Thursday, May 09, 2013

Scriptures: Paper or Plastic?

I pulled out my phone as I waited for my wife in the entry hall of the Brigham City Temple and began reading a talk from the recent general conference. One of the temple workers nearby said, "You be careful about what you access on that thing in the temple, won't you?"

That wasn't a problem because I had no cellular or WiFi coverage in there anyway. I could only peruse downloaded content. I explained what I was reading and then returned to the task. The man began chatting with another worker about electronic versions of the scriptures.

"When I was high priest group instructor 20 years ago," he said, "there were two brethren in the group that still brought their old scriptures; although, the new version had been out for a decade." The two workers discussed seeing increasing numbers of people using various electronic versions of the scriptures. They mentioned some of the pros and cons of going electronic.

"Maybe I'm becoming like those two old duffers from my old high priest group by sticking to my hard copies," the man thought out loud. I couldn't help but add my two cents. I explained how I liked using my scriptures on my phone and computer, where everything I do is automatically synchronized. "But," I added, "I have never had the battery run out on my paper copies." That elicited a chuckle.

A recent Deseret News article explored "the pros and cons of using digital scriptures and the traditional print scriptures." After perusing the various opinions featured in the article, I surmise that it really comes down to individual taste.

Technology offers some great features. My notes and highlights are there no matter which device I use. I can easily carry my scriptures and all of my church materials in my pocket. I can keep my daughter quiet by handing her my phone so that she can read the Friend magazine during church meetings. I can rapidly switch my scriptures and some other content to other languages that I know. I can increase font size on the fly as my eyes age instead of buying a new set of larger font scriptures. And I can read all of this content in the dark. How cool is that?

But technology isn't perfect. My number one gripe is battery life. Failing to keep your devices charged can leave you scrambling. Many complain of being distracted by all of the other things their devices can do. Electronic distraction is simply a matter of self discipline and I can be a very disciplined guy. I don't have a tablet, but I sometimes wish I did. It's not easy to take notes on a phone. But you know what? It's easier than writing in the margins of my paper scriptures.

Some people mentioned in the article just like the feel of a book. I appreciate this sentiment. I will never have an old love note from my wife flutter out of my electronic scriptures and land in my lap. Still, I can't help but wonder if clinging to paper books isn't strikingly similar to those that preferred handwritten scrolls after the advent of printed bound books. I suppose that we will have printed books around for a long time to come. But can't we all see where this is headed?

My brothers insisted on giving my elderly mother an iPad for her last birthday. "If my four-year-old grandson can learn to use it," said one brother, "so can my mother." Mom keeps her iPad charged up, but after nearly a year of owning it she still hardly ever uses it. She is more likely to hand it to someone younger and ask them to use it for her. "I need to learn how to use this," she will say, not realizing that everyone else learns the iPad simply by messing around with it. She acts like she's afraid of it.

Mom's scriptures and lessons are on her iPad, but every week she takes copies of the lessons printed from her computer along with her bulky large font scriptures to church while her iPad sits at home. This generational digital divide will obviously go away over time due to population turnover.

As for me, I suspect that I will continue to sometimes use hard copies of the scriptures while using electronic versions at other times, according to what suits my whims. I also suspect that technology will continue to improve until I find myself using hard copies less and less. Probably someday I will realize that it has been a long time since I cracked open a hard copy of the scriptures.

1 comment:

trgrant said...

You neglected to mention what I consider to be the most important benefit of Paper scriptures. They can't be changed easily.

With the electronic version, they just "flipped a switch" and suddenly, you have the most recent updates. To some this may be seen as a benefit.

However, in the day of the information age. He who controls the information, controls the world. And as such I like paper, because I know I am reading the original text.

Don't get me wrong, I like the updates. But there are times where I want to see what the original was, and for that I have to go back to paper.

Don't get me wrong on another account. I love electronic too. Cross referencing is so simple and easy, I can cover twice the content in half the time.

I just wanted to share my opinion about the #1 benefit of paper.