It’s probably safe to say that the number of Bible readers is directly related to the number of Christians. In the West (and the best numbers I could find relate in general to Europe and the USA), there has been a steady decrease in the number of self-identified Christians and church attendance. It’s no surprise, then, that Bible reading has decreased, and the only way to reverse this contribution to the decline has to be a revitalization of Christianity in the West. The follow-up question then is, “Can new technologies contribute to the revitalization of Christianity, including the reading of the Bible?”
I think there is also a conceptual factor at work. People still simply conceive of the Bible as a printed, physical book. There is an older gentleman in my home congregation who uses a computer regularly for email and internet, but when he reads his Bible, he pulls out his mother’s RSV Bible from the 1950’s. It’s rewarding for him to have that tangible connection with his family’s history. Even when he was part of an online Bible study group, and I linked directly to biblical texts using bib.ly or Reftagger, he still pulled out his Bible to read the text. It’s not just an issue with older readers, however. Biblical scholars and seminary students have certainly discovered the benefits of working with Bible software, but I don’t know how many of them actually just read the Bible on their computer. How does this concept of the Bible as a physical book affect the number of people reading the Bible? Sales of physical books have been steadily declining in recent years, and just last year, Amazon reported that they were selling more e-books than physical ones. So, if fewer people are reading physical books, and the Bible is primarily conceived as a physical book, we should not be surprised to see a decrease in Bible reading. I believe that the majority of Bible readers simply have not made the shift to think of the Bible as a digital resource.
Now the question becomes, “Can people be enticed to read the Bible if it is delivered in digital forms?”
[More in part three all being well, WordPress problems continue.]