bible software and the commercialisation of spirituality

Last week I read the NYT article on the YouVersion bible app – it talks about YouVersion – an ad-free Bible on your phone, tablet and computer. The very notion of an ad-free bible took me by surprise a little, but that’s the direction that the majority of bible apps seem to be taking. When I was still using a Windows computer with floppy drives in it, I had a copy of a program called QuickVerse (now up to version 10) – it was very much a program (this was before everything was an app) that emphasised the uniqueness of the bible apart from other works.

I tried QuickVerse in later versions, but it had fallen into a common trap: thinking you’re as likely to search other books as search the bible in a piece of software you’ve bought to study the bible: a subtle, but significant problem started to creep in. As I started to do further language study, I moved across to Accordance for Mac and bought the Greek New Testament with it so I could try and read that. It was a perfectly workable program, but when it came time to learn Hebrew as well, the upgrade path looked like it would cost just as much as to buy Logos outright, and I thought I’d test it out as well.

I think I prefer Logos over Accordance for actual ease of use, but Logos is relentless in trying to sell you additional books, and to upgrade the software you have and the collection of books you have. It has reached the point now where I was using it for some vaguely spiritual purpose, and there was a pop-up window, encouraging me to buy the paid upgrade at a limited-time discount price. 

Knowing what I do about digital marketing, they’re just trying to pull out all the stops to sell more of their product in the most effective way possible, but what it feels like is that people-who-buy-Christian-books are a particular target market, and that every tactic possible is fair game. It has reached the point where even as a paid user of their app, I feel like I’m getting ads presented to me in ways that are too intrusive.

As much as the NYT article above talks about printed bibles sitting on the shelf gathering dust, the blaring, commercialised software that we’re heading towards seems too great a contrast from the still small voice of God that we’re trying to listen to in these apps.

Is it just me?

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1 Comment

  1. i know exactly what you mean!

    i have a fairly large logos library and use the program most days… but i get sick of the multiple emails a week trying to add "fries with that"!

    i appreciate the ad-free nature of youversion app.

    but i actually use the esv bible more often – it is quickly loading and never crashes.

    but i have been using some of the reading plans lately with youversion

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