Return of the Scroll
Like it or not digital media is replacing print media. Last week Amazon.com reported that it now sells more books for the Kindle than it does traditional print books. Traditional chain bookstores are going the way of the dinosaur. Borders book chain filed for bankruptcy in February and Barnes & Noble just last week received a buyout offer from Liberty Media Group. Ironically, Liberty Media wants B&N because of its e-reader, the Nook. It believes it can use the Nook more strategically as a legitimate competitor to Kindle and maybe even Apple’s iPad. It appears that the Nook may be set to save the book chain!
As a pastor I’ve seen digital media creeping into my own personal life and into the pew. On the personal side of the equation, almost all of my study and research is done digitally. The best purchase I have ever made for my library was Logos Bible software. Because of Logos, I can carry thousands of dollars of biblical research material with me on my laptop, iPhone, or iPad. I am no longer limited to where I study. The only limitation is battery power! When it comes to the pew, I have watched these past five years as digital media has become almost commonplace. I’ve heard numerous stories of adults who cornered teenagers in church to quit “playing” with their phones only to be embarrassed when they discovered the student was using it to access the text of the Bible. Phones, it appears, are no longer just phones. Now with the advent of the iPad, the digital invasion has accelerated and I predict that the tablet will be the tipping point. I already have numerous people in my church using their iPads to access biblical commentary and sources while I preach. They have their print Bible on one knee and their digital Bible on the other. These are amazing days indeed. I read a fascinating article last week regarding the mainstream arrival of the tablet computer. Tablets like the iPad, it is predicted, will see wholesale adoption by adults 50 and up. After using an iPad for just a couple of months I can understand why. They are easy to use, highly portable, and the display is BIG and beautiful. In fact, the iPad experience is so good that I have found it difficult to go back to my iPhone when using the same app. The article asserts that the tablet computer will end up putting the Smart phone in its proper place – namely that of being what it was designed to be – a phone. And I would add that the majority of people I see using iPads in my church are adults, not kids.
Of course, not everyone likes this. Some people think it just feels wrong to read the Bible digitally. There are no pages to turn, no ribbon marker, no leather binding or distinct smell. Most believers have a very personal attachment to their print Bible, like that of a good friend. There is nothing wrong with this, of course. And there is nothing inherently wrong with reading the Bible digitally. In fact, the digital Bible does a better job, I think, of reinforcing the theological principle that the Word of God stands forever. A print edition can become destroyed by fire or water. But now that the text of the Bible is digital, it truly is “out there” permanently.
When the originally authors of the books of the Bible penned what the Holy Spirit inspired, they recorded the words on a scroll. And it was on a scroll that the first copies of the Bible were passed from generation to generation to be read and studied. And then someone came along and invented a new technology that changed how we read God’s Word. I am sure that not everyone embraced this new technology. Some probably thought that it just “felt” wrong. That technology was a book. Not a scroll to be unwound, but a book with pages to turn. The book eventually won the battle of “formats” and became the standard for transmitting the Word of God. But now technology has once again entered into the picture. And it appears that we have now come full circle. Say good-bye to turning pages. With the rise of the digital Bible get ready for the return of the scroll…