Digital Bible or Printed Bible? Does it Matter Which You Use?

A couple of years ago I sat in church feeling a little unsettled at the number of congregants I saw around me using their phones. Were these individuals really sending text messages or checking social media during the sermon? It took me a few weeks to realize that they were actually using their phones to view digital copies of the Bible!

A digital copy and a printed copy of the Bible contain the same words, so is there a compelling reason to choose one instead of the other?

At the time this happened, I was new to smartphone technology and had no idea there were so many Bible apps available. I’m familiar with these now, but I still use a printed Bible.

A digital copy and a printed copy of the same version of the Bible contain the same words, so is there a compelling reason to choose one instead of the other?

The case for digital Bibles

I can think of a number of reasons why one would benefit from a digital Bible; however, I can also think of some reasons why it might be better to stick with a good old-fashioned printed Bible.

Benefits

  • Digital copies of the Bible are easy to transport and have on hand. My hardcopy of the Bible isn’t particularly huge, but it is just a little too big and heavy to haul around with me in my purse or in the diaper bag. My smartphone, on the other hand, is small and light. I carry it with me everywhere. This means that if I put a digital copy of the Bible or a Bible app on my phone that I will have the Word of God at my fingertips at all times.
  • Many digital copies of the Bible are free. If I were to go to a bookstore to get a new Bible, I’d end up paying anywhere from a few dollars to upwards of $50. This is in stark contrast to the many Bible apps and digital copies of the Bible that are available for free.
  • It is easy to view multiple versions of the Bible, commentaries, and concordances when using an app or Bible website. Though it’s really nice to have access to tools such as commentaries and concordances while studying the Bible, it’s not practical for most of us to have libraries full of these in our own homes. Several easy-to-use apps and websites provide immediate access to these tools.
  • Digital copies of the Bible are green. The U.S. publishing industry is one of the least green sectors in the world, harvesting around 125 million trees each year (source). Digital copies aren’t printed on paper, so they help reduce the number of trees that are harvested.

Drawbacks

  • It’s easy to get distracted while using a digital device. In addition to reading the Bible, there are a number of things you can do on a digital device: check email, send and receive text messages, access social media accounts, get updates from weather apps, play games, etc. The temptation to complete some of these activities may become a distraction while trying to read the Word.
  • The battery of the digital device might die. If the battery on your digital device runs out and you don’t have access to a charger or a power outlet, then you’ll be unable to access a digital copy of Scripture. A print Bible is accessible regardless of one’s access to electricity or chargers.
  • A digital device has a different feel than a printed book. Of course smartphones and tablets do not feel the same as a book when you reach out and touch them, but this isn’t the sort of feeling I am referencing—I’m talking about a psychological feeling. The first time I saw a pastor officiate a wedding with a tablet in his hand instead of a Bible, it seemed weird. Reading from a screen just doesn’t provide me with the same satisfaction as turning the pages in a book. Quite honestly, this is probably a generational thing. Individuals born in the last 20 years may not feel this way, but those of us who grew up without cellphones, tablets, and computers may feel this way because much of this technology still feels new.

I don’t believe there is one right answer when questioning if we should use digital or print copies of the Bible. Thankfully, the two are not mutually exclusive. We can utilize both, which means we’ll reap the benefits of both.

Do you read the Bible on a digital device? Why or why not? Do you think print copies will someday disappear from our lives?

Shared on the following link-ups:

Fun and Fellowship, Word Filled Wednesday, WholeHearted Wednesday, Titus 2sday, Titus 2 Tuesday, Monday’s Musings and The Art of Home-Making.

Comments

  1. I have tried reading the Bible on my smartphone, and it just isn’t the same for me. I also became way too distracted because I started thinking about all of the other things that I “needed” to check while on my phone. Using a good old fashioned paper Bible is best for me, but my husband loves reading his on his phone. It is one less think for him to carry to church and he can read it easily at work when he wants to.

    • Hi Emily,
      The distraction of things I “need” to do on my phone is a big reason why I typically use a printed one. Like your husband, my husband prefers using one on his phone. It’s nice that we have both options!

  2. I definitely prefer reading books and the Bible with the paper pages to manipulate. It’s much easier for me to find something that I can’t remember exactly where it is, when I can flip through pages rather than scrolling. However, I do read lots of books on my phone, especially in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep, and my husband is sawing logs next to me, lol. And I often use the Bible on my phone, too, because I can do a split screen with a French Bible and an English one at the same verse — trying to learn French is a hobby of mine. 🙂 So I’m with you; there is no one right answer — but I DO hope we never get rid of printed books!!

    • I think printed books are here to stay, Ann. Too many of us enjoy reading out of them!
      As you’ve indicated, though, there are definitely times when digital ones are more convenient.

  3. Both! I love digital Bibles (on my laptop – nothing smaller ; ) for looking things up, but for reading I prefer paper.

    Ironically, my late Mother, though elderly, was an early-adopter of digital Bible technology – way ahead of her kids. She was ill and weak for a number of years, and she could lie in bed and hold her little digital Bible (a Franklin Electronic Bible) without having her arms tire. It was also backlit and could be read in a darkened room.

    • Hi Anna,
      How interesting! I had not given thought to the way that lightweight digital devices would benefit weak readers. Thanks for sharing about how this technology benefited your mother!

  4. I am of the technology generation, but unlike many of my peers I definitely prefer real books! I love the way they feel and how comforting they are, I don’t find that same feeling with electronics. I totally know what you mean.
    I especially like having my hard copy bible, because as I flip through I am able to see the crumpled pages I’ve turned to many a time for encouragement, and the markings I’ve made from teachings. I’m not sure I could get this same feeling from a digital copy either.

    • Hi Kelsey,
      There is something wonderful about the feel of a book in your hand, isn’t there? I love what you shared about the crumpled pages. This is a great reminder to be in the Word more.

  5. Therese Bizabishaka says:

    I recently returned from a Christian conference where all the pastors used tablets to read the word. I am in the process of reverting from more to less technology at the moment so I enjoy using a hardcopy bible. I think that the process of flipping through pages and locating scriptures build up neural pathways and help you retain more. Whilst I can see the benefits of having digital access to the bible in the past I have enjoyed underlining and making notes in my bibles and reading my insights from years ago at a future date.

    • Hi Therese,
      You may be correct about the neural pathways. Writing things out (like Bible verses) always helps me remember them. I don’t know that typing has the same benefit. It would be interesting to study this!

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