How do books provide us with knowledge?

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Books can give us knowledge by encouraging us to think. Reading should never be simply a passive experience; each reader brings something of themselves to the act of reading a text. A good book will meet the reader half way, neither spelling everything out in minute detail nor being deliberately over-complicated. This means that the reader has a little bit of work to do in engaging with the text.

In turn, this should encourage the reader to think about what it is that they're reading. In doing so, they will bring their existing knowledge—derived from other people, their life experiences and so forth—to bear on what they've learned from the text to form a synthesis that in itself generates additional knowledge.

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Books can transmit knowledge in at least two ways. First, there is the literal or factual knowledge which can be gained by reading non-fiction books. For example, if you were to read a cookbook or a biography, you would be learning real, factual information. Books can also give us knowledge through the experience of reading. Many people feel that when they read a book, especially works of fiction, they interact with "another world." Reading books gives us the opportunity to learn through vicarious experience. Even if the story we are reading is entirely fictional, like the Lord of the Rings series, we gain emotional knowledge through the experiences of the characters. Consider someone who has never had a friend or relative pass away, and may come to know grief through the death of a favorite character. Though it is not factual knowledge, it is experiential and emotional knowledge.

Our experiences with books also offer us more implicit knowledge about what books are. By handling and reading books, we come to know that they are typically made of paper, but may also be made of leather or vellum or even plastic! We learn that books may be printed, hand-written, or contain no words at all. The experience of a book is just as much a way of learning as it is to read the words inside.

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