Thursday, April 8, 2010

Mosaic Bible for Android @KeithWilliams @OliveTreeBible

Disclosure of Material Connection (in compliance with Federal Trade Commission guidelines, 16 CFR, Part 255):
I received these mobile Bible study resources as free review copies from Olive Tree Bible Software. I was not required to write a positive review, and the opinions I have expressed are my own. The Olive Tree BibleReader program is available free on and iTunes.

As readers of this blog know, I am a big fan of the NLT Mosaic Bible. As I recently upgraded to the Android operating system, I was eager to try the Mosaic Bible for Android, and I was graciously given the opportunity to review it from Olive Tree (as you can see above).

The content is the same as the excellent paper version, so rather than rehashing it, I'll point you to my review of that version. This review will focus more on the experience of the virtual Mosaic Bible.

People who know me well know I love gadgets and prefer electronic things over paper-based things. I have said many a time, "I hate paper." With those things in mind, I thought I would absolutely flip over the Android version of the Mosaic Bible since I loved the paper version so much. Much to my surprise, I did not like it quite as much. Let me explain.

One of the primary reasons I purchased the Mosaic Bible originally was to have a more experiential interaction with the Bible, focused on more devotional elements. I have plenty of Bibles, so the biblical content was not necessarily something new (although it was my first NLT Bible). The Mosaic Bible did an excellent job of getting me to read the Bible on a daily basis again. I can't say enough how much I like it.

I have used the Android version almost exclusively for a couple of weeks in order to compare it to the paper version. I felt like I lost something experiential in using only the Android version. I'm still not sure what it is, but I'll take some guesses:

1. I would usually read the paper-based version in bed right before I went to sleep. This felt more like I was setting some special time aside and in a special place. In contrast, I don't bring my phone to bed because I don't want it interrupting my sleep (and my charger is in another room). So I would read it at various times throughout the day and in various places. Now, this is definitely a benefit and something I like about the Android version. I will now no longer have to lug the larger paper-based version around, and I'm happy about that. This may be able to fixed by adjusting my reading habits, but one version lends itself to different types of habits.

2. Related to this, reading a paper-based version is exclusive to other phone-based interruptions. I am used to my phone informing me of email, Facebook notifications, Tweets, tasks due, etc. It is a productivity hound. For me, devotional time is best done away from those things. Sure, I could put my phone in airplane mode, but there's an association with the phone that is busyness-related. (I also have not yet been interrupted during my reading by my phone.) On the other hand, learning to have the phone be a calming tool through the use of the Bible could be a benefit...

3. The physical beauty of the Mosaic Bible does not come through as effectively in the virtual model. Yes, the artwork is there. And you can zoom in quite closely so you can still view detail. This is a very nice feature. Beyond that, though, the Bible is largely black text (or red for Jesus' words) on a white background. I think there is something neat about the off-white paper of the devotionals and the traditional tissue-like paper of the Scripture. It's hard to translate that virtually. Also, the little cross accents on various pages are missing in the Android version. It's often the subtle things that make a difference. It appears that the iPhone version includes these elements. It would be nice if they could be on Android, too. I think that would make a huge difference, as that is what is unique about the Mosaic Bible.

4. The Android version can be a clunky to use, particularly compared to the sleekness of many application today. It can take several seconds to start up. If you don't bookmark where you're at or hit "exit" before leaving, you'll start at the beginning of the Bible. When you click on a Bible verse, you have to remember where to stop. In the paper version, there are notes in the margins that will remind you the verses the devotional suggests. It looks like the iPhone accesses the verses in a popup on top of the devotional section. This would solve the problem well.

The Android version is not without strengths and things that makes it better than the paper-based version, though:

1. You can take it anywhere. This is a HUGE strength. I'm all about being mobile and not taking many things with me. I love being able to read it at work or wherever I am if I so desire.

2. It's really easy to get to the suggested Scripture readings. Click a link, and you're there. You don't have to flip through pages to find the verses. Additionally, the Mosaic Bible (as a first edition) has some typos, usually flipping two digits, so it can take a little longer to find some verses occasionally.

3. The theme directory is very nice. I haven't used it yet, but it made me remember that the Mosaic Bible can be used thematically rather than liturgically. If you want to use it thematically, the virtual version is definitely the way to go. It lists all the themes. You click on the one you want, and you're taken there immediately. This is a great feature!

4. Despite the experiential limitations, I am still often drawn to reading the Mosaic Bible on my phone. Perhaps it's my love for electronics and bias toward reading electronic things rather than paper things, but I do reach for the Android version first. Maybe it's that new toy phenomenon... :)

A couple of other points about the virtual version are things I have not used in either version, so they do not really affect me, but they're worth noting.

1. The paper-based version leave white space to be able to write. There are also reflection sections in each devotional where one can respond. These are great additions. In the Olive Tree software, you can add notes. There's a benefit of you don't feel like you're permanently marking up your expensive Bible. :) However, for the Mosaic Bible, I think there's something missing. Also, the devotional texts include the word "Reflection" with no lines or any other prompts to write and reflect on your own. It just looks a little weird.

2. The editors talk about how the Mosaic Bible can be used organically, reading the Scriptures, seeing a reference to a devotional, and then going there. You simply cannot do this with the Android version, as the Scripture does not have references back to the devotionals.

3. The User's Guide should be updated for the virtual version. It's just a copy-and-pasted version of the paper-based Mosaic Bible's User's Guide. It references page numbers and being able to sketch on the paper. This could be hard to do... :)


I really like the Android version. Ultimately, choosing between the virtual and paper-based versions will depend on what you want and how you'll use it. The virtual version is cheaper, but in today's time where people struggle to pay for anything virtual (me included), $18 seems rather steep. I would probably be disappointed paying that if I had purchased the app. I would actually like to see an option for the paper and virtual versions to be bundled together, with the latter either being free or for a significantly reduced amount. That would make it very much worth it.

I have to say I'm very happy to have the Android version, although I also did not have to pay for it. I will continue to use it regularly, although I miss the experiential elements of the paper version.

No comments:

Post a Comment


Got a question, struggle, or doubt you'd like to see addressed here? Contact me, and I'll try to discuss it (and may even help you get an answer).