Digging Deeper

Unearthing the surpassing riches of Christ

Ask Pastor Sean: E-book Bibles?

I was recently asked a great question about using digital Bibles.  You can see my response and experience below, but I’d really like to hear from you.  Do you use digital Bibles?  What is helpful, what is not?  If you can, please respond on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/sean.whitenack).

The Question:

Greetings, I would like to know which e-book BIBLE you have found to be the easiest to navigate. Like, is there one that you could keep up with the speaker as they move to scriptures in different books of the BIBLE?

My response:

Thanks for your email.  I’m still trying to figure out what is best for me and I have some conflicted beliefs on the matter.

First, the purist/idealist in my tries to avoid digital Bibles, at least in corporate worship and Bible Studies.  I know it sounds old-fashioned, but I find that they are slow to navigate (slower than a book) and they also tend to make me forget the “sense” of where the passage that I am reading is within the whole context of the Bible.  Let me comment on both of these. 

First, especially when starting up, navigating to a book of the Bible is always slower, no matter what e-book or bible software you use.  In my Bible Studies, the last person to a specific passage is always the person doing it on a tablet or a phone.  

Second, I believe there is something valuable about touching a paper Bible as we look through it.  Just the memory as I flip through the Bible that Proverbs is after the very long collection of Psalms reminds me something about the Bible.  Knowing that the gospels appear after about two-thirds of the Bible is also helpful to show that a lot happened before Jesus came.  Even today, I am aided by that reminder.  

To me, a digital Bible tends to flatten out the Bible, de-historize it, decontextualize it, and depersonalize it.  While I do use digital Bibles, I can’t do that all the time and I need a paper Bible sometimes, and Bible Studies and worship are the best time for me to use them.  I also have pretty committed to using a paper Bible for a) the accountability that I am not getting distracted by other things on my phone/tablet during the service; b) to help younger people learn things about the Bible as they touch it (like where the books of the Bible are in relation to one another).

Second, that being said, I have found Bible Apps to be helpful in certain contexts.  I occasionally use the YouVersion App on my phone.  I used to have it on my Kindle Fire (before it was stolen … grrr…).  

My guess is that a good Bible App is much better than an Bible e-book.  I like the YouVersion (https://www.youversion.com/) App on my phone (and my old Kindle Fire) because it has every translation available to me very quickly.  It is easy to move from ESV to NKJV, or NIV, or whatever.  I love that. But I am guessing there are better apps available.

One of our elders uses Olive Tree for his iPad (http://www.olivetree.com/).  The nice thing about that is that he can take notes in a sermon and keep those forever.  

On my PC and laptop, I constantly use Logos Bible Software (http://www.logos.com/), simply because it helps me copy passages.  However, I think the accessibility of the digital version has hurt my understanding of the Bible, especially as I consider the men who have have served decades or centuries before me.  My sense is that digital words are so accessible, they are easily dismissed from my brain as I know I can always access it later.  It’s like, why learn about the Battle of Fredericksburg if I can look up what I need to know on Wikipedia whenever I happen to need it.  While this is a real way of thinking in my life, I don’t think it has made me a better person or a scholar, even as it has made me more efficient.

Anyway, Logos is very fast once I get it loaded, so I use it constantly to study, but I can’t exactly bring a laptop with me to a Bible Study or a worship service.  Once I get another tablet to replace my stolen Kindle Fire (grrrrr…) I plan to try and use the Logos App to see if I can capture some long-term notes like my friend who uses Olive Tree.  I’m skeptical though because I always learn/meditate better by handwriting than typing.  Logos has an app called Biblia.com that I may use as well.  

Finally, I don’t think it is possible to have an easily navigable Bible e-book.  I have the ESV on my Kindle e-reader, but I haven’t used it, and I think that the e-book of that would be much slower than a regular Bible, and it isn’t worth it to me to really try it, so I can’t really answer you question about a Bible e-book, but I hope the rest of this is helpful.

So overall, I don’t plan to ever use a Bible e-book (way too slow), I may get more into apps when I can get a tablet, I am greatly helped by good Bible software for my study, and I love my paper Bible for public gatherings and training others. 

What about you?


February 20, 2013 - Posted by | Bible, Books, Resources, Technology


  1. […] Ask Pastor Sean: E-book Bibles? (seanwhitenack.wordpress.com) […]

    Pingback by SEMIRAMIS IN THE BIBLE | The Great Tribulation is Coming | February 20, 2013 | Reply

  2. Good thoughts, Sean. I agree with you. I tried to use an Bible ebook and a Bible app in church but found it far too frustrating to keep up. It is so slow and I agree that you completely lose the context, which I think is important. On a philosophical level, I am concerned about the idea that books and friends and ideas can all be in “cyberspace” and not real, which is, I think, a danger in today’s society. I am encouraging my children to see that we can easily fall into the error the Greeks had when they viewed the material world as worthless and focused only on the forms/spiritual as important. God created our senses and called them good. Digital technology mostly ignores our senses and goes straight to our minds and I think that we must be careful with that.

    That said, I like Olive Tree and Logos a lot for study and devotional reading. I’d like YouVersion better if I didn’t have so many issues with it crashing and/or refusing to access my progress in devotional reading. I like that I can have my Bible in my pocket with me wherever I go and would be loathe to give up that benefit but my old beaten up leather Bible is still used regularly and I don’t see myself putting it on the shelf anytime soon.

    Comment by Joy | February 21, 2013 | Reply

  3. “…is there one that you could keep up with the speaker as they move to scriptures in different books of the BIBLE?” You ask a good question. Some group has got to be working on this but many of the online or bible applications are hard to “turn” faster than the good ole fashion pages of hard print. For the most part, however, in most contexts where I use a Bible in public, there is not lots of page turning. But when there is, the hard copy is just faster than electronic. I use YouVersion on my Blackberry. Kindle app on PCs. Kindle in iPad, and I have one other bible app there–Logos Bible. Logos Bible is the fastest of the apps I have tried.

    Comment by papapound | February 22, 2013 | Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: