There are clear advantages and disadvantages associated with learning both from experiencing the world directly and through reading books. In my opinion, the knowledge which we gain from our worldly experiences is more important than that which we gain from printed sources. I feel this way for two main reasons, which I will explore in the following essay.
First of all, books are not always accurate and often contradict what we can find in the real world. This is a result of the fact that books are often written by unqualified lay people but also because even respected and trained academics are subject to their own biases and personal shortcomings. Even if a diligent professor writes a book with the best of intentions and tries to avoid factual errors, his research might be faulty as a result of major shifts in world affairs. My own experience visiting the Middle East several years is a good example of this reality. Before I took my trip, I read a great number of textbooks, articles and guide books about the region. All of these informed me that the Middle East was a very conservative and religious place, and suggested that the people there might be a bit xenophobic as a result. However, when I actually got on the ground, I found a very welcoming, progressive culture that had a lot of secular elements. Through the books I consulted were only a few years old, they were wholly out of date and did not match my personal experience. This example demonstrates, I feel, some of the problems with depending too much on books for our knowledge.
Secondly, the knowledge which we gain from personal experiences stays with us longer than that which we gain from reading. Books are often shelved and forgotten about shortly after we read them. For example, I was a university student for four years and I read hundreds of books during that time. However, it is now a decade since my graduation and I can only remember just a few of those books. The rest of them all blend together and the knowledge I gained at the time is lost to me now. In contrast, I still have very vivid memories of the aforementioned trip to the Middle East. What I learned there about culture, people and society is burned into my memory and I will never forget it. This is because I had a personal connection to my trip, while I had only a temporary academic connection to my university studies.
In conclusion, I strongly believe that knowledge gained from experiences is more important than knowledge gained from reading books. This is because books are sometimes inaccurate, and because our personal memories stay with us longer than the facts we read about in print.