eBible leaves Kindle in the Old Testament

The oldest public-domain book in the world is leading the way with interactive electronic publishing formats. Some niche electronic editions of the Bible are so sophisticated compared to what’s available on Kindle, according to this wry and fascinating piece in the Boston Phoenix, they are leaving the usual leaders in advance technology – the porn industry – in their ashes.

If you want to see what a 21st century reading experience should look like — one that enables you to bookmark, notate, listen to, and share passages instantly on Facebook and Twitter — the marketplace you’re looking for is e-Bibles.

At a party on the weekend I was speaking with technologist Deanna Zandt, who is no fan of either the Kindle or the iPhone/iPad. The author of the forthcoming book on social networking, Share This!, explained that the Kindle and Apple’s products, in very different ways, operate as closed shops – limiting or prohibiting online interactivity and conversation. Ironically, the new approach to one of the world’s oldest texts could not be more different:

At the time of this writing, six of the top 20 most popular paid e-books in the Apple App Store are Bibles. Likewise, the Washington State–based company Olive Tree’s Bible Reader is consistently one of the most downloaded free books. Users have left thousands of comments praising e-Bible serviceability; one version with a social-networking component even allows believers to search for other folks who want to chat about specific chapters. More so, it can tap a smart phone’s GPS to locate local prayer groups with similar affinities.

And it is e-Bibles that have helped push technology forward, by allowing users to seamlessly flip between scanning on an iPhone and reading on a laptop (without losing their page). Ditto the ability to switch, mid-stream, between Standard English and dozens of translations, or jump to an audio-book version, while keeping place to the sentence. Learned readers can even teleport from one particular chapter/verse in the King James Version to the same place in the New International Version.

For the secular, this reads like a telescopic view of the future – at least when it comes to works of non-fiction long in the public domain. Perhaps the Epic of Gilgamesh or the hieroglyphics on the Egyptian tombs will be eligible for this e-treatment (if they are not already).

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