Dead Tree Books, e-Books and Christian Reading


by GW Anderson, Spoudason Services

Our guest blogger, George W. Anderson, taught at Columbia International University before becoming the Editorial Manager of the Trinitarian Bible Society in London. He is now an Editorial Consultant for the Society as well as a Consultant in Bible and Greek with Spoudason Services.

With the advent of e-book readers one would expect many more people having access to books, dictionaries and study tools. It would be anticipated that with the availability of Amazon’s Kindle, Nook, Sony and other e-book readers, more people would know the joy of reading and want to pass it on to others, particularly as the price of dedicated e-book readers has been declining. However, this is not necessarily the case. Just because someone has a Kindle or a Nook, does not necessarily mean that they are being used for reading. For many, after the new plastic smell has gone away the device finds its way into a drawer, never to see the light of day again.

People find all sorts of reasons to avoid using e-readers. On the one hand, you have people who make statements like “I love the feel of a paper book in my hands”, “I love to be able to dog-ear the page” (an idea that drives my wife crazy), and “I love the smell of a book”. There are many such tactile comments made about book reading which have absolutely nothing to do with actually reading a book. A book is there to be read. Whether it is a hardback, paperback, trade paperback, or e-book, the most important thing is the actual reading of the book.

On the other hand, you have people who object to e-books not being available from libraries. Of course, the question arises as to how often those people actually use the library anyway. To anyone who does frequent libraries and just objected to the last comment, may your tribe increase; take your neighbors and their children with you the next time you go and let them know the wonders of a good library. Some libraries are making great inroads into providing e-books on loan.

Additionally, more and more publishers are providing old backlist titles as well as brand-new, just-released ones. This is wonderful and, if it promotes reading, it is important. This is very good for the promotion of reading to use electronic devices such as laptops, iPads and other “tablets”, mobile phones and dedicated e-book readers.

However, for the Christian, the news isn’t quite as promising. There are a great number of Christian publishers who have been very slow on the uptake for producing books for electronic publishing. This can be seen especially in the publication of Bibles. A few Christian publishers have produced e-book editions of Bibles using a straight conversion process which shows no understanding of how e-books work. There are numerous e-Bibles with inadequate search facilities: to go to John 3:16, for example, you would have to go to the table of contents, choose which Testament, flip through lists of books of that Testament, find the Gospel of John, flip to chapter 3 and then page over to verse 16. Obviously, these Christian publishers have not used their own electronic publications or they would have done something about this. Could it possibly be that they don’t think that Christians are going to read e-Bibles, and therefore cannot see a reason for putting the time and energy into producing a functional product? Could it be that they are thinking that this is just some novelty fascination of the computer generation? Who knows. But too many have made e-Bible reading much more difficult than reading a dead tree edition Bible.

Illya Antonenko of OSNOVA Press has taken the time, energy and expense to develop an e-Bible navigation system called Direct Verse Jump. This facility enables the reader to type in a simplified verse reference, press one button, and the verse appears. For most people, it takes longer to flip through the pages of a Bible than it does to use DVJ-2 (Illya’s most recent incarnation of this navigation device). Since imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, one Bible publishing company has copied OSNOVA’s DVJ-2 and used it in all of their e-Bibles. He has written to practically every English Bible publisher offering to help them with this problem with their Bibles. As of this date, not one of them has taken up his offer. This is symptomatic of most of Christian publishers regarding e-books. If not for some popular Christian authors pushing their publishers to release e-book editions, there would be precious few e-books for Christians.

The Christian church in the 21st century has a tremendous need for discernment. Individual members of our churches desperately need to read the Scriptures and quality Christian books. It is hoped that Christian publishers will see this need and the many opportunities that there are to produce their works and e-book editions. These e-books never need to go out-of-print because there is nothing to reprint.

Throughout all of these musings a common theme is found:

                                 Christians need to read.

We need to read good Christian literature. We need well-stocked libraries. We need to be able to use whatever we can to promote reading in our churches and communities. With so many people hooked on visual learning, we need to initiate programs of reading for all ages in the church. For some people, it is less expensive and is easier to use a Kindle or a Nook and carry their library with them; for others, books are far more convenient. In addition to the Kindle, it is possible to download Amazon Free Reading Apps: Kindle for PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone, Android and Windows Phone 7. Books can be bought and downloaded and read comfortably anywhere you can go, even without a dedicated e-reader.

Neither group of readers — electronic or paper — should put down or criticize the other. Paper book readers and e-book readers should both encourage good reading and studying habits. Church libraries need to be stocked with good, sound, quality current Christian books and not the castoffs, found in most church libraries. The focus both in churches and for individual Christians should be on reading. In the end, we need to encourage one another to read, analyze and understand Christian books and Bibles in order to train our minds to think God’s thoughts after him.

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8 Comments

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8 responses to “Dead Tree Books, e-Books and Christian Reading

  1. Pingback: Dead Tree Books, e-books and Christian Reading | OSNOVA™ « Christian Media Monitor

  2. James A. Spoudason

    Can you get a paper cut from a Kindle? Can your paper Bible freeze up and stop? Can the spine on your Kindle book break? Can you crack your page and make it unreadable? If you lose your paper book, will it be replaced free and instantly? If you drop your book, will it shatter into many pieces? Such important questions to answer. 😉

    • Non sequitur but on topic:
      * I’ve found a way to enjoy the smell of my Kindle by buying a nice leather cover 🙂 Or if you don’t like smell of leather, http://smellofbooks.com/
      * It is much easier to smuggle electronic Bibles to countries where they are banned and avoid detection by the authorities.
      * What do we do with all the shelf space without paper books?
      * Will people risk muscle atrophy if there are no heavy paper books?
      * You can’t autograph an ebook.
      * A gift of a signed paper book is way cooler than an Amazon gift card.

      • miriam

        I don’t know about muscle atrophy, but I got a painful case of Kindle elbow a couple of months after I got my Kindle for Christmas!

  3. Bogdan Kipko

    Great article, thank you!

    I have switched almost exclusively to reading and consuming content electronically. I use my iPad & MacBook Air to consume most of my content. I have both the iBook and the Amazon Kindle app on my iPad. Both of these are great.

    I have not yet experienced a challenge in finding a Christian book in an electronic form. It seems like now, this is the standard (to have an e-version) for any new book that comes out. Even some older books are being introduced as electronic versions.

    Regarding the need for people to read, I completely agree. I think there are two types of people and their approach to reading. The type you fall into largely depends on how you were raised and what you were disciplined and discipled to do.

    One group of people that are voracious readers are those who have gone through a significant amount of formal education. This group is used to reading a lot. So, reading for them comes naturally. This group also reads a lot because their parents read to them, encouraged them to read and stimulated readership within the home. I personally fall into this group. I would much rather read than do anything else. I remember going to the local library with my family, consistently, if not weekly. As a family, we would read together often and my parents would read to us kids.

    The second group of people only reads if they have to or if they are forced to. For them, reading does not come naturally. There are way too many other mediums by which content can be consumed, albeit in a non-educational and sometimes damaging way. This group is extremely visual. They can watch the TV. for four straight without interruption — but as soon as you give them a good book — they find a difficult time concentrating for more than four minutes.

    This is why I believe the impetus for reading predominantly is shaped and formed by the environment in which you were raised.

    Also, I use the Youversion.com app for basic bible reading. It has been a great app with a user-friendly interface. I also subscribe to the RSS feed for the ESV study bible. This delivers my daily bible reading within my RSS feed, which is extremely convenient.

    I agree with you that reading needs to be encouraged and stimulated! If you want to be a great leader, you must be a ravenous reader.

    Peace,

    Bogdan.

  4. Pingback: Dead Tree Books, e-Books and Christian Reading « Articles « ChristTech.com

  5. Ben

    Hi..is there a way to incorporate the bible reading plan from Grant Horner to the Kindle? Here’s the link to his plan (http://www.scribd.com/doc/12349985/Professor-Grant-Horners-Bible-Reading-System). I have been using it for a while now. Since I purchased the Kindle I would live to use it as my “bible” but not sure I can with this plan since it requires you to jump from book to book (10 chp from 10 different books each day). If you do come up with something or know of a way to do this please share. Thank you and keep up the good work, we need people like you to work on E-book version of the bible! Thanks and God Bless

    • Thank you, Ben, for your encouragement.

      Technically, it is possible and not to difficult to incorporate a Bible reading plan (see for example the OSNOVA Study Bible that has a one-year reading plan); however, this specific “System” appears to be under copyright by Professor Horner. I will send him an email asking if I can use it in OSNOVA publications. If he lets me, then I will add it to the OSNOVA Study Bible.

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