Bi­ble: A mo­bile holy book

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - LIFESTYLE TRENDS -

CON­TIN­UED FROM PAGE 9 busi­ness, not re­li­gion.

One of his early ef­forts was a Google ad cam­paign to lure pornog­ra­phy con­sumers to the church in­stead. But then he had an in­sight: if the church wanted to at­tract younger peo­ple, it needed to be tech­ni­cally ad­vanced and to of­fer its re­sources free.

“We have a gen­er­a­tion of peo­ple that can’t fathom pay­ing 99 cents for a song that they love,” Mr. Grue­newald said, “and we were ask­ing them to pay $20 for a book that they don’t un­der­stand.”

He made You­Ver­sion avail­able in 2008, as the first Bi­ble in Ap­ple’s App Store. That early re­lease con­tained only a few trans­la­tions, like the King James Ver­sion, mostly in the pub­lic do­main. He said that when he be­gan try­ing to per­suade tra­di­tional Bi­ble pub­lish­ers to en­ter li­cens­ing ar­range­ments with him, he en­coun­tered sus­pi­cion.

“Peo­ple would say: ‘If peo­ple read it on You­Ver­sion and they’re not pay­ing any­thing for it, what’s go­ing to hap­pen to my pew Bi­bles?’ ” said Mr. Dennis.

Adam Graber of Tyn­dale House, an­other pub­lisher that pro­vides trans­la­tions for the app, ex­pressed some reser­va­tions about You­Ver­sion’s strong po­si­tion in the mar­ket for Bi­ble apps.

“One ma­jor player emerges, whether it’s Ap­ple or Google or You­Ver­sion,” he said. “It has its draw­backs in the sense that it gives peo­ple fewer op­tions and it def­i­nitely con­sol­i­dates power and kind of clumps that power into a few peo­ple’s hands.”

But Mr. Graber also said he saw ben­e­fits in be­ing part of the app. He com­pared the re­la­tion­ship be­tween You­Ver­sion and tra­di­tional pub­lish­ers to the strat­egy com­mon in mo­bile games where the core con­tent is free, but ex­tra fea­tures cost money. In this case, those ex­tras are things like de­vo­tional Bi­bles, study Bi­bles or gold-em­bossed heir­loom Bi­bles.

Al­though there are no ads on the app and no plans to cre­ate any, Mr. Grue­newald said You­Ver­sion col­lects vast amounts of data on read­er­ship pat­terns, which it shares with its part­ners.

To­day, the app has be­come a plat­form for evan­gel­i­cal lead­ers like Rick War­ren, an Amer­i­can pas­tor, to reach mil­lions of peo­ple with cus­tom read­ing plans. On Sun­days, as pas­tors preach from iPads while con­gre­ga­tions click on Bi­ble chap­ters, You­Ver­sion’s servers track more than 600,000 re­quests ev­ery minute.

“This is a re­mark­able tech start-up by any mea­sure,” said Chi-Hua Chien, a part­ner at the Sil­i­con Val­ley ven­ture cap­i­tal firm Kleiner Perkins.

“It is cer­tainly go­ing to be the most im­por­tant dis­tri­bu­tion chan­nel for any­one who is cre­at­ing Chris­tian faith con­tent,” he said. “Where else can you go and reach 100 mil­lion peo­ple?”

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