The Gutenberg eBook: Once Again, The Bible Is At The Forefront Of Publishing Technology

from the mission:-innovation dept

It’s well-known that movable-type printing started (at least in the Western world) with the Gutenberg Bible, which all-but-singlehandedly ushered in a new era of literature distribution. To this day, the Bible remains one of the most-printed books of all time, and it’s interesting to learn that it still plays a role in pushing publishing technology forward. The Christian missionary initiative Every Tribe Every Nation (ETEN) is working to make ebook Bibles available in as many languages as possible, on as many platforms as possible—and in doing so, they’re solving technical problems that few others are addressing:

Now, it turns out, the old missionary impulse is being turned towards some extremely difficult technical challenges: as Mark Howe [who works on the project] has said, “For all the issues that are still to be solved, ETEN is trying to do things that the world’s biggest tech companies haven’t cracked yet, such as rendering minority languages correctly on mobile devices. There’s a unity among Bible translators and publishers that stands in stark contrast to the fractured, fratricidal smartphone industry.” And of course, once these technical challenges are met, it won’t be Bibles only that people can get on their mobile devices: whole textual worlds will open up for them.

Much of the innovation has to do with niche languages (they have translations in Potawatomie and Hawai’i Pidgin) and the developing world: ETEN is tackling translation challenges that are of low priority for many businesses since they aren’t interested in entering those markets—at least not enough, or not yet. But if ETEN succeeds in making this kind of mass-internationalization easier, it will be sure to have a ripple effect as others make use of the technology. The Bible may once again be responsible for driving a communications revolution.

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Comments on “The Gutenberg eBook: Once Again, The Bible Is At The Forefront Of Publishing Technology”

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darryl says:

another non-story..

except you forget the bible is bashed far more in the US than anyone else, the rest of the world will never notice or even care.

are you (they) going to do the Quran ?

are they going to correct the mistranslations that are allready there ? such as the REED sea not the RED sea.

but typical of America to think they have the scoop on religion and that they have some right or obligation to force that religion on all TRIBES and NATIONS !!!!!

how many copies of the GB is there ? 48 wow, that IS some revolution.

it was not the Gutenburg bible that was significant, (in the US you use the RSV (or ASV), not Gutenburg’s, nor did Gutenburg translate the bible, it was a simple printing of the King James bible.

But it is a quite news week I guess for Masnick, he has to make his money by saying SOMETHING !!, it’s still about quantity at the expense of quality… SNAFU

Blakery (profile) says:

Re: another non-story..

1. Muslims generally view translating the Qur’an as sacrilege. I’m sure they wouldn’t appreciate a bunch of Christians translating it into every language for them.

2. The reed sea/ red sea thing isn’t a matter of mistranslation. It’s a matter of genuine debate. There are multiple different valid translations, and multiple potential crossing sites… that we know of. Since it was written approximately 3000 years ago, that can make things difficult in figuring out some of the

3. There are 48 surviving copies. It is unknown how many were printed. A low estimate is around 150. So, that makes 150 copies of a book, all of which are EXACTLY THE SAME, and took only a few years work by a single person, including type setting… At a time when it would take a single person several years to transcribe ONE COPY, and every copy was unique. As the first major book printed this way, bet your sweet ass it was a revolution.

4. You’re right, Gutenberg did not translate the bible. No one has claimed that. But the King James bible was significantly later, and make possible by the Gutenberg bible. The comparison make it the article is an excellent one.

Anonymous Coward says:

another non-story..

You as usual miss the point. It’s not that their goal is to translate the Bible for their purposes or why that is important. They could be trying to translate Dr. Suess books if they wanted to and the end result would be the same. It also doesn’t matter that there have been mistranslations in past attempts to convert the Bible to other languages as those were one off translations whereas what is being created here is a framework that can be used to convert between any language for any purpose by anybody. Who cares if they aren’t translating the Koran? Someone will use it to do that? The point is that in this case they because of their religious motivations they are venturing providing something that will benefit everyone even those who conflict with their views.

Anonymous Coward says:

another non-story..

Chapman: I didn’t expect a kind of Spanish Inquisition.


[The cardinals burst in]

Ximinez: NOBODY expects the Spanish Inquisition! Amongst our weaponry are such diverse elements as: fear, surprise, ruthless efficiency, an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope, and nice red uniforms – Oh damn!
[To Cardinal Biggles] I can’t say it – you’ll have to say it.

Michael says:

Whenever I hear people talking about the supposed forceful nature of Christianity, I have to laugh. Most of the pushing is being done by anti-religious groups with an agenda. Since you people constantly drudge up ancient history with your Inquisition/Crusades nonsense, mind if we put the spotlight on the “wonderful” works of atheism over the past century which ended the lives of over 100 million people? Nobody is forcing you to accept Christianity, yet if I, being a Catholic, were to walk into a communist state tomorrow such as China or North Korea, I don’t think they’d look favorably upon the tenets of my faith. Indeed, in China, they bulldoze Churches, spy on Christians and in some cases torture and kill them. I don’t see atheists suffering similar persecutions, so who exactly is forceful?

ahow628 (profile) says:

My wish

My current favorite version of the bible is The Message because it reads more like a narrative than anything. The unfortunate part is that it is encumbered by copyright.

I went to buy it in Kindle format but ended up not because the search is terrible. You can only get to the beginning of books based on how the author/publisher set it up. For a book like Psalms, you are going to end up paging through hundreds of pages to get to the chapter you want.

If someone would do a great, readable translation and open source it so people could set up innovative search methods on it, that would be awesome.

OSNOVA has done some nice search stuff with KJV since it is public domain, but KJV is unreadable and our church doesn’t use it anyway.

hegemon13 says:


“Now if they’d respect the non-religious ppl and didn’t try to meddle into laws….”

Funny. I see plenty of atheists demanding that the religious expression of everyone who disagrees with them be quashed. And respect? That’s a two-way street, sir. Show me an atheist that respects religious people, and I’ll show you a Christian who respects atheism.

If what you mean is, “respect others’ freedom to believe as they choose,” I can point you to a whole lot. Any Christian with an ounce of historical knowledge knows just how dangerous it is to have the government start defining their faith for them.

hegemon13 says:

another non-story..

“…but typical of America to think they have the scoop on religion and that they have some right or obligation to force that religion on all TRIBES and NATIONS !!!!!”

Yeah, how dare some private organization spend their own money to translate a document they feel is very important to share it with the world! Down with this bogus freedom of speech idea! If they’re gonna spend their money and sweat to do their own translations, then they should be forced to translate what I TELL THEM TO!!!!!!

Anonymous Coward says:


1. Of course religious groups have had an agenda.

2. What does any of this have to do with the point of the article? Nothing.

The point is not WHY it’s being done but rather the fact THAT it’s being done and the fact THAT it will be useful to others with unrelated purposes. It can even be useful for those who oppose the views those who are doing it in the first place.

Kaden (profile) says:


Your victimization is duly noted. Oh, the tribulations you face. Alas. Alack.

You have the choice not to walk into any of those merciless christian killing pinko commie nations. Non christian indigenous nations were offered no such option when confronted by earnest bible clutching Caucasians proclaiming ‘We’re missionaries from God; we’re here to help you’.

Also: Gonna need to see a citation on your ‘atheists killed 100 million people’ factoid, and for fuck sake, as a catholic, could you have a word with Benny about priestly child predators, and maybe not trying to screw around with women’s reproductive health?

Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) (profile) says:

another non-story..

Well the porn industry embraced the internet as a distribution medium and have shown that content creators can make money on the internet. The mainstream content industry is slowly making their way to this recognition. Not everybody likes to hold up the porn industry as a bastion of innovation but they did drive a lot of tech on the internet.

Michael says:


“You have the choice not to walk into any of those merciless christian killing pinko commie nations. Non christian indigenous nations were offered no such option when confronted by earnest bible clutching Caucasians proclaiming ‘We’re missionaries from God; we’re here to help you’.”

Funny you should bring that up because Christians often perform much in the way of charity and humanitarian work. Also, nobody is forced to accept Christianity. Lastly, missionaries often put themselves at risk by going into dangerous territories, resulting in many of them being killed/martyred.

“Also: Gonna need to see a citation on your ‘atheists killed 100 million people’ factoid”
Current estimate: 149,469,610

“…as a catholic, could you have a word with Benny about priestly child predators, and maybe not trying to screw around with women’s reproductive health?”

First of all, much less than 1% of all priests over the past several decades were proven to have committed acts of sexual molestation, most of those involving teenagers, not children. Furthermore, about 80% of all acts were homosexual in origin (ring a bell?). Molestation/sexual abuse occurs in EVERY walk of life. A child is at far greater risk of being molested by, say, a teacher than by a priest. The media chose to zero in on the Church so that it could force its homosexual/abortion agenda on the public.

As far as “women’s health” goes, the Church does not force anyone to choose one way or another — if people are going to have an abortion (murder their unborn child) or whatever else, that’s their choice. BTW, I recall the media and certain groups trying to bully the Church into providing abortion, contraception and sterilization as part of their mandatory insurance coverage.

The message is clear: it’s ok to smear and attack Catholicism at every turn but let’s go out of our way to protect everybody else.

Anonymous Coward says:


First the Catholic church has a LONG history of manipulating the dissemination of information to the public to promote THEIR agenda. The reason the Catholic church appears to be singled out by the media surrounding abuse cases is the fact that they so publicly try to FORCE their concept of morality on others and these cases highlight the hypocrisy in their attempts. I agree with you that a LOT of good is done by Christian groups throughout the world however it often seems that these things are not done out of genuine care and selflessness for the individuals affected by their efforts but rather an attempt to assimilate and control them.

Also the media does not have a “homosexual/abortion agenda” there are groups that have a “protection of civil liberties and individual rights that are supposed to be guaranteed by the law” agenda that also utilize the media as an outlet to speak out against choose to impose their will on others.

And it’s not just the Catholic church (although they have the longest history and are the most visible part of the entire group) that is to blame here. The entire right wing “Moral Majority” needs to learn that we are supposed to have a separation of church and state FOR A VERY GOOD REASON and STOP trying to pass laws to legislate their idea of morality on everyone else.

Furthermore, as I stated in my previous comment. NONE of this has ANYTHING to do with the point of the article so YOU opened yourself up to this criticism by bringing up the unrelated topic in the first place.

Mike42 (profile) says:


Correction: Any PERSON with an ounce of historical knowledge knows just how dangerous it is to have the government start defining their faith for them.

Atheists are not quashing religious speech. They are quashing PUBLICLY FUNDED religious speech. Most Atheists would also quash a publicly-funded anti-religion speech. I certainly would.

My best friend is Christian, and I am an Atheist. We respect each other. Not an issue.

So please keep chuch and state separate. Thanks!

PRMan (profile) says:

another non-story..

Not to mention that traditionally, it has been called the reed sea, because it was surrounded by reeds. But in English it’s always been known as the Red Sea, because it’s red.

Do you translate it so that people understand the original meaning or so that they know where it is today? These are the types of choices that translators have to make, and neither one is “wrong”.

PRMan (profile) says:


There used to be. I had a friend at college whose dad was a missionary to Hawaii.

Here’s a sample (Psalm 23). It’s fun to read:

Da Boss Above, he take care me,
Jalike da sheep farma take care his sheeps.
He goin give me everyting I need.

He let me lie down wea da sweet an soft grass stay.
He lead me by da water wea I can rest.

He give me new kine life.
He lead me in da road dat stay right,
Cuz I his guy.


another non-story..

You try to be sarcastic but this sort of issue is the very sort of thing that separates one religion from another. Something like this would be considered sloppy and entirely unacceptable by the people that actually “own” “the book”.

How many other errors are there? Do these kinds of things run far deeper than just a typo? Are they all just a bunch of charlatains?

Throw in a little “literalism” and things get really interesting.

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

another non-comment from darryl..

Another illustration of your total ignorance of history.

The Gutenberg Bible was in Latin, the Vulgate Bible, the standard Bible of the Roman Catholic Church of the time. The Authorized (King James) translation had yet to appear.

While the Bible itself, beautiful piece of work that it was and is, it’s the movable type press that was introduced to Europe at the time that was revolutionary, the Chinese had had movable type for quite some time by that period. Equally revolutionary was using metal, lead, to cast the letters to that they could be recast, reused and corrected at will.

Without it it’s arguable that the Protestant Revolution would have occurred, that the Enlightenment, Renaissance and the science we know would have happened. And certainly not the form in which they did.

The people behind ETEN are not interested in converting everyone, though they are carrying on the apostolic tradition, nor are they forcing anything on anyone. They’ve found and developed an ingenious way to translate the Bible into different languages using the power of the Internet, the Web, technology and, of course, biblical scholars probably both Christian and Jewish to do this.

I’d ask you to stop being an ignorant idiot but that’s pointless so how about you take a vacation in the 11th Century? You’d be happy there.

Anonymous Coward says:

My wish

If anybody’s interested, the more recent translations are under copyright.

I won’t call the rules to be too onerous as you can lookup verses or chapters on

Yeah, a very searchable Kindle version would be nice.

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

another non-story..

As far as it goes the Old Testament is also known as the Hebrew Bible and what’s included in it was made cannoical by a group of rabbi’s shortly after the conference at Nicea made to books that are still included in the New Testament.

The people who “own” The Bible then are Jews and Christians. I suspect a lot of people here would be surprised, and, perhaps shocked at how often Jewish and Christian biblical scholars have poured over it over the past 2000 years to in efforts to correct translation errors and mistakes.

We’re just a lot better than we used to be. Of course there are mistakes in translation.

As for literalism, the books of The Bible were never intended to be take literally. While a lot is oral history and tradition written down after the fact, in the case of the Old Testament during the exile in Babylon, in the case of the New Testament on oral remembrances, scraps of written material and even complete and now lost Gospels.

Historical facts are included in The Bible which has kept a number of scholars very busy for the past couple of hundred years but overall it is NOT a history, the gospels are NOT biography as we would know either.

As for mistranslating Reed Sea as Red Sea it’s a fairly minor mistake even if it might make the escape from the Egyptians much less dramatic it still makes it possible as has been demonstrated there.

And no, to the vast majority of Christians and Jews the mistakes are quite acceptable and often enlightening in that they clarify what may have been confusing before.

Coyote says:

another non-story..

I do hate to point this out, but the article itself mentions ‘a whole new world of text will be open to them.’ They are pushing the publishing and translating text where businesses won’t because they want to provide not just the Bible, but unlimited numbers of text — the Koran among them — to people who would otherwise not get them.

If you honestly believe they’re trying to force Christianity on tribes and nations — they aren’t, they’re letting people view the Bible, just as they will be letting people view the Koran, and hell, books made by Confuscius or others who decide to give these texts and translate them. All because a missionary group wants to translate the Bible, and pushing the technology to do so forward.

How is giving more options to more countries a bad thing? How is it a bad thing to do so? Nay, I think it is a wonderful thing. They are doing it not because they simply desire to give the Bible to others and let them read it for themselves — but because they also want these nations, these tribes, to view other texts otherwise unavailable to them. There is far too much good that’s being done here than there is evil being done here; they’re not doing it for business, or even for profit. They’re doing it because they want to do it, and want to provide an all new world for them that they would not have discovered otherwise.

If this is forcing nations and tribes to accept Christianity, I might as well be the long lost sister of a Dixie Chick who danced along in one of their shows only to ride away into the sunset never to be heard from again, because she wanted to help the ancient tribes and traditions of the Maori Partners for American Aliens or something.

Point is, this technology is wonderful and will bring many great things to the nations and tribes they are visiting; it is a looking glass window, wherein the other side of the glass is the wonderful world of text, learning, and knowledge. How is this a BAD thing, again?

Oh right, it isn’t.

Anonymous Coward says:

I just want the freedom to read my bible and go to church. What many who do not desire an interest to do this do not realize is that freedom is being infringed on. We see and hear news that you do not because our culture is not yours. We see churches being foreclosed on faster than homes are, we see our tax exempt status being challenged, our charity to other countries being subverted, and we have statements from those in government that they do not agree with our taking a path that puts God above Government. We even have statements that our savior would want us to give to the government over our offerings to our faith along with our faith that those offerings will go to a volunteer force devoted to feeding the hungry and clothing the poor.

Instead people seem to equate those who go to church and volunteer our time, service, and offerings as being used to impose an inquisition. I do not know another institution that does as much good in the world as the USA Christian Charity programs do…including the UN world food bank.

Sam Hight (profile) says:


Think about what you just said: It’s not okay for religious people to meddle in your laws of society, but you’re allowed to meddle in theirs… you share the same society so why not have a bit of give and take? Separation of church and state was designed to keep the state out of church business, not the other way around (despite popular opinion).

Cole says:

A lot of the arguments here, while being nothing at all to do with the article, seem to be based around things done in America or hundreds of years ago. Yes, missionaries have forced themselves on people in the past, but it happens a lot less now, blaming modern missionaries for that seems stupid. What’s more, the idea of “separation of church and state” is entirely an American thing, and frankly I’m not even sure how it can work:

“The church say we should do this so let’s make it law” – bad.

“I think we should do this, everyone who agrees vote for me and we’ll make it law” – good.

The latter seems to be separating church and state as far as I can tell, but if their personal views are influenced by their religious ones, and they are voted for by other people with the same religion, then exactly nothing has changed! How to you propose keeping the views of a majority religion entirely out of government decision making processes with a democracy?

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