Sacred Space: iPads, Kindles, and Nooks, Oh My!

Sacred Space: iPads, Kindles, and Nooks, Oh My! January 20, 2012

Every Friday in Sacred Space, Brad Williams explores the place of popular culture in the local church.

Judging by the latest book study our church has begun, a whole lot of people got iPads, Kindles, or Nooks for Christmas. We had been promoting our latest Wednesday night book study for several weeks, and much to my dismay, we took zero book orders. That was quite different from the previous study. In that one, I ordered around a dozen books for people. I took the low order rate to be a sign that people might not be very interested in the book I had chosen.

To my amazement and relief, our Wednesday night study was at least as full as the one before, and the discussion was lively. What was the difference? Everyone, except one person who ordered the book themselves, had bought the book electronically. That includes myself. For the first time ever, I am teaching a book study from an electronic device.

The convenience for me as a teacher is notable. I can highlight passages with a touch, and enter notes on the highlighted passage with equal ease. I can bookmark pages I want to return to with a flick of the finger. I can swap from the book we are studying to the Bible with ease. In the iPad version of the book, the author has videos embedded at the beginning of some of the chapters explaining his thoughts. That sort of thing astounds me. Imagine if you had a copy of Augustine’s “Confessions” wherein Augustine himself gave you a little intro to a few of the chapters. Mind-blowing, isn’t it?

This summer, if God wills, I will be heading to Tanzania to teach a pastor’s conference. Is it possible that my little e-reader is the only “book” I will need to bring? If I have it, I can bring an entire library without over-stuffing my suitcase. The potential there is incredible, when you think of it.

I suspect that we will begin to see more and more e-readers instead of thick Study Bibles on Sunday mornings. The only drawback to this that I have found is that it is sometimes easier to thumb through pages than it is to sort through a e-reader’s Bible directory. In book studies, it is difficult for us all to get on the “same page” when I single out a quote because the font size and read that you choose will cause the “page number” to vary. (In the future, will we still call them “page numbers”?)

I believe that this trend of using e-readers instead of books is only going to grow. Does this help the church? Yes, I believe that it does. It makes it easy to access more good literature, it will make books cheaper to own, and if book “sharing” becomes more common, that will make it even better. Also, imagine giving an e-reader to a pastor overseas. You could literally ship him an entire theological library in one device. The money you spend on the device will be far cheaper than the cost of shipping a physical library. Most of the classic works are either free or only cost a dollar.

My advice at this point is to rejoice that we have such technology, and that we should begin thinking carefully about how we as a church might take full advantage of it.

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