One can do without all books, yet all books are essential to live and to like living. Hafid Aggoune
In the age of YouTube and Instagram, the book seems to have lost some of its glory. The text remains of course present, if only in the emails we receive, the titles of videos we still make the effort to read, the tweets whose sentences are delimited to the nearest character or the online press that has survived despite these new trends etc.
A “hard skill” or “professional know-how” is, according to Wikitionary, a “Competence acquired in one or more fields of specialization, precisely assessable and transferable, implemented in a professional environment.”
It is difficult to totally match this definition with the ability to read books since reading can be applied to all fields of life whether professional or not. On the other hand, its evaluation and transmissibility seem quite relative. Furthermore, reading is a skill rather than a competency. However, reading books can be considered as a competence if we consider the following elements:
In a world where the porosity between professional and personal life is increasing, it is quite logical that professional skills invade personal life and vice versa. Reading books is originally linked to the transmission of knowledge, whether scientific, philosophical or theological. Therefore, it was not addressed to everyone and one can say that it intervened in a specialized and restricted field. Thus, originally, reading books validates the first part of the above definition.
The fact that a hard skill is assessable essentially responds to one criterion: habit.
A professional skill is forged through repetition, i.e. deliberate practice. The same is true for reading. Of course, the evaluation criteria are ultimately less numerous than for more “classic” hard skills, but they do exist. One example is reading frequency or the number of books read each year. The larger these numbers are, the more they convey the idea of being a strong point in our mix of professional attributes (the sum of our skills, abilities and know-how).
Transmissibility exists, but it goes beyond just knowing how to read. Not everyone who can read reads a book. It is a more subtle transmissibility, less obvious than the teaching of programming for example, because it is cultural or is done by imitation. We start reading books because people have influenced us in one way or another or simply because we have become aware of the value of the treasures they contain.
Reading books is all the more of a hard skill because it has become something difficult to do in a world where audiovisual or photographic distraction is ubiquitous. It can be an undeniable comparative advantage on the professional level and a source of simple pleasure on the personal level.