Yeah, it's been a while. This is kind of short and sloppy, but may be worthwhile to some of you.
DVD/Video vs Books. It’s an ongoing debate. Some people seem to hate DVDs and the ability to learn magic from video. Some see books as outdated. Some, like me, think you should look for a happy medium.
Magic is a strange, ever evolving art form. We really can’t go over a sleight or idea anymore without having at least ten different references. New versions and handlings are being produced every day. Unfortunately, many are being put on to DVD just as quick. DVD has made it possible for anyone with a decent (read: not movie quality, often grainy, and about 10 years past it’s shelf life) camera and some decent (read: less than 10 years old) video editing software to produce a DVD. That’s the major issue with DVD. Anyone can do it. I’ve seen a good number of videos that just didn’t need to be released. A horrible method to a horrible effect that’s been edited horribly. That being said, DVD is a great way to learn magic because you get to see the way the move is supposed to look. Variations are great, if they work for you, but the moves are shown the way they were intended to look and, many times, it’s better than the so called “improvements” that others will add.
Books have a much better effect/price ratio by far, but have their own drawbacks. Books on magic are hard to write. I keep personal notes on all of my worthwhile ideas and make sure they’re all we written, just in case. Unfortunately, I could hand my notes off to someone else and they wouldn’t get it at all, even though they make perfect sense to me. To write a magic book, you have to be both a writer and a magician. Stephen Minch comes to mind. His books are remarkably easy to follow, no matter what the subject matter. The added advantage to books is the amount of detail the author can go into. This has it’s drawbacks, as we really don’t need a 4 page description detailing the proper method for a Mechanic’s Grip, but it is useful to some people. A lot of little nuances can be explained in writing that makes the study of the text worthwhile. SW Erdnase’s amazing book Expert at the Card Table is a great example. You may miss a few things on the first reading, but those little tips are priceless and you can’t always catch them on video. As I mentioned before, the effect/cost ratio is the big thing here. For the price of one average priced DVD (Generally around $35), you can get a few great books with time tested material and plenty of things that you may use, opposed to potentially finding nothing useful in a DVD. Mark Wilson’s Complete Course in Magic is a perfect example. This one book has enough material to fill 10 DVDs or more and just requires a little reading to find all the gems in it.
A happy medium is the best way to do it, though. I often find myself reading through a book, seeing the directions for a certain sleight, reading it a few times to find my natural understanding, then finding it on a video so I can see how it was intended to look and deciding which works best for me. It also works backwards. I may find an effect on a video that I really like, then in a completely unrelated effect, find a move that better suits it that was tucked away in a long forgotten book. I’ve heard lots of arguments going either way on this subject. My suggestion is to use whichever medium works best for you, but not to discredit the others. For years, I only bothered with DVD. Now, I’ve noticed all the hidden gems in books like The Card Magic of Le Paul and 13 Steps to Mentalism.