Are Investing Books more Useful than Online Investing Courses?

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Now here’s a question that simply wouldn’t have made sense if it had been asked 15 years ago. Online investing courses? Where are they? Are they expensive? What website offers them? These questions would have appeared in response because online courses were a rare commodity back in 2005. Much has changed since.

I could now name over 20 providers of online investing courses which offer 10-20 hour courses ranging from free to £60. This pricing makes them very affordable, and brings them into competition with the old school purveyor of investing education in the home: investing books. 

You could argue that investing books are simply investing courses that have been bound into a neat book shape and shipped to your address. There’s room for debate but there’s no doubting that these two mediums are currently competing for the attention of readers. 

The number of people investing for the first time and looking for initial beginners guides is probably as high as ever, but the question is: Where do they go? Do they pop to a book store or download a title on their e-reader? Or do they open their web browser on their PC or phone and begin learning from an online portal instead. Which is best? Let’s discuss below. 

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Are investing books more effective than online investing courses?

Ease of use.  An online investing course is about as easy to use as an investing book. The layout and features of online courses make them easy to navigate. Similarly, the organized chapters of a ‘beginners guide to investing book’ would make it easy to jump right into the useful content of a hardback dedicated to the same topics.

Expense.  Online courses can be available for free, whereas investing books will have a minimum price of £4.99. Cynically, I believe that publishers price investing books at a slight premium to other forms of self help, on the basis that potential customers will be in an investment mindset, and will not think twice about spending a few extra pounds to secure some knowledge that could generate hundreds if not thousands of pounds on the stock market. 

Either way, investing books tend to range between £5 – £25, whereas online courses have a wider range. As mentioned above, some are freely available, whereas some cost in excess of £100. If you’re looking for a basic beginners guide to the stock market, you will probably not need to pay more than £20 for an excellent overview. It tends to be the detailed ‘day trading’ and quantitative analysis courses which go for the premium prices. 

Narrative.  A key difference between investing books and courses is that a book is written by an author with a beginning, a middle and an end. It’s probably because of the format, but authors cannot resist weaving narrative, humour and drama into a book on any topic, even investing. Therefore investing books are often more gripping and frankly more memorable than investing courses, which can be quite dry. 

Effectiveness. The overall effectiveness of these two formats is difficult to compare. An online course has a greater degree of freedom as to how it communicates complex ideas. It could be via a video, a colourful image, or even a spoken explanation. An investing book, in contrast, is confined to the written word, and therefore some people may find it less effective as a learning tool. 

Accessibility. I will give one point to investing courses on the accessibility front because they are universally accessible from devices and laptops/PCs. It’s true that investing books can be read on e-readers and mobile phones, but only if purchased in the correct format. 

Overall, I’m inclined to give the victory to investing courses on the grounds of their flexibility and ability to deliver content over multiple mediums to best suit the topic. Investing books however come a close second – they still sell well despite the new online competition, which demonstrates that users still find them useful when learning a new topic.