November 28, 2012
A similar question might include the experience of listening (reading?) to the Bible via recorded format. How many of us encounter texts via books-on-tape or CD? Are there perceptible differences in how the word is taken in?
I am a librarian and life-long reader. I read in both print and e-formats, but I have to admit that I am becoming partial to e-books. I think that this is because I spend so much time in front of computers that it has just become the medium of habit and, thus, comfort. I probably read about 20% of what I read in print.
I recently had the e-books vs. print discussion with someone and my point was that, for me, it is the intellectual content of the material, rather than the format, that makes an impact on me.
That said, I probably read my print Bible in print more that on my e-reader because I like to be able to make notes in the margin and look back at what I've written over time.
Pro: I like e-readers because they weigh less and are therefore more portable. More powerful-readers can run Bible study software so cross references, commentaries, context references etc for a passage are easily accessed and read with the passage. I get so much more out of study using electronic readers.
Con: Binding, font, size, paper choice all make a book seem unique. The feel of the book and turning pages feels more organic to me. Underlines and notes jotted in the margin feel more personal than electronic methods of marking text.
I wonder if there were people long ago who mourned the passing of a scroll format or those who later griped that the printing press made reading feel less personal.
Personally I find it far more important that people are acquiring His teachings than where they are coming from.
My experience was that I seldom picked up the book and when I did found parts of what I read hard to understand. As a result I picked it up even less. A month or so ago I received a tablet and downloaded a bible app for it. I think I've read the bible far more in the last month than I have in the last 50+ years.
I'm not entirely sure what is meant by "What temptations should Christians who study the Bible electronically look out for" - It's my experience that temptations are based far more on the individual than the environment that individual is in. To say there are more or less temptations in an electronic form is silly to say the least
One further comment on this: Is there a fundamental difference in understanding the 10 commandments if they are read from the stone tablet form as apposed to the reading of the same text from a codex?
I think there is certainly a difference in the experience of reading it. You don't curl up for quiet personal devotions with stone tablets, for instance.
Alan Jacobs, professor of English at Wheaton College, has some really good thoughts on this topic in his article in The New Atlantis. He makes the point that in some ways the scroll system (pre-codex; and how Jesus would have read the Scriptures) has more in common with e-readers than codices.
I find that when I listen to books (particularly books I am familiar with), I am often struck by the words of the text in new and meaningful ways. I read very fast, and if I have read the text before, even faster. When I am reading text, I often don't slow down enough to actually encounter each word, each sentence. There are lines in books I have read 10 times that have only stood out to me when I listed to the audiobook.
I do use a Kindle and read Christian books on it. It is more convenient when on a journey or on holiday, i.e. a number of books under one roof. It is not as good as a physical book. When it comes to reading the Bible it is very slow to use, e.g. finding a place, chasing up margin cross-references. An e-reader is thus not a good tool for Bible study.
One benefit for those who write is that highlighted text on one's reader is higlighted automatically on the copy on one's computer, allowing for easy cut and paste into a piece of work.
One disadvantage is that all higlighting, bookmarking etc. is stored by Amazon, i.e. they know what you are actually reading and consider important.
Thanks for the link! Jacobs has influenced my thinking a lot on this topic, but I hadn't read that piece.
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