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{A&E} Divine Digitization: LDS E-books

Emily McClure - February 16, 2012

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Did you know that e-books aren't just for people who can't fit real books into their luggage? They're also a way for rare and out-of-print books to be made more available - and thanks to tireless work by some LDS scholars, some significant out-of-print books are now available to the general public.

I remember when I first learned about the joy of e-books. Up until the year 2009, I’d been only slightly interested in any form of digitized book; I loved being able to drive or work out while listening to a book on CD or iPod, but I was staunchly against e-books or Kindle versions of my favorites. To me, the feel of a book, its smell, the way I could watch my reading progress as I read page by page, was more important than keeping up technologically. 

Then, in that fateful year, I started working at a library (perfect for me because I was surrounded by print books). As a library aide, when I was waiting at the desk for a confused patron to notice me, I wasn’t allowed to do anything that would distract my attention from patrons—no Facebook, no homework, no reading. All we were allowed to do was read an eBook or peruse the library databases. And that’s when I discovered the power of the e-book. I suddenly had hours of reading available to me whenever work was slow. And then I realized that, if I didn’t have room for a favorite book in my bookbag, I could also just connect to an e-book online without overstuffing my bag. Needless to say, I have continued my exploration of the digital literary world.

I recently discovered that the e-book isn’t just a poster child for the future of literature, nor is it just for those who can’t fit a print version of a book in their luggage. The e-book is also an invaluable method of preserving old books and making them available to more than just trained specialists. It’s almost like a form of family history, preserving the works of those revered authors whose books can’t hold up under non-digital strain.

BYU Studies recently came out with an e-books section on their website (click here to see it). Thanks to Deseret Book’s new e-reader app, Bookshelf, BYU is able to make certain titles accessible to thousands more people. So far, the section includes 21 books, many of which are out of print but are still popular. An example is Revelations on the Priesthood, a book which contains information on the priesthood from authors such as Edward L. Kimball, Ronald K. Esplin, and Marcus H. Martins (if you don’t know who these men are, it’s because this book is out of print). Despite its unavailability in the print world, Revelations on the Priesthood is still a very popular lesson supplement for a Relief Society or Sunday school class. A few of the books are compilations of useful articles on popular topics. One of the best-sellers in the section is Doctrines in the Book of Mormon: Articles from BYU Studies. The book includes over fifty years of doctrine published by BYU Studies and is not available in print form.

And if you’re not in the BYU Studies program, all these titles and more can be found at the source: Deseret Bookshelf. The Bookshelf app is free to download, and even better, first-time users automatically receive eight free e-book downloads (including Jesus the Christ and The Miracle of Forgiveness--click here to see the rest). Hundreds of other Church-related e-books are available for download.

Equally exciting is that you can download the scriptures to your phone. Don’t have room for your quad amongst the bag of cheerios and lesson manuals? Just use your downloaded scriptures! Forgot to bring your scriptures to church? Easy, they’ve already been downloaded! Aside from the fact that you can access your e-books via your smart phone (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android) at any place or time, you can also adjust font size, highlight or bookmark certain sections or pages, and conduct searches for key terms. It’s even difficult for me, a recent tourist of the digital continent, to see a downside to this kind of technology.

So, is the digital age worth looking into? Definitely . . . maybe. I think what I’ve discovered is that digital literature cuts out a lot of limitations that society has had up until about twenty years ago. If I want to find an article about priesthood responsibilities that was written in 1937, I don’t have to hunt down the original print version; I can just find it online. If I want to read six of my favorite books at the beach, I don’t have to load up a duffle bag, I can just download them on a Kindle.

Wait. No, I really haven’t been sold on Kindles yet. By the time I get around to liking Kindles, there’ll probably be something better to buy anyway.

© LDS Living, 2012.
Comments 1 comments

bgtaylor4 said...

11:35 AM
on Feb 16, 2012

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Typical... caters to those who have gone with Apple. Don't have an iPod -- prefer MP3 format and the many generic players that use that format. Don't have an iPad or iPhone. But do have the Kindle. To Kindle users the DB link sends back to Amazon to buy books at ridiculous prices. Which is the worst part of the whole ebook movement. That is, unlike printed books which require typesetting (done electronically in the first place), paper, ink, printing, boxing, shipping, shelving/warehousing and other things which cost money beyond the original composition, it costs virtually nothing to send files of things already composed electronically. The prices should be similar to MP3 files (less than a dollar at the most regardless of size of the book) and basically free. It costs nothing to get a book from the public library; why should people pay for electronic books similar prices to physical books which have costs to produce?
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