Saturday, July 6, 2013

Paper vs Electronic Scriptures: Advantages and Disadvantages

Paul at A Latter-day Voice has a post “Revisiting electronic scriptures” here about the issue of paper versus electronic scriptures in which he shares some good thoughts on how paper scriptures are most practical for use in missionary discussions.

I thought it might be useful to examine the advantages and disadvantages of both paper and electronic scriptures.  (It is likely that the same kinds of discussion was had over scroll scriptures and book scriptures, since technology change tends to make us more conscious of the medium of study..)

Advantages of paper scriptures
+ Not dependent on battery life.
+ Greater flexibility for creative marking methods.
+ Opening to a random place to browse is easier.
+ Easy of reference to multiple places in the text. (Easy flipping between several pages to compare)
+ Winning scripture chases actually MEANS something!  (There’s nothing like the feeling of flipping RIGHT TO the scripture you mean to find!)

-       Only a small amount of room available for margin notes.
-       Difficulty looking up footnotes.
-       Not waterproof.
-       Heavy to carry around, especially the large print version.

Advantages of electronic scriptures
+ Ease of transport.—lots of text in a smaller space, weighing less than ever before.
+ Unparalleled ability to search the text for words and phrases. 
+ Footnotes are actually linkable.  Can look up footnotes with incredible ease.
+ Plenty of room to add notes and insights.
+ Ability to change text size for people with aging eyes.
+ Navigating to any scripture (excepting footnotes) takes an equal amount of time, whether it is the Book of Alma or the Book of Habakkuk.  (People who lost scripture chases are thus made equal with people who tended to win them.  ;-))

-       Inclusion on a device with internet access and games bring distractions uncomfortably close.
-       Notes may not be immediately visible in text (Separate step to retrieve them.)
-       Crashing technology or updating aps may erase notes.
-       Access dependent upon battery life of electronic device.
-       Navigating to any scripture takes an equally LONG amount of time, whether it is the Book of Alma or the Book of Habbakuk.  Screens show less text at a time than paper scriptures.
-       Makes it difficult to instantly get to what’s off screen except through tricky navigation. 
-       People tend to not give away their electronic scriptures, so there is no chance to learn from others’ markings, margin notes, or inserts. (Often we learn about scripture study from others examples.)
-       Not waterproof.

Unfortunately, both paper scriptures and electronic scriptures have the same disadvantage in that they are not waterproof.  (Now if we were comparing scriptures on metal plates..)

From a navigational perspective, it is far easier to follow footnotes on electronic scriptures (one to two touches) than it is to go to a particular predetermined scripture reference (four touches required to get the standard work, the book, the chapter, the verse.)    There are some interesting implications for how scripture study may progress based upon this limitation.   If electronic scriptures give users a way to add linkable scripture references in notes, then it would be very easy to create scripture chains that are quickly navigable.  Navigable scripture chains empirically teaching principles and convincing of the importance of gospel principles would be very important tools for missionaries.  The church has done very well in creating a Topical Guide to enable members to do research.   I think the next step for electronic scriptures is to create resources of scripture chains.  Imagine if someone asked you about baptism and you could start at the beginning of a scripture chain and show them step by step the principles accompanying the doctrine of baptism. 

 I don't think there is any right medium for scripture study.  The word of God is still true, whether it is written on metal plates, or on paper, or in pixels.   Each medium or technology is going to have certain advantages and disadvantages, and if we are wise we will recognize the appropriate time to use each medium and how to use it to get the maximum spiritual benefit.

Any factors to add?


Rob said...

I use Gospel Library for iOS and create scripture chains that are easily linked and followed. I like the way it helps me study.

Michaela Stephens said...

I've tried Gospel Library. but I have troubles with the navigation. I find the ap LDS Scriptures by to be more helpful for me.

Maybe I'm going to have to do a review of different scripture aps one of these days.