“Creativity requires a state of grace. So many things are required for it to succeed.”
― Magda Szabó, The Door
“Creativity requires a state of grace. So many things are required for it to succeed.”
Digital publishing presents the Church an opportunity for the distribution of solid Biblical materials not seen since the age of Gutenberg.
In previous posts we looked at the rapid expansion of opportunity — an estimated 4 billion first-time internet users coming online due to expanded wifi coverage and low cost smart phones. We also considered the great impact books have both in personal spiritual growth as well as for leaders in the church.
E-publishing presents the Church an opportunity for the dissemination of solid Biblical materials not seen since the age of Gutenberg.
The Church is uniquely positioned to take advantage of the e-publishing boom.
With its historic emphasis on literacy and education, as well as groundbreaking work in linguistics and translation, the Church already has books and written materials in many languages around the world. Wycliffe is known for its pioneering work in Bible translation, but even smaller organizations translate and write materials to be used by the local church in many languages.
Amazon continues to expand the languages that can be published on its e-readers and apps. Currently, Amazon distributes e-books in over 35 languages, and my understanding is that they support dialects related to those languages as well. Kobo claims e-books in 60+ languages in 190 countries, and is really focusing on the Asian market. While iBooks and Google Play are smaller players at this point, once a book is formatted for e-publishing, it takes just a few more clicks to get it on those platforms as well.
The strategic key here is that the hard work of writing or translating has already been done. Churches, affiliated schools, and mission organizations already have the creative capital of written books and materials. In the past, the production and distribution of physical books has been an expensive and logistical barrier to getting them in the hands of people. But with e-publishing, those barriers are coming down.
Case Study: India
India provides a great case study for considering how the Church can use digital publishing to distribute sound Biblical materials to many people. It is especially relevant because a great many of new internet users will be coming from Asia, Africa, and the sub-continent of India.
English is one of the official languages of India, and a significant number of new internet users worldwide will be either native English speakers or know it as the language of business and education. However, e-book distributors are also targeting markets in other languages. Amazon recently announced that it now is offering e-books in five of the regional languages of India — Hindi, Tamil, Marathi, Gujarati and Malayalam, Both the Kindle and mobile platform Kindle apps are able to support these languages.
Amazon says it has “thousands” of books in its India store in these regional languages. Thousands? While that is great — it sounds as if Amazon still has a rather small pool of books for these languages. When we consider the materials in these regional languages already written and translated by churches, schools and seminaries, it could easily add many more thousands of titles to Amazon’s regional language stores.
An inquisitive reader looking for e-book deals in his own language does an Amazon search — and what could they find? Not just the Bible, but study materials and Christian living resources in their own language available at low cost. If Christian organizations are are early adopters of widespread e-distribution, the likelihood that they will be found and read goes up.
Early Adopters — Big Fish in a Small Pond?
Since mission organizations already have materials in multiple languages, they are poised to be early adopters of e-publishing. Consider the 60+ languages available for publishing through Kobo — how many of these languages have limited number of books available? If Christian organizations can work towards digital publishing of their materials, they will represent a great percentage of the books in some of the smaller language groups. The likelihood that they will be found and read goes up.
I’ve heard (but can’t confirm) that Amazon is the world’s second most powerful search engine — second to Google. The more theologically solid materials that are available on Amazon, the more people who are curious will find them. This is where people are looking for materials — let’s be where people are looking.
Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, Google Play are leveling the publishing playing field worldwide — the church needs to take advantage of that.
Use the Existing Distribution Infrastructures
Amazon and the like are building amazing international distribution infrastructures for commercial use. Barriers are continuing to fall to the spread of information. Christian organizations can use the international distribution infrastructures which are being developed for commercial use.
In my initial research, I’ve been unable to find out which organizations are utilizing worldwide e-publishing to disseminate sound theological resources. (Note: If you know which organizations are pursing this, please let me know!)
Some organizations offer materials free or low cost — but only from their website. This is true of one of my favorite publishers, Banner of Truth. They have some really excellent materials, but aren’t leveraging the existing distribution networks.
Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, Google Play are leveling the publishing playing field worldwide — we need to take advantage of that.
Digital Publishing isn’t Complicated
My husband’s first book, Knox’s Irregulars, was initially self-published. This was in the early days of Amazon working with indie authors, and we didn’t quite know what we were doing. But you know what? The formatting and uploading process was straightforward, and it was low cost to get a book on Amazon. The learning curve to use other distribution sites such as Kobo is pretty small. (This is a great how-to for getting e-books to the major distributors.) While John’s book is now with a traditional publisher, it is still available worldwide — I just saw it on Amazon India the other day. The barrier to worldwide publishing is lower than it has ever been.
Perhaps a mission organization may need to designate a person to develop the skills of e-formatting and navigating the uploading process to e-book distributors. Mission organizations can charge the lowest sale price allowed to cover the download fees. Some books may be able to be put on sale for “free,” and others may require a nominal fee. It’s easy to imagine a pastor in India finding a commentary on Romans and downloading it to his smart phone for 99 cents.
One caveat on it isn’t complicated. . . When publishing rights have been acquired for translated materials, it is important to double check that those include digital distribution.
The barriers to distribution are low, and the potential impact is so great.
I know there must be some organizations working on getting solid Biblical materials more widely accessed via mobile devices worldwide, but I’m not hearing about it. I’d love to know who is working on this sort of project even now.
We remember Lydia Schatz today, February 6, 2017.
Seven years ago today, 7-year-old Lydia Schatz died after her adoptive parents disciplined her to the point of death.
Lydia was a vivacious little girl, adopted from Liberia. In the photo below, her smile shows a missing upper tooth — in the same place where my 5-year-old-son is missing a tooth.
February tends to be a hard month for me. I don’t know why it is, but it seems some of the biggest emotional challenges come around in February. A big part of it is remembering and mourning Lydia Schatz and Sean Paddock, and facing the reality of abuse within the church and Christian families.
Lydia’s adoptive parents, Kevin and Elizabeth Schatz were convicted by the courts. Kevin was sentenced to two life terms for second-degree murder and torture and will serve a minimum of 22 years. Elizabeth Schatz sentence is for over 13 years for voluntary manslaughter and infliction of unlawful corporal punishment. These sentences were the result of a plea bargin — originally they were charged with murder related to Lydia’s death, torture related to her sister (also adopted) who was hospitalized but recovered, and cruelty related to a biological son’s injuries.
O LORD, you hear the desire of the afflicted;
you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear
to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed,
so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.
Lydia’s autopsy revealed that she died from rhabdomyolsis, a condition related to kidney and heart failure from toxins released when muscle tissue breaks down. Lydia’s muscles broke down as a result of repeated beatings over time, though her death was proceeded by an especially long “discipline” session.
Lydia’s parents used a plumbing supply line, which is recommended by Michael and Debi Pearl in their book “To Train Up A Child.” Both plumbing supply line and TTUAC were found in the Schatz home and the older children have attested to those methods being used in their home.
While death is not a common result from the implementation of TTUAC, this is not the first time that a child has died when parents have carefully and consistently applied the so-called “child training methods” espoused by the Pearls. In February 2006, 4-year-old Sean Paddock was killed. How many other unreported cases of quiet abuse are happening under the influenced of these harmful, unBiblical teachings?
Compounding the tragedy is the professed love of these parents for their children, the desire to nurture their children through homeschooling, the commitment to seek out help in parenting.
Further compounding the tragedy is that Lydia and her sister Zaraiah were adopted. Her parents needed to provide love, security, attachment. . . and instead beat them with a plumbing supply line. Sean was a foster son in the process of being adopted.
We need to remember Lydia. We need to remember Sean. We need to remember Hana Williams.
We need to remember the children who need families, who are in families.
We need to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.
We need to open our eyes to the abuse within our own communities.
May God have mercy on us all.
I woke up yesterday morning with this hymn by Charles Wesley on my lips. I really like this modern working of it by Indelible Grace.
Jesus, lover of my soul,
let me to thy bosom fly,
while the nearer waters roll,
while the tempest still is high;
hide me, O my Savior, hide,
till the storm of life is past;
safe into the haven guide,
O receive my soul at last!
Other refuge have I none;
hangs my helpless soul on thee;
leave, ah! leave me not alone,
still support and comfort me.
All my trust on thee is stayed,
all my help from thee I bring;
cover my defenseless head
with the shadow of thy wing.
Plenteous grace with thee is found,
grace to cover all my sin;
let the healing streams abound;
make and keep me pure within.
Thou of life the fountain art;
freely let me take of thee;
spring thou up within my heart,
rise to all eternity.
Psalter Hymnal, 1987
Please click through to read the full article from Tim Challies about the expanding needs of billions of people around the world. Related, check out my thoughts on digital publishing and missions.
Here is an incredible presentation of human population growth. Look at it and you’ll see the work of Christian missions has really only just begun.
“Think in the morning,
act in the noon,
read in the evening,
and sleep at night.”
Quick, name the top five books which have impacted you.
I bet your challenge is limiting it to just five, or figuring out which are the TOP five.
When I consider my own spiritual growth, I remember reading over and over the New Testament with cartoon illustrations my grandmother gave me. I remember being in fifth grade and devouring a box of missionary-adventure stories from some Wycliffe friends. It was Let the Nations Be Glad (aff) which led me to consider maybe God could use even me, even me?, in mission outreach. When I read the analysis of the attributes of God in Berkhof’s “Systematic Theology,” my heart felt like it was with the angels in heaven singing “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty! Who was, and is, and is to come!”
We accept the assumption that we are changed by what we read.
Think again of those top five books which impacted your life.
Imagine if the book which most nurtured your walk with the Lord was available for free, worldwide.
Consider the the four billion people who will be coming online for the first time in the near future reading your top five books.
Imagine a young woman in India who speaks English but can’t easily get a Bible, can now read the Bible on her low cost smart phone.
Imagine the man in rural Nigeria discipling young men around him, with sound devotional materials easily available.
Imagine the pastor behind the Rice Curtain accessing Amazon through a proxy to purchase study materials.
Imagine the curious Russian student who is inundated with new age mysticism and materialism reading solid apologetics materials. All at their fingertips — it’s exciting!
But it isn’t just personal spiritual growth that can be impacted by low-cost e-publishing.
When we lived in Kenya we employed a driver to help us navigate the crazy and often dangerous streets. Enoch was also the lay pastor of his church. When he asked us for a study Bible for Christmas, we were thrilled to give him one. We were also able to give him orthodox solid theological books for his further study from our personal library.
Enoch had a smart phone, as did most Kenyans we met. Even out in the villages cell phones were common, and are often charged from generators at small shops for a fee. I think of Enoch and the other pastors and lay teachers around the world being able to access an array of good study materials — maybe for the first time! These leaders can become better equipped to shepherd their flocks, people eager for God’s Word.
I find this exciting. Technology is opening more doors for worldwide spread of the Gospel and resources for spiritual growth.
Recently, I’ve reached out to some international and ministry friends to ask them what they are seeing around the world. I’ve gotten good feedback about some e-resources available and how they are being used in their contexts.
Yet I’m not hearing a lot about how organizations are taking advantage of e-publishing worldwide, especially through major distributors. My background includes a mix of nonprofit management, marketing, and msisions. I would love to be connected with organizations which are making efforts to use e-publishing to expand their worldwide reach, and help promote them.
If you are connected to Christian organizations using digital publishing to expand their worldwide outreach, would you tell me about it? Thanks!
CONNECTION, noun [Latin See Connect.] The act of joining or state of being joined; a state of being knit or fastened together; union by junction, by an intervening substance or medium, by dependence or relation, or by order in a series; a word of very general import. There is a connection of links in a chain; a connection between all parts of the human body; a connection between virtue and happiness, and between this life and the future; a connection between parent and child, master and servant, husband and wife; between motives and actions, and between actions and their consequences. In short, the word is applicable to almost every thing that has a dependence on or relation to another thing.
Over 3.5 billion people now have internet access. I’ve heard speculation that the over the next 10 years, its likely that there will be approximately 4 billion new users coming online for the first time.
Many of these new users are skipping right over accessing the internet via desktop or laptop, and going straight to mobile devices. And while the $4 smart phone in India may not pan out, it illustrates the way technology is getting more affordable and expanding into unreached markets.
Google and Elon Musk are in a creative collaboration to bring high speed internet to the entire planet. Google has experimented with using low level hot air balloons to bring internet to rural areas of India.
Inexpensive mobile devices mixed with billions of new users and the growth of books in e-formats? The reach of e-books seems limitless.
In the U.S. we’ve experienced an interesting combination of slow (over 20+ years) and fast growth of internet and digital technology infiltrating nearly every aspect of our lives. It isn’t just the tech geeks eagerly adopting the latest and greatest. We use tech to read books, order groceries, hail a cab, check the weather, pay for coffee… and these are just “entry level” uses.
While the term “Information Superhighway” is a bit dated now and seems quaint, information is still one of the most valuable commodities of modern tech expansion. Beyond Google and Wikipedia being our go-to for info, access to research, news, and books can be found with a few easy searches.
Amazon has been key in the normalization of digital books and e-readers, despite the protests of avid readers pledging their undying love for physical books. Barnes and Noble and its Nook, Kobo, iBooks and others are helping expand the inexpensive distribution e-books worldwide.
Taking a step back — inexpensive mobile devices mixed with billions of new users and the growth of books in e-formats? The reach of e-books seems limitless. This is fascinating to me as a book lover who does marketing for her author husband. The opportunities and markets are growing and vast parts of the world’s population will so be new consumers.
Even more exciting, though? The huge opportunity for the Church.
The written word has been instrumental in the growth and preservation of God’s Word through the ages.
The Reformation would not have happened were it not for the catalyst of Johannes Gutenberg and the movable type printing press.
The Hebrew scribes painstakingly copied the Torah and Hebrew Bible. Centuries before Christ, it was customary for almost all Hebrew young men to be taught to read in order that they could read the holy books.
The bounds of orthodoxy were reinforced by the Councils of Nicea, Constantinople and Chalcedon, and much of the discussion surrounding the theological questions in question are preserved in written form.
The Reformation would not have happened were it not for the catalyst of Johannes Gutenberg and the movable type printing press. First the Bible became more readily available in Latin, and then in the vernacular. Martin Luther and other reformers wrote pamphlets which were widely read and spread quickly throughout Europe.
Just a few year ago, I wouldn’t have considered the e-book the world-changing equivalent of the printing press — but I’m beginning to wonder?
Could digital publishing combined with mobile devices spark a worldwide reformation?