Digital vs. Hardcopy Bibles: A Discussion


I think the answer is both, but before I give my thoughts on the issue, let’s talk about why it’s important to think about.

The sudden explosion of the smartphone into our culture has impacted us faster and deeper than we could keep up with. Stats about traffic accidents, couples lacking in real conversation, children being ignored, and a rise in depression due to greater narcissim, have shown us the dark side of smartphones. The smartphone came into existence and widespread use before we could respond to how it would impact our society. While there have been tons of benefits, the statistics show us that technology can easily run us rather than us running it, so we need to be intentional with how we use it (or don’t use it).

So, what are the up sides and down sides of digital bibles? For some it may seem that the Bible has been on their phone forever, but it’s only been since 2007 at the earliest, so let’s give this some thought. Here’s some pros and potential cons of digital Bibles:

The Pros of Digital

  • Always there – The reality is that my phone is always in my pocket (besides those times when I’m with family or spending time with Jesus and it’s intentionally somewhere else), and it’s nice to have access to God’s word anywhere (running and eating out are two of many examples of places I’ve used the Bible on my phone where I wouldn’t have had a hard copy with me).
  • Ease of sharing – With apps like youversion, I can tap a verse (or an entire passage) and text it to someone’s phone very quickly. It’s never been easier to send a scripture and an encouraging word to someone to encourage them.
  • Access to more translationsYouversion has over 1,000 translations in nearly 800 languages available for free. Can we say praise God? His word has never been this widespread before, and it’s nice to be able to access other translations quickly (and for free) for reference.
  • More people are in God’s word – There are tons of people who are more technically minded and are reading God’s word now more than before. Who says God can’t speak through a screen? From slate, to animal skin, to paper, to the iPhone, His word is still the same.

The Cons of Digital

  • Greater temptation for distractions and multi-tasking – While you can put your phone in airplane mode or turn off notifications, the reality is many of us don’t, so if your digital device is the only way you have your time with Jesus, you can open yourself up to interruption. A hardcopy Bible only does one thing.
  • Are more translations always better? –  The reality is that some translations are better than others. Without proper education regarding translations, some people may only use a translation that’s not as accurate simply because it was available and simple to understand.
  • Lesser engagement with the text – when we underline and journal we’re able to engage with the text on a deeper level and cement it into our minds. While digital highlighting and notes are great, and do help, it’s not quite the same in my mind. Pairing a digital Bible with a hardcopy journal may be a good solution to this.
  • Less lingering – With a hardcopy and journal, I’m more likely to linger with the Lord a little longer. If I’m on a device, I’m more tempted to check the weather or an email simply because I can, which may stop me from lingering before the Lord just a bit longer.

This list is certainly not exhaustive, and some of the items are probably better labeled as tendencies or warnings than pros or cons. Personality type also plays into this in a huge way, so I’d love to hear your thoughts on this issue!

In conclusion, I’m grateful for the rise of the digital Bible. It has added a layer to my life which has resulted in me engaging even more with God’s word than before.

However, for the most part I still use a hardcopy for my quiet time with Jesus. There’s something about opening a Bible, knowing that it’s only purpose is to speak God’s living and active word to me, that is amazing. In fact, having tried both digital and hard copy in my quiet times, lately as I’ve been using the hard copy for quiet time, I’ve been experiencing an excitement when I open my Bible, knowing that God is going to speak to me. It’s like saying “here I am Lord, I’ve set aside this time to hear from You and no one else.” There’s something powerful about that.

Nonetheless, I’ve had times when I read on my iPad (with wifi off I can’t get distractions since I don’t have data on mine) with a hardcopy journal and have great times with the Lord – youversion simply offers more translations than I own in a hardcopy form, so this is a good option for me sometimes – both ways have helped my spiritual dietary needs if you will.

At the end of the day, God’s word is living and active and we need to be in it. So, whether it’s through a phone, tablet, or book, let’s get in the word. There’s no excuses now – let’s read it and be changed by the God who wrote it.



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