Guest blog: Research: Why Americans prefer a Bible in their hands to one at their finger-tips

This article was written by Jeff Brumley for Baptist News Global | July 13, 2018

Americans are online for everything nowadays, but evidence shows most prefer paper and ink to read the Good Book.

And that’s no surprise to Troy Dixon, the lead pastor at Normandy Park Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida.

“As the world becomes more modern, the physical Bible feels more like a connection with what is continuous,” he said. “You build a connection with it.”

New research suggests millions of others may feel much the same.

A Barna study published July 10 found that nine in 10 Americans say they prefer to read the Bible in print form.

“Little has changed in the preference for a physical copy of the scriptures in the last eight years since tracking began,” according to the online summary of the report.

That may be surprising to some in an era in which Americans are going online at record numbers and for record-setting lengths of time.

That’s what the Pew Research Center reported in a March 14 article about online habits.

Twenty-six percent of Americans told Pew they are online “almost constantly.” Researchers also found that 77 percent of adults in the U.S. go online daily. Forty-three percent said they go online several times a day and 8 percent do so once a day.

“Younger adults are at the vanguard of the constantly connected,” with four-in-10 of Americans 18 to 29 years old being online “almost constantly,” Pew reported. Another 49 percent say they go online many times a day.

“Americans ages 30 to 49 are now about as likely as younger adults to use the internet almost constantly,” according to the article. “The share of 30- to 49-year-olds who say this has risen 12 percentage points since 2015.”

The share of Americans 50 to 64 years old who say they are always online has risen from 12 percent to 17 percent during the past three years, Pew reported.

No wonder. Just about any activity imaginable – gaming, social media, texting, paying bills, order food and even sermon preparation – can be performed with software available across multiple platforms, 24 hours a day.

And those technologies that intersect with Scripture and faith have also increased in use since 2011, Barna found.

More than half of users search for biblical content on the internet, including 42 percent who use Bible apps on their smartphones, Barna said.

Dixon said he fits into that category, too. He uses phone- and tablet-based technology that gives him access to the Bible and research books in sermon preparation. He’ll also use a Bible app at various moments throughout the day.

But during his morning quiet time, Dixon said he prefers his large-print English Standard Version.

“I have notes written in there. There’s a smell to it. It’s a complete experience,” he said.

It’s become an even more meaningful experience in the smartphone age and in a time when churches are eliminating hand-held, printed hymnals in favor of lyrics projected on screens.

“It’s not just your visual senses but the way things sound and the way things smell and the way things feel,” he said. “There is something visceral about having a physical book in your hand.”

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