walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

religious ebooks

I was startled -- altho I should not have been -- to discover that one of the official JW web sites is a download portal for the New World Translation, online access to NWT, the yearbook, some magazines and other items in multiple languages and offers podcasts as well. There is no kindle-friendly format (epub and pdf, and mp4 and aac for audio editions), however someone has taken the downloadable version and made it available through the App store (I'm thinking unofficially).

Inevitably, after I woke up this morning, it occurred to me that this is an interesting question in general: what ebooks and downloadable media are religious organizations offering? I knew there was a ton of religious ebooks out there; I had not looked specifically for ones sponsored by churches.

Unfortunately, this is turning into an amazing hole that more or less endless amounts of time could be dumped into. LDS has multiple portals -- and that's not even looking at commercial operations like deseretbooks. Both LDS and JW/WTBTS have pretty long histories of supplying church literature on CD (going at least back into the mid 1990s and probably longer), so it is perhaps unsurprising that they have digital offerings for download now.

What really gets me, however, are the apps. There are Mormon apps. There are _multiple_ field service apps for JWs (mytime, iknock organizer, field service assistant and field service book -- there's also a ministry school timer app). Goddess only knows what I'll find out if I look for ten more minutes. The publishing arm of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod denomination, Concordia, has a ton of kiddie bible story apps as well (<-- I had to look up who Concordia was attached to.)

Just for yucks, I went to see if there are any mennonite ebooks, and now I'm trying to remember if I knew that Herald Press' _Through Fire and Water: An Overview of Mennonite History_ was available through the kindle store. It's not _that_ weird to have mennonite ebooks; only Old Colony communities are Amish-style tech-avoidant. Mennonites in the US are primarily identified with their pacifism, and even the (descendants of the) conservative Mennonite churches in Canada have been doing all kinds of genealogical stuff online and in e-form for a while.

JPS' Tanakh is available as an ebook. The NRSV, however, is still not out (preorder it for April), altho the KJV, NKJV, ASB, NASB, NIV, Douay and a host of others are.

Returning to the original question (what are the official publishing arms of churchs producing in downloadable e-form):

The Presbyterian Publishing Corporation has study guides, hymnal, book of common worship, etc. available in .pdf form (you'd almost think they were an academic press by making this choice): http://www.ppcbooks.com/wjk_studyguides.asp. Westminster John Knox has a lot more, for pay, some of which is available on kindle. I can't tell from WJK's website whether they sell ebooks in other formats, but I'm sure they do.

Of course all that looks like small ball compared to this:


(Gotta love that domain name, even tho it really is some guy's name and not an indication of inward-focused community.) The current Book of Common Prayer in _many_ formats plus all the previous version as well. Go up a level and then explore:


But despite that incredible trove of information, the Presbyterians might have the edge in terms of what a member of the church might want, week in and week out. Perhaps one of my Presbyterian friends might feel like chiming in: are you using your kindle/ipad/iphone at church? Do you see other people doing so?

I was amused to see this:


Surplus printing capacity is a chronic problem throughout the industry, but when your prophet said you shouldn't combine the two (<-- possibly oversimplified/misrepresented) it's hard to see a way forward. Both presses have a bunch of kindle items, including the Bucky Stone series for middle-school kids.

At least a year ago (when I first started looking for a NRSV on the kindle), it seemed to me that ebooks (whether on a dedicated device, or any of a number of LCD screened multi-purpose devices) offered text-oriented churches like Jehovah's Witnesses the same opportunity that they offer students (whether children or adults) laden down by textbooks. If you have to carry your music, Bible, church publication(s) to services or Bible study or whatever some number of times a week, you're used to buying bags to keep it all organized and undamaged (and unlost). Obviously, the churchgoer used to buying a $20 fake-leather case at Marshall's isn't going to be springing for an iPad -- but the churchgoer used to buying a $100 case at Macy's might be interested in putting some of that paper on her smartphone, or possibly on a Nook.

I don't think we're to the point of getting rid of the paper entirely, but we're definitely at a point where people are adapting technology they have for other reasons to their religious life. I'm very interested in hearing about how this actually looks (and sounds!) in services.
Tags: publishing, religion

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