Moving to a Digital Bible – Part 3 – The Software

I’m getting old, but this series of posts is not really about that, except to say, my eyesight has gotten so bad that I can no longer easily read a standard print Bible and have considered moving to a Digital Bible. While I was thinking this migration through, I purchased Zondervan’s excellent NIV Comfort Print Bible. It has served me well. It also kicked off a little bit of a Bible buying spree, but that is also NOT what this post is about. If I may cut to the chase, now, the comfort print type size is no longer clear enough for me to read either thus I am forced to either buy a super large print Bible or go Digital.  #sadface #oldman #comequicklyJesus

This catastrophe has moved me to… buy readers…  Well, no, that might have solved the problem in about 30 minutes and for a grand total of about $5. 

In actuality, my failing eyesight has pushed me to figure out how I would love completely to a Digital Bible. I will roll this journey out for you in 4 parts:

  • Part 1 – The Requirements
  • Part 2 – The Hardware
  • Part 3 – The Software
  • Part 4 – The Results

I am hoping that these posts will provide you some new resources, even if you aren’t interested in following me down the same path.

The Software

Over the years, I have used many different Bible Apps and eBook Bibles and commentaries. Unlike hardware where I want to only have one focus on using one device, with software, my goal is to select a few of the best and use them most often.

Below, I review a few of the best Bible Resources, discuss their advantages and disadvantages and how I use typically them.

Bible Apps

In the Apple and Android stores, there are probably 20+ Bible apps and easily 5 really good ones. I have narrowed my daily use (and thus this review) down to two.

The granddaddy of all Bible apps is from YouVersion which is part of Life.Church, led by Senior Pastor Craig Groeschel. The Bible App is available on both Apple and Android platforms and has been installed on over 459 Million unique devices since its launch. It is a phenomenal Free App that offers so much – 1,200 (text and some audio) Bible versions, over 900 languages, a verse of the day feature and a very good selection of devotionals and reading plans. Many people I know love the devotionals and the feature that allows you to read them with a others. Overall, it is has been installed so many times because it is very good. I am sure that some people could just use this app and not need anything else.

The app that I personally use the most is The Tecarta Bible. It is also available free on Apple and Android and offers 30 translations (text and some audio) and 88 Study Bibles, Commentaries, and Devotionals. To me the main difference is that the App has a more straightforward interface that puts the Bible front and center. They both open into a home screen and both require only a single click to start reading, but for me, Tecarta has less noise. To be fair, it has a much less appealing UI, but overall I find it more useful for my purposes. 

One of the most useful things Tecarta offers is “in app” access to most of the major Commentaries and Study Bibles. I depend on the Moody Bible and John MacArthur Commentaries during study time. As the picture below shows, I can go to any book of the Bible on the left side and have the commentary follow me on the right side. Previously, I would have the commentary open in my eBook reader in the background and have to switch and manually move to the applicable page to see what it said. I was constantly moving from my notes to the Bible App to the eBook commentary. It worked, but was not very efficient.

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Really, you can’t go wrong with any of the top Bible apps. Navigation of the Bible is probably easiest on these Apps – if you know where the verse is, with two to three clicks, you can get to it quickly. And, even if you only know a few key words in a verse, you can quickly search and find what you are looking for. Another important part for some folks is that you can underline and make notes that remain no matter what device you are using.

So, what’s not to like? Why do I feel the need to search out more? The drawback for me is personalization. Even though you get more than an entire bookshelf of Bible versions, commentaries and devotionals with these apps, they just don’t “feel” like my personal Bible. I don’t find myself picking up my phone or iPad and doing my daily reading in them. Thank God, however, many of the over 500 million people have and still do.

Bible eBooks

Let me quickly discuss this option that I mentioned because it might be something that you might like. Amazon Kindle, Apple Books, Barnes and Noble Nook and a few other eReaders offer nearly every version of the Bible and all of the major commentaries and devotionals as eBooks. I own a few of each of these, but find myself using them less and less.

Usage of Bible eBooks is only slightly less capable than the dedicated apps with a little more scrolling and tapping to get around. You can bookmark, underline, make notes and search, just like in the apps I mentioned above. The major difference is speed and ease of use. For me, the Bible Apps are much quicker and easier to use and navigate, but from a personalization standpoint, they don’t feel like a replacement so I continue to look elsewhere.

Bible PDF

Bible PDFs have around for years, but they were never that interesting to me once eBooks came out. PDFs are pretty static, sometimes difficult to search and usually really large unwieldy files. Bible eBooks and they the Bible Apps quickly surpassed them in capabilities probably 10 or more years ago. So, why am I writing about them here? Because a new capability has made my Digital Bible a reality!

A few months ago, in my seemingly never-ending perusing of Bible maker websites (I mentioned I had a Bible purchasing problem), I ran across a brand new thing – Crossway’s ESV Digital Scripture Journal Bible. Unlike previous PDF Bibles, this one was purpose built to allow you to take notes, journal or draw in the margins! All of a sudden, I found the ability to personalize that I was missing from my non-digital days.

My non-digital Bible is filled with underlines, brackets and notes (Admittedly, this picture is from one of my favorite parts of the Bible, Daniel 3. Leviticus looks like a ghost-town).

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But most importantly, not only was I able to highlight and underline and write a few easily forgettable scrawls in the tiny margins – I had an entire page on which to take notes in my Apple Pencil digital-ink chicken-scratch!

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Of course, there are some drawbacks. 

  • Navigation in Crossway’s ESV Digital Scripture Journal Bible is a pain as the hyperlinks to the individual chapters in the books are very small and hard to make work.
  • Searching is pretty non-existent because when I type query into the search box, the app looks through all 3,725 pages. It takes several minutes to find anything. Once it does, it returns good results, but it is easier to search the web or on a Bible App.
  • Looking at a Commentary eBook does work, but it does not navigate with me as I move through the Bible. The picture below shows a split screen with the Moody Bible Commentary eBook on the left and the ESV Bible on the right.
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Wrap-up

Because of Crossway’s ESV Digital Scripture Journal Bible PDF, It has been a few months and I have all but abandoned my trusty NIV. It sits next to the other Bibles on my desk library. I am getting better at navigating my Digital Bible, especially in the split screen.

Continue on to Part 4 – The Results to see how all of these pieces have come together and to find out if I still carry my trusty NIV Bible with me.

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