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.
I started this journey to see if I could find a suitable digital replacement for well used, but more often then not, unreadable Bible. To accomplish this, I would need to find a unique combination of hardware, software and experience across many different Bible uses. I expected that I would solve for a few of these use cases, but still find myself switching from analog to digital regularly.
Surprisingly, that is not the case – I have completely switched to the all digital solution full time! Not only that, but I am now in the process of adding more use cases and capabilities that I did not even envision when I started. So, for this review, I will do two things – first, I will highlight my key use cases and how I am using my Digital Bible and second, I will lay out some of the new capabilities that I am working to incorporate into my life.
My key use cases remain the same as in Part 1, but the Digital Bible usage has changed how I work.
- Sunday Service Note-taking – This is where the problem started with not being able to read my physical Bible. Now I use my Apple Pencil to takes notes with our Church’s App opened to that week’s sermon notes while split screened with The Tecarta Bible App. With Apple Pencil and iOS, a new feature called Scribble allows you to write with a stylus and it automatically turns it into text. Also, Tecarta makes it very easy to jump around the Bible as references are mentioned and our Church’s SubSplash based Bible App lets me email the final set of notes when service is done.
The only draw back right now is the size of the iPad (12.9”) and the issue with losing the Pencil. I am getting used to the large iPad and am not sure that I would like the smaller one because I currently have a lot of space on which to take notes. I have mostly solved the Pencil issues with a new, unfortunately not beautiful leather, case that locks the pencil in place with a magnetic flap. It also magnetically attaches to the iPad back allowing easy swapping between the case and the keyboard.
- Personal Bible Study – Originally I would read my physical Bible with my iPad (with stylus or attached keyboard) open to Moody’s or John MacArthur’s Bible Commentary eBook on Apple Books and my notes open in Apple Notes.
Today, I am all digital. I read my ESV Digital Scripture Journal Bible in either the iPadOS files app or in a PDF reader, taking notes with my Apple Pencil in the margins as I go. Often, I will have the Moody Bible Commentary eBook up in split screen so that I can read what it says as well. I find this a very effective was to do Bible Study.
- Life Group Study – In the olden days, I would take my Bible to Life Group and use it to follow along or read passages as we talked.
This is the most fluid use case because I am still perfecting it. If I am not leading the study, I just use my iPad to read my notes and read verses. If I am leading the study, I will have my outline in Apple Notes and read from either the ESV pdf or The Tecarta Bible app (if I want a non-ESV translation). I am working on getting better at reading multiple passages from different books – sometimes I have had to resort to my physical Bible with marker ribbons for multiple citations. If I don’t do this, I get confused and lose my place in the lesson. Even though it is not perfect now, I feel that over time this use case will get better.
- Writing – This use case was the most digital before. I would use my physical Bible for a reference or inspiration when I was writing blog posts, but I also was writing in Apple Notes, looking up verses in Biblegateway in the browser and searching my Moody Bible Commentary eBook for understanding on my iPad or MacBook.
Now, I am mostly rely on my iPad or MacBook, but I still like to look at old notes in my physical Bible. To be my most productive, I use a full-sized keyboard and a full-sized monitor. This works well and I love the new ability to navigate the iPad with a trackpad. I also am using Moody Bible Institute Professor Chris Palmer’s Greek Word Study (physical) and Letters from Jesus (digital) books a lot lately. They are great!
- Church Meetings – Originally, I would probably take notes on my phone, but I now just take my iPad and take Meeting Notes in Apple Notes with a stylus or attached keyboard.
In Part 3, I covered the software that I use most often and find most useful, but here are a few more interesting potential resources that I am working with to add more value to my Digital Bible.
- Apple Notes – Indispensable. Besides the ESV PDF where I take Bible notes while I read, everything else is in Apple Notes. My blog posts, Life Group Notes, Meeting Notes, Bible Study notes and the Sermon Notes email all get put there.
- PDF Reader – I have found that the Files app on iPad OS is my favorite PDF editing tool. I do use PDF Expert by Readdle at times because it allows the use of multiple tabs so I can toggle between PDFs if need be.
- Right Now Media – This website/app is an excellent resource for video programs and devotionals. Right now, our life group is working on Francis Chan’s Book of James Devotional. This resource is an excellent way to dive deeper into a book by yourself or with a group. I take notes in my ESV PDF or Apple Notes in split screen while I watch. The app also provides resources for Life Group leaders and participants.
- Browser – The Internet provides access to many resources that are not yet available on mobile device apps. I still use it for research. Biblegateway is a great no-nonsense Bible website with 150 translations in 50 languages, all free, which is not always the case with iOS apps. Of course, Wikipedia is a good starter resource, as long as you don’t rely on it for your primary source. Beyond that, Google or DuckDuckGo will deliver access to millions of research material with a simple search.
- Podcasts – I love podcasts – see my review of Unashamed with Phil and Jase Robertson. It is an excellent lifestyle/Bible podcast that is currently working through Acts. I also listen to The Bible in a Year podcast featuring Father Mike Schmitz who does a daily reading through a Bible in a Year reading program. He also prays and has a short talk about each days readings. It’s very good, even as a non-Catholic.
I have not yet incorporated podcasting into my note taking Bible Study. I can imagine that some day I might, although many of the pastor’s whose sermons I used to listen to via the podcast app have fallen away – James MacDonald and Ravi Zacharias are two that come to mind.
- Church Apps – As I mentioned, our Church has a great app. Check to see if yours does too.
3 Comments Add yours
We must be twins, separated at birth. I abandoned paper books and notes a while back for the same reason (aging eyes) and have been working off a 12.9 iPP as well (used to be Olive Tree, and I still have some commentaries and such in the ecosystem, but I recently switched to Accordance) My problem: I need a better way to organize my notes. I have all kinds of stuff – personal notes, sermon notes, stuff clipped from websites – and it’s pretty much scraps of (digital) paper collected in a (digital) shoebox. Nearly useless. I see you use Apple Notes – I use it as well and would love to see how you organize everything. Folders? Tags? Both? How do you do it? Does it work well for you?
Lance – great to meet you virtually! Glad to know that people have similar interests and a love for the Lord. I will work to explain what I have set up, for now. I say that because I am concerned that Apple might be heading down a censorship path and Christians could easily be targeted. Anyway – something to pray about later.
I basically have about 10 folders and 8 subfolders that I file things into. The major folders are for categories like Bible Study, Recipes, General Notes or my Blog Posts. I also have a folder where I store my most used notes so that I can grab them quickly. And then, under Blog Posts, I have my blogging workflow folders – Ideas, Starts, Drafts, Staging and Posted.
I find things in two ways – search or open notes in the folders.
I stay in my key folder and open those notes as I need them – Grocery note, shopping note, etc.
I also search for notes, which works very well.
I don’t tag notes – I do that on WordPress, though.
Now, questions for you – do you use Apple Pencil? What keyboard are you using? What are your favorite Tips and tricks?
Hey, thanks for the reply! At present, Apple is (IMHO) one of the least offensive big tech players, but I wouldn’t want to bank on them (or pretty much any other business entity) long term either. We know it’s coming – just a matter of how soon and how bad. In the last couple of years I’ve been making a concerted effort to memorize more Scripture. Wish I’d done that more when I was younger. If I lose my notes, at least I’ll still have something. I’m not too worried about them censoring stuff in Notes – if/when it comes down to that it’s a relatively easy task to dump everything to text or PDF and save it off to a local drive. I’ve been around the block repeatedly, looking for the perfect place to keep stuff – I started with cloud services in 2008 with Evernote. Stuck with them until it was plain they weren’t headed where I wanted to go. At that point I dumped everything to Notability (iPad) and sync’ed to iCloud, but it was a disorganized mess. I tried several other apps/solutions, but didn’t see any value in paying for anything since Apple Notes could do almost everything any of the subscription apps/services could do and it was free. So, from Notability I migrated everything into Notes and spent a lot of time getting it all sorted into folders (more or less). For Bible study I didn’t really have a system – I highlighted in Olive Tree a lot and have a disorganized collection (are you seeing a theme here?) of stuff saved from the web and sermon notes, but they’re all over the place. I went with Accordance because their note-taking is more flexible than Olive Tree. I’m thinking I can generate links to notes that I want to have close at hand and add the links to Accordance. They also have the ability to import PDF files, so I can generate a poor man’s commentary of sorts. It’s not perfect, but it seems like no solution ever is. It’s a trap for me – too tempting to be constantly tweaking my system and not enough time actually studying. Apple Pencil – I have one, but honestly I rarely use it. My handwriting is pretty bad. About the only thing I use it for is editing photos – nice to have fine control instead of my fat fingers for editing. Keyboard – I have the over-priced so-called “magic keyboard”. I’ve tried several others, but Apple’s offering beat everything else I tried in every category except price. Tips and tricks… probably nothing all that unusual. I live on my iPad, but other than a few shortcuts that I’ve collected from YT videos, I don’t think I do anything unusual or particularly noteworthy (no pun intended!)