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On any given day, more people are downloading the Bible than the wildly popular Angry Birds app. Still others are downloading the Qur’an: Qur’an Majeed even comes with audio recitations. The top-selling LDS Scriptures for Mac conveniently contains both the Bible and the Book of Mormon.

And you can read the Torah on your iPad or the Tanakh on your iPhone; the Jewish Publication Society has the Torah and commentaries available for e-book.

The rapid adoption of mobile media devices is requiring publishers to act quickly even as technology entrepreneurs churn out version 2.0, so if there isn’t an app for that, wait and there will be. Here’s a look at different players riding the digital wave.

The Common English Bible

The Common English Bible, a new translation developed by a consortium of five American Protestant denominational publishers, was begat by technology every step of the way, which speeded up the labor-intensive task. The CEB was built with an online project management database, used software tools for translation and readability, and developed extensive tagging to help readers search for terms. The complete Bible first debuted online and on 20 digital platforms in June, and came out in paperback in July.

The tech-friendly nature of the Bible and the robust digital market for Bible content has brought a steady stream of product developers to the CEB for permission to license it. “Someone asks every week,” says Paul Franklyn, associate publisher. It helps that the CEB is highly visible in cyberspace, considering how new it is. A search on Google for “Common English Bible” turns up more than two million hits. “There’s definitely a viral effect of having a digital Bible,” Franklyn says. “Mind share is spreading significantly because of this translation being available digitally.”


Two years ago the evangelical Christian house unplugged its proprietary Pradis software in what Chip Brown, senior v-p and publisher of Bibles, calls a philosophical sea change. The new strategy: ubiquity. “If there’s a device you can read, we want to be there,” Brown says.

The recent update of Zondervan’s bread-and-butter New International Version Bible translation has given it fresh material for e-books and apps, and the e-book NIV version has regularly appeared on top 10 bestseller lists tabulated by different e-bookstores. For those who want notes and other resources for study (around half of Bible purchasers do), Brown says an NIV Study Bible app with the updated translation will offer both reading and study modes. It will also contain some exclusive multimedia content, promises Chris Tromp, senior director of digital marketing.

Zondervan distributes Glo, a multimedia Bible named 2010 Bible of the Year by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association. Developed by Immersion Digital, Glo is moving onto a variety of mobile platforms. USA Today named it one of the coolest book apps for fall, and a forthcoming premium version will contain more social tools, which Bible publishers are striving to add as they refine their digital products.


The English Standard Version translation that Crossway debuted in 2001 was published online and in print simultaneously, with online access free. Since then, digital versions have multiplied as technology has evolved. The ESV is available in Web apps, mobile apps, and e-book versions. The basic ESV text is free, while study apps are not, since apps are more complex products that allow users to perform or to access a variety of things. An ESV study-plus app allows for note taking and streaming audio.


Blaine Smith, associate publisher for Bibles at Tyndale, laughs when he is asked about the digital frontier in Bible publishing. “It’s the Wild West,” he says. But things are shaking out. “In the last 18 months, it has started to gel for us how we need to manage and take advantage of the opportunities,” he says.

Tyndale is producing both e-book and app versions of its Bibles using its New Living Translation. It has some study Bibles for e-readers, “but the navigation starts to get clunky,” he says. “We are maximizing capabilities on the e-book platform, but on the more complex Bibles, you have to go to apps.” Capability, however, is a moving and improving standard. The Kindle Fire, which burst on the market in late September, boasts enhanced capabilities.

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