Digital Bible pops up in more pews, pulpits

By Cassandra Spratling, Detroit Free Press

 2d 1h ago
DETROIT — Not too long ago, the sight of someone using an electronic device during a worship service might lead an observer to assume that person was not fully engaged. But not anymore. Reading the Bible used to mean reading a book, but increasingly, people are getting the Word on smartphones, iPads and other electronic devices.

Reading the Bible used to mean reading a book, but increasingly, people are getting the Word on smartphones, iPads and other electronic devices.

By Don Emmert, AFP/Getty Images

Reading the Bible used to mean reading a book, but increasingly, people are getting the Word on smartphones, iPads and other electronic devices.

By Don Emmert, AFP/Getty Images

Reading the Bible used to mean reading a book, but increasingly, people are getting the Word on smartphones, iPads and other electronic devices.

So then, what will happen to the printed Bible? The last word has not been written on that, but experts speculate that its unchallenged reign is over.

“The Bible is sort of the flagship of the printed book culture,” said Timothy Beal, author of “The Rise and Fall of the Bible” (Mariner, 2011, $15.95). “The printed word is losing its place as the dominant medium for reading.”

He pointed to the traditional family Bible — once commonplace in many homes — as evidence of the decline in printed Bibles. “Most families don’t have them anymore,” he said. “The family Bible as we know it is already a thing of the past in most families. What was once a perfect product during its time has become kind of an artifact.”

Hardcover Bibles are no longer always found in hotel rooms worldwide, either. Last month, a hotel in Newcastle, England, replaced the hardcover Bibles in all 148 guest rooms with Amazon Kindles, preloaded with Bibles. It’s exploring doing the same in all 44 hotels the InterContinental Hotels Group owns worldwide.

Another hotel — the Damson Dene, in England’s Lake District — replaced nightstand Bibles with the popular novel “Fifty Shades of Grey.”

Practical concerns

The Rev. Michael Nabors, pastor of New Calvary Baptist Church in Detroit, has at least 20 hardcover Bibles in the office of his church. He recently began using an iPad during Bible study, but sticks to a hardcover version in the pulpit. He doesn’t think many of his older members would appreciate him using his iPad.

“What if he’s up there preaching and the battery dies or something like that? I hope he has a real Bible next to him, so he can look up what he needs to look up,” said Isabella Howard, 62, of Detroit, a longtime member.

She wouldn’t trade her hardbound Bible for any e-version.

“I feel closer to God with this,” she said referring to her Bible. “I don’t have to plug up anything. All I have to do is open it up and read it.”

For others, there are more liturgical reasons to shun e-Bibles during worship.

A representative of the Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit said it would be impractical for a priest to use an e-reader during mass because the Holy Book is held high, carried down the aisle and placed for display on the altar as part of the opening of the service.

“It would be really strange to process an iPad down the aisle and place it on the altar,” said Dan McAfee, director of Christian Worship for the archdiocese.

“E-Bibles are great for personal study, but they can’t be used for liturgical books,” he said. “The Bible is a sacred book — a one of a kind — not just a file among many files in an iPad.”

Another way to engage

Bible publishers guard sales figures closely, but America’s largest Bible publisher, Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Zondervan, said sales have been good and growing. The company produces electronic Bible versions, too.

“Today, every time we release a print volume, we release a digital version,” said Chip Brown, a senior vice president and publisher.

Zondervan currently offers about 800 different Bibles for adults and children. Additionally, it offers approximately 80 e-Bibles, said Zondervan spokeswoman Tara Powers.

During the last 12 months, sales of digital Bible products increased four times over the previous 12 months, Powers said.

Brown said e-Bibles are not a threat to the printed volumes.

“Just as TV came along and didn’t kill film or radio, I don’t see digital versions killing the bound volumes. This is just a different way people are engaging (with) the Bible.”

Message stays the same

Some e-versions of the Bible offer opportunities to explore the book in ways printed versions cannot. For example, many e-versions have maps that pop up to show the area written about; some allow readers to compare translations side-by-side, and some offer audio and video renderings of Scripture.

The Rev. Steve Warman, pastor for 18 years at Apostolic Church in Auburn Hills, Mich., said he began using an iPad in the pulpit about two years ago for practical reasons. His sermons and lessons are written on his iPad. He contends e-devices do not distract from the message.

“My wife and I have been married 20 years. She might enjoy a card that says, ‘I love you.’ She would also enjoy a text, an email or a phone call. The message is the same no matter how it is delivered.

“The Bible is really God saying, ‘I love you.’ However it comes, we get the message.”

Categories: Bible Prophecy, Breaking News

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7 replies

  1. I only have hard copies and while I might find SOME benefits in electronic, I don’t think I’d ever go that way.

    One drawback I see to electronic is being able to find specific verses. I suppose some come with a built-in concordance, but I prefer to use my own built-in concordance. By that I mean my memory. Now, I might not always remember chapter and verse, but I usually have a pretty good idea of which book, and when I am using my “usual” Bible, I know it is, for example, on the right hand page, second column, near the bottom, coloured in green.

    An electronic built-in concordance would fit into my thinking like an electronic calculator. Years ago, children were taught short cuts in mental arithmetic . . . until the advent of the calculator. Now, mental arithmetic is a thing of the past and I have watched shop assistants use them even to find 10% or 5% discount! They are amazed when I automatically tell them the answer before they’ve even keyed it in – and that includes more complex answers, which anyone could do 50 years ago!

    Being a strong advocate of Bible memorisation, I see too many drawbacks to an electronic version and many plusses, including knowing the Bible inside out, being able to turn immediately to books and verses . . . “Hiding God’s Word in the heart”

  2. I don’t have an ipad..can’t afford one, but I do have an ereader that I do love to carry around with me on trips, etc. However it’s one limitation, unlike a printed bible, is that it’s not searchable.

  3. Interesting piece Lyn. I personally still carry my antiquated hard back, but study at home regularly from my Study Bible on my Kindle. Okay, I’m going to be the one who breaks the ice… do you ever wonder if those electronic devices are actually on the text the pastor is sharing… or some app, novel, or game? Just asking… Blessings

    • Yes…I can’t tell you how many Pastors I have seen in Videos using their mini laptop’s and the such. And as I said below to another commentator, my own parents have gone totally electronic in the church. I’ve never thought of it in this light as this article mentions. I guess it’s debatable, huh? LOL.

  4. I have to confess to using my iPad in church. I use my Bible for the reading and then take notes on the iPad. It’s great to have it there when I review or use the notes as a resource. I hate the thought of people using their iPads (readers) all over the congregation and no Bibles in sight. It might be difficult for some to keep from doing other things too – a distraction. :)Angie


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