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Bible innovation across the world from Bible Society publishers

NEWS | John Sandeman

Thursday 9 July 2015

Smartphone technology has led Lebanese youth to create a new language. “Chat” is a new version of Arabic created on a standard mobile phone, using Latin characters (the western alphabet) by young people texting, and using social media. Now, there’s also a new Bible in this new language. Unlike other Bibles versions that begin as a printed book or perhaps a recording, this Bible began as an app.

The Lebanon Bible Society launched Chat Bible/Bil3arabi as an app with the four gospels last year. The title is an example of the new Latin text Arabic “chat”. The whole New Testament is now available and the Lebanese Bible Society is working on Psalms and Proverbs at present.

A new language among Lebanese youth is the basis of a new Bible app.

A new language among Lebanese youth is the basis of a new Bible app.

The Bible Society is working on a possible printed version of this new language Bible, too.

“It is extremely popular among young people because it is in the language they are using,” a Ani Baboghlanian, stock manager of the Lebanese Bible Society told the Global Bible Society Publishers Convention in May.

A delegate from Kenya pointed out that youth in that country have also invented a new language mixing three local languages. The Lebanese example had opened up a new idea for him.

When P. I. Varghese of the Indian Bible Society showed a series of dance videos from the main regions of India, the convention audience (at least this member of it) was mystified, but then he displayed a mind boggling range of Audio Bibles featuring the diverse music of subcontinental cultures. They even have special audio for truck drivers.

Audio is also important for South Africa who are more than halfway through producing multi-platform audio Bibles in their eleven official languages.

A richly illustrated online Bible Encyclopaedia was showcased at the convention by the Netherlands Bible Society. The Encyclopaedia and other “premium” content spearheaded a successful online subscription model of Bible distribution in Holland.

How to make money from Bible distribution as more readers go online is a major concern for a large number of the 147 Bible Societies around the world, who have relied on print revenues to fund their mission.

An alternate way to raise money is to build a donor community in partnership with YouVersion – the most popular Bible app available today – and selling “premium” content such as study Bibles. A new Bible Society app with enhanced features is also on the way.

Free online study Bibles are becoming available in English, such as the recent online free release of the ESV Global Study Bible. But in many languages a “premium” Study Bible may give a local revenue stream to local Bible Societies. A few days among Bible Publishers from around the world convinces this writer that there is a real appetite for innovation among the people that make God’s Word available.

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