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Print or Digital Bible App: Which One Is Best?

What kind of Bible should you use? Some believe the traditional print Bible has special value over digital Bibles. While others prefer to use a digital Bible a lot, most or even all the time. I have to admit I fall in the second group and only use my print Bibles on occasion.

bible app versus print bible

Strengths of Print over Digital Bible Apps

Recently Trevin Wax wrote a post for The Gospel Coalition entitled When the Bible Becomes an App. In it he argued for a number of reasons why people should still use a traditional physical print Bible, like the ones Wax’s organization publishes, because of the special value. He says the following strengths means most people should go with this kind of Bible…

  • The beautiful format of a high-quality leather Bible shows the value of the words included.
  • A small pocket-sized New Testament gives us quick and easy access saying something about the value of the word leading the owner to keep it always on hand.
  • A book containing all the books of the Bible tells us that the canon of Scripture and the story’s wholeness in a single book.
  • The print edition of the Bible lends itself better to “deep reading” instead of quick, skimming, “surface reading”.
  • You lose the “Bible’s geography” meaning the feel for where the books are in the print edition or where the verse is in a book.
  • The print edition opens us to the will of God on the page better than the print version.

This is a quick summary of the arguments. You should really read Trevin Wax’s article for your self.

A Rebuttal from a Digital Bible App Maker

Craig Rairdin from Laridian, a Bible app publisher, took exception with Trevin’s articles in a post on the company’s blog. He offered a useful point-by-point argument for Digital Bible Apps, like PocketBible from Laridian. Please read it and consider his great points.
To summarize, Rairdin says that most of the points above are not strong arguments against digital Bibles, but against certain forms and functions in Bible apps. For example, the argument that the reader can go deaper i print comes from studies saying that using digital print means readers retain less. However, Rairdin points out that other studies say this is so only when the user scrolls the book and not when they use a paginated Bible app. I’m not sure why that would make a difference, but a study said it did.

My Opinion

Both arguments seem convincing. I prefer using a digital Bible app on my phone or sometimes on my tablet for a few reasons.

  1. Convenience – I always have my phone and it’s small enough to fit in my pocket. Since I can carry my Bible on my phone, I always have access to multiple translations. When one preacher reads from the KJV, I can follow in that version. Another reads from the NIV and I can follow in that translation.
  2. Weight – Like convenience, I can carry a seminary calibre library in my pocket on my iPhone X. I can’t even conveniently carry two Bibles and a full commentary set plus a Bible dictionary, atlas and Greek or Hebrew lexicons.
  3. Complexity and Speed – Rairdin pionts out that he can do some advanced Bible study while he’s listening to another speaker teach a lesson or preach a sermon on a passage. I can’t do that on the spot.

The above three arguments are all versions of the same argument. It’s more convenient to follow various translations, do advanced Bible study, and always have my Bible and library with me using a Bible app.
I still keep a Bible in the pulpit with me when I teach or preach. It’s a kind of prop, to show the value of the word of God. It also reassures people who do not like the idea of giving up the physical Bible. Plus, if something ever goes wrong, I can always open the Bible to my passage and muddle through my message from memory.
What do you prefer? Let me know below and why.

Kevin

Dr. Kevin Purcell is pastor of High Peak Baptist Church, an author and writer at Church Tech Today (www.churchtechtoday.com). He used to write for a number of other Christian and secular technology and mobile tech sites. Now he's one of the hosts of the Theotek Podcast, which you can find by checking the menu above or over at www.facebook.com/theotekpodcast.

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