Yea, I know I don’t tend to post much faith stuff here. In fact perhaps this should be over on the Christian Visualist blog but it isn’t really visual so here it is. When looking up the bible online I’ve often used Biblegateway.com and it is still fine at what it does. However, I have recently been experimenting with the oddly named YouVersion.com.
YouVersion isn’t only an online bible that you can search for passages, read sections and switch between translations, it also adds several tools to aid, encourage and sustain regular bible reading and personal study. Here are a few of the features I’ve found useful:
Readability: The panel on the left shows the passage you are currently reading and it is possible to quickly and easily find a passage and change translation. However, as you read down the text this panel seamlessly continues through the Bible from Chapter to Chapter and even across books. I haven’t seen this anywhere else where getting to the end of one chapter means clicking on a link and waiting for the next section to load. It is a subtle improvement which makes reading much more natural and you don’t notice how much you have read and aren’t as aware of chapter boundaries. It is also possible to read two different translations in parallel and although I only used this a few times it is useful.
Reading Plans: There are currently around 30 reading plans, such as ‘Gospels in 30 days’ or ‘Chronological in a Year’, etc. Using these you can access the readings on the youversion.com web site, via RSS reader or on your mobile. The plans help you keep track of your progress while allowing you to read on or catch up as necessary.
Note Taking: There are a number of ways of making notes in YouVersion just like underlining or scribbling in the margin of you Bible. You can bookmark or add tags to a verse or passage to remind yourself of something or for more detailed notes use the Journal feature where you can have multiple journals – so far I’ve got one for a reading plan and have just started another one for a new series of sermons at church – I’ll see how it goes.
Mobile Access: This is how I first discovered this site. The YouVersion App for Android, iPhone or Blackberry gives you access to your account on youversion.com and therefore your reading plans are updated if you read the passages on your phone. It is also possible to quickly look up any passage and switch versions. As I’ve discovered more features of the web site I would like to have seen more of these available via the phone and indeed it is still being developed. Ideally I would like access to my Journals in order to make notes during a service rather than pulling out a laptop which so far isn’t something that happens easily at our church. It would also be good to have a default translation on the phone itself rather than always requiring a mobile signal in order to read anything (this kills reading a passage during the commute to work via underground).
Cost: did I mention this is all free?
One of the features that I haven’t really got a handle on is the social networking side which seems to be part of the conception of this site. I can see how it might be useful for a group or church but as I’m using it this doesn’t seem an important feature. That said, the Contribution sections easily lets you see who has made a Contribution (or comment) on the passage you are currently reading. In my opinion it is interesting to see other people’s thoughts, and some of the comments seem to come from churches in the form of sermon recordings, videos or extensive notes but as you can take or leave it.
Those are my thoughts, I would be interested to hear what other people use for online, ubiquitous bible reading or study and any pros or cons of these?