Just imagine how different the world would be if you could never send a letter or write a note or email someone. Reading is a gift that most of us don’t appreciate. Most people aren’t even aware of how much they read on a daily basis. We read and write all the time, just think about how many people have moved from calling to texting as the quickest mode of communication. We also have an unheard of level of access to literature. Christians have the opportunity to have not one, but many Bibles in their home–-something unheard of even 100 years ago.
In August of 2009, WIRED published an article examining the shift in literacy in our technological age, but the surprising conclusion was that people are reading and writing more than ever.
Stanford Professor, Andrea Lunsford is quoted in the article as saying,“I think we’re in the midst of a literacy revolution the likes of which we haven’t seen since Greek civilization”. Her argument is that technology isn’t killing our ability to write, instead It’s reviving literacy—and pushing it in bold new directions. Well that was over two years ago, and since then there have been major leaps foreword in this new literacy.
What Lunsford speculated about ,seems to be coming to fruition. Thanks to electronic devices, reading might be entering a new renaissance. Andrew Rashbass, CEO of The Economist Group, Recently published a presentation, outlining the rise in readership that their periodical has received thanks to its electronic counterparts on devices like the iPad. In this same presentation, he also shared a number of fascinating insights about the publishing industry. He points to the fact that 65% of tablet owners surveyed by Pew have said they have increased their reading thanks to digital readers. Also according to Pew, Tablet owners are three times as likely to read an in-depth article as they are to watch a news video. Rashbass also points out that 71% of Tablet readers preferred reading, or hearing to information rather than seeing photos, or videos.
This isn’t just the findings of one magazine. Rashbass’s finding comes from numerous market surveys looking at tablets, e-readrs, and even smart phone reading usage. The publishing world is being radically reshaped by these digital devices.
For Christians, this new literacy is changing the way we read the Bible. Of course, some people will lament this shift and worry about what will happen, but we should remember that Christianity has actually undergone many similar shifts in the pasts. Early Christians began to use codexes (the ancient ancestor of today’s books) instead of big and clumsy scrolls. When that happened, it made it easier for books, written in one area, to be transported to another area. It also meant that someone was able to read a middle section of the text without having to unravel the whole things, and potentially damage the expensive object. Most early Christians never even handled a bible. The way that they “read” the Bible was to hear it read aloud.
When Gutenberg first introduced movable type to the western world, it ushered in another major shift in the way Christians interacted with God’s word. This printing revolution meant that Bibles could be produced at lower cost, which meant that owning a copy because feasible for a much larger section of society. Families could actually have their own copy of the Bible which they could be read at home. This meant that individuals, who could read, could study the Bible for themselves.
Today we are at the cusp of another great shift; digital reading is becoming untethered. E-readers and Tablets (like the iPad the Kindle Fire, and the myriad of e-ink readers on the market) are radically changing the way that we read. Rashbass suggests that we are moving what he calls a “Lean-back 2.0” style of reading. Where books created freedom from large and bulky scrolls, e-readers are creating the same freedom to interact with vast amounts of online material. Freed from the confines of hovering over a computer screen.
This means that the way that we read the Bible, and all christian writing, is not going to change…it has already changed.
While I know some people will freak out–let me remind everyone: it’s still the word of God, if it’s read from animal skin, papyrus, paper or a digital display. The tech that is involved in reading has changed before and it’s changing now. Two years ago when I first wrote about this subject very few people had e-readers, today, many churches are seeing an iPad or Kindle as obvious tool for pastoral ministry.
Soon, we will discover that new technologies will allow Christians to study the Bible in ways that no one has ever done before. The important part for people who consider themselves disciples of Christ, is that when available you take these new opportunities to read the Word.
Beyond the Bible, Christian books could do very well in this new electronic market. While there might not be a major financial motivation for switching from six-dollar paperbacks to six-dollar digital books, the move from $30 hardcovers to $15 dollar digital versions means more books for less money. Just imagine.
That’s just for new books, thing about public domain works. If you are reading anything over one hundred years old, chances are you could have found that work for free in some digital form. While some companies are going to be major losers in this market, it’s great to think that more people will be able to access thousands of Christians classics for free! Forget spending $19 dollars for Pilgrim’s Progress, or Augustine’s Confession, at Barnes and Noble. There are also books out of print which no one can justify reprinting simply for cost, these books end simply disappearing from the collective Christian intellect. Even more exciting is the idea that Christians can search and share writing in totally new ways.
All of this means we are entering a new stage of Christian communication, one that has major differences between
Some Numbers to Consider:
Around 17% (50+ Million) of American Adults either have an e-reader or a tablet computer.
76% (38+ Million) of tablet user say they either prefer reading on a tablet or find it the same experience to reading a traditional book.
According to pew around 5 million people read on their tablets daily! That’s almost fives times greater than the total make up of the PCA.
According to a Conde Nast survey (publisher of Wired, GQ, Vanity Fair, etc.) Print readers spend about 45 minute with each issue, vs 160 minutes per issue on the ipad/iphone version.
LifeChurch’s Bible App (For Smart Phones and Tablets) has been installed over 34 Million times.
On any given Minute of the day 6 thousand chapters of the Bible are being read on the Aforementioned Bible App.
Some Questions to Ask Ourselves:
What can the Church do to deliver more teaching to its members?
The publishing world is already changing but, will Christian Publishing be behind the curve?
If reading isn’t dying, how does the church stay in the thought game with major corporations production content 24/7?
Could we see a revival of short form work being produced by the church for free or at an extremely low cost?