video.

Things I like about magic videos:
They are much better for understanding the timing of some moves, and conveying any subtleties that may be involved. Visual things can be sometimes difficult to convey with the written word.
They are far superior to really grasping what an effect looks like and whether you want to learn it. I can tell much easier upon watching an effect whether it suits me or not.
How many times have you (or you've heard someone else) say that they couldn't master a sleight and upon seeing it you discover you had been doing it wrong. Again, it is easy to misunderstand text.
I like seeing how the pros actually perform the moves, that they are not always perfect every time, that things such as their pinky breaks are not always microscopic (although they ALWAYS claim that they are exaggerating it for learning purposes - yeah right.)

There are many more pros and cons for each I'm sure, but those are what come to mind immediately.

Having both available is the best of both worlds, although if I had to choose only one I would have to go with video. I prefer it more often than books.
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One of the things I find interesting are the people who won't by printed material because they don't want to read and in so doing, they miss out on, by far, the greatest amount of material available to them.

Here's a few things I do like about books over DVDs.

1) You don't have to put up annoying and distracting music, because the makers of the DVD don't understand how to properly incorporate it.

2) You don't have to deal with long drawn out intros/trailers. I've already bought the DVD, so I don't need to see this.

3) Unnecessary filler or the DVDs where they bring in a second guy to help with the explanations and all they end up doing is making them longer and more confusing. Sometimes it works, but most of the time it's not needed. It doesn't add any thing.

I won't even get into the poor instruction and production that you see on some DVDs.
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Steve Friedberg
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On 2013-06-15 12:04, vinsmagic wrote:
Books and dvds together are the best of both worlds

Vinny's precisely on target. The concept of books v. DVDs is a false argument. Both have their advantages, and to say that one should use only books or DVDs is to exclude a solid method of learning. Of course, if it makes you feel better to say you *only* watch DVDs or *only* read books...well, go right ahead. True believers are always fun to watch.

"A trick does not fool the eyes, but fools the brain." -- John Mulholland
Zombie Magic
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I went out for a beer and now have
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For most, magic is a hobby. Learn the way that brings you the most enjoyment.

For those that are rigid and judge those that don't learn 100% from books, your greatest fears have come true: young working pro's of today credit the Easy To Master series ( card and coins ). "I learned Michael Ammar's Twisting The Aces"....

And I laugh and laugh............
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Hey Steve thanks for agreeing there is no right or wrong both together is the best .some of us are not fortunate to have the classic books...
I have learend my trade from those that came before me watching and learning as they peerformed...
Come check out my magic.
Justin W.
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On 2013-06-16 00:22, Steve Friedberg wrote:
Vinny's precisely on target. The concept of books v. DVDs is a false argument. Both have their advantages, and to say that one should use only books or DVDs is to exclude a solid method of learning. Of course, if it makes you feel better to say you *only* watch DVDs or *only* read books...well, go right ahead. True believers are always fun to watch.

Get out of here with your logic, Friedberg.
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Eternal Order
Northern California
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Profile of TheAmbitiousCard
Obviously, books and videos both have their place.

When I was learning "cylinder and coins" from Carney's book, the timing and smoothness of the movements were not apparent
until I watched a performance only video (Up Close And Far Away). I was shocked. I wouldn't have known if it wasn't for the video.

However, the book has ALL the microscopic tidbits that a video just won't have, even compared to his teaching DVDs.

I think this comparison is similar to the comparison between "book and movie".
A movie never has the detail and depth of a book and I can't remember any time when someone said.. "wow, the movie was way better than the book".

Yet we all go to the movies instead of reading the books because they are easier to digest...... not better.

A DVD certainly has it's place ... but it's not going to replace the fine detail of a book. Hand Crafted Magic
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Inner circle
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^ Right on, Frank!

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