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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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  1. identicon
    Cole, 12 Mar 2012 @ 5:24am

    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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