Stories: The Screen vs. The Book

  • December 11, 2017
  • 4-Minute Read

The brain works in a way that for it to create new connections it has to experience novel things, and not only that, the experience has to be significant in order to get encoded efficiently. The answer to these requirements was formulated long ago, by our ancestors: stories.

A skilled storyteller can convey tons of useful information to his audience, from moral values to the how-tos of everyday life. Being either real or fictitious stories, they work the same way, they convey a message in a excitable way, relevant to humans, not some random static piece of data which you feed into a machine.

The Screen

The screen is made from thousands to millions of small dots called pixels that together form an image that changes rapidly, producing the illusion of motion. Combined with sound it creates an immersive experience that resembles the real deal. It is a very powerful tool, but it does most of the work your brain so gravely needs to remember information, so there is a special kind of information that the screen is the most efficient at conveying than other mediums.

The best uses for the screen is to show novel things that are not easily viewed (vulcans, other planets, etc.), or things that don't exist yet (conceptual work, abstractions, etc), thus giving the audience the image and sound representations to work with. These representations are very important and a lot more efficiently acquired and transmitted to a wide audience with the screen than with books, for instance.

The screen can tell stories too, but they tend to be compressed, showing mostly the highlights of a character's story. Yes, actually seeing something can be very exciting, and as everybody has a TV, smartphone or computer these days, it is much easier to propagate an idea through the screen than with other media.

The screen rules in the 21st century. There is no escaping this. But it doesn't mean that there isn't tons of people who love books.

The Book

There is one thing that tops the screen in immersion and it sits right between your ears. What you perceive as reality is the work of your brain, and if your brain make your reality then why not make the reality you choose? Or expand your current reality? That is what books can offer you at a much higher level.

Books are much more verbose than movies, once you have an acceptable vocabulary and experience at reading, you can experience levels of immersion that no movie can offer you. Even better, because your brain has to work to simulate and render the reality presented by the book, you end up remembering much better the information contained in the book.

You steal the experiences of the book.

Books are considerably longer than movies. Some book series take months or years to read, and if you are a more financially thoughtful kind of person you can get much more bang for your buck with books than with movies.

If you are starting out with books, read good stories first, build your reading muscle and then venture into the tomes of distilled knowledge that are aligned with your goals. Otherwise you are very likely to burn out trying to grind through them. Some people use books specially to expand their vocabulary and learn a new language, and stories give your brain the context it needs.

One thing that books get right and other mediums don't is the fact that in life we need to do a lot of things, often seemingly unrelated, in order to fulfill our destiny or attain certain goal, and a book being verbose as it is, depicts it vividly, while in a movie the characters will magically master all their “powers” or overcome all obstacles when the circumstances require it. Movies sacrifice a lot of very important information to enthrall the audience for one to two hours, often creating the illusion that if we can't magically achieve what we want then we are not good enough. Don't that fool you, do the work; make mistakes.


“The medium is the message.” — Marshall McLuhan

Stories are important for our brains to assimilate data because it organizes it in a relevant way to a human life. In a story we put ourselves in the position of the protagonist, and what he experiences becomes our experience, and each individual experience fits a context meaningful to us. That is how for thousands of years we didn't need VR (Virtual Reality) to be put into each others shoes. Read a good story today. Thanks for reading.