Every generation has two options when faced with opportunities to communicate the faith: it takes advantage of them or ignores them.
For 1,500 years before Christ and 1,500 years after Christ, no one carried a printed Bible to church. The invention of the printing press facilitated the expansion of the Christian faith, and new technology transformed education and the communication of the Gospel message.
E-books can do the same.
The present generation now faces a change just as radical as the one believers experienced when Gutenberg invented the printing press.
Communication has changed radically during the last ten years.
- Any person can publish a book. No one needs a publishing house or a physical distributor.
- Books are not restricted by the high cost of printing and distribution, by the availability of the inventory of publishing houses or distributors, or by geographical and political limitations.
The missionary opportunity of E-books
Christian organizations that publish the Gospel message can view the growth of E-books in several different ways. One is as a sustainable opportunity and another is as a missionary opportunity. The second point of view is undoubtedly the more important one.
The electronic book allows us to serve audiences that have special needs such as the new generations and emigrants (the Diaspora).
The challenge for the Church:
- More than 75% of the world’s population is under the age of 25.
- The population of emigrants in the world increased from 150 million in 2000 to 214 million in 2010. One in every 33 persons in the world is an emigrant.
During past centuries, Chinese, Koreans, Italians, Germans and many other nationalities settled in Brazil, Paraguay, Peru, Canada and the United States, as well as in other countries, in search of a better way of life.
For years, it has been very difficult to provide the Bible for these persons in their mother language because of high costs. E-books can be the answer to this problem, because their diffusion is not physical but rather digital.
Additionally, digital means also give us the opportunity to provide Scriptures for young people in a rapid, interesting and innovative manner.
Where is the opportunity?
The American Publishers Association (APA) recently reported that for the first time, sales of E-books in the United States had surpassed the sales of hardcover books.
According to their study, E-books produced sales amounting to $282 million while hardcover book sales were $229 million. Exactly one year ago, the sale of E-books was $220 million and hardcover books amounted to $335 million.
These numbers impress business people, but what those of us who want to reach the world with the Word of God need to remember is that hidden in this information, there is a missionary opportunity.
- Rapidly changing the way they receive the contents of a book.
- Experiencing new ways of reading contents.
An opportunity to use all the senses
E-books add new experiences that printed books do not offer, but printed books also have certain advantages.
A friend told me that he was in an airplane reading a printed book while next to him a passenger was reading an E-book in his Kindle.
When the flight attendant announced that all electronic devices were to be turned off, my friend realized that he could continue reading his printed book for another half an hour until the plane landed but the Kindle reader had to stop reading. However, the truth is that the E-book does have its virtues.
Books for children
According to the APA study, the increase of E-book sales for children was one of the most significant changes. The increase was +475.1% (of the $3.9 million of sales in 2011).
Why is the demand greater for children’s books? Because the electronic means permits using more than one of the senses and new publications for children are offering a number of options for different devices aimed at those demographic groups.
Digital technologies challenge churches and Christian organizations with a change of communicational strategies that can be critical in keeping the message of the Bible relevant for new generations.
Every technological change that has taken place throughout history has given churches a new opportunity that we have not always taken advantage of.
We are accustomed to tradition and find many excuses not to experiment with new methods. We fear the unknown and are terrified by what is new. Sometimes we move at analogical speed while the world is being transformed by digital rapidity.
Nevertheless, the new generations and the society that sees new technologies as a solution to their problems are the first to adopt and experiment as they move ahead while the Church tries to catch up. Those of us who have received the mandate of being the “light of the world” end up in the darkness of a changing society.
Hopefully, we will be able to see the challenge of E-books for communicating the Gospel, and we will take advantage of them and use them as tools for communicating the faith.