First we covered a needed caution, namely bibliolatry. Today we look at the blessing we currently have that make book buying easier for the masses.
Just yesterday I was reading Stephen Neil's The Interpretation of the NT. In this work he reminded me, "We are so used to printed books that it requires a great effort of imagination to put ourselves back into the world of only five centuries ago, when everything had to be written by hand, and the multiplication of books was a slow and laborious process" (65). This sets a high initial appreciation for the technology we have now. So, four thoughts...
Christians and books:
Christians are technologically savvy in disseminating information. The primary modus operandi of disseminating information was in the first century as it is now via printed material. Christians saw earlier than most that the scroll was ineffective with regards to accessibility and cost. Loveday Alexander notes, while "at least for the commercial trade... the roll [scroll] remained the dominant medium for literary texts until well into the third century. The codex represents a very small proportion... among non-Christian papyri... Christian texts found in Egypt, on the other hand, are almost all in codex form [like a modern book] from the early second century onward." (75). He also adds, "the early church showed an unusual interest in book production from the earliest centuries of its existence" (72). Bibliopegist (book binding) technology, though not uniquely Christian in its origin or purely motivated by Christian agendas, in the Christian community "show a 'stronger and more effective preference for the codex [book] at an earlier time than non-Christians,' and seem to have adapted much faster and more creatively to the new technology than their pagan counterparts" (76). Thus, being a Christian may include the call of owning books and being creative in the way we use/produce them to reach others with the Kingdom of God.
Books, availability and cost:
E-books, Kindle, googlebooks, and beyond:
This technology allows a book buyer to put a whole library in a small portable device (a factor I appreciate since I just moved 60 boxes of books 417 miles from St. Louis to Columbus, OH!). It also makes many resources printable, which can make highlighting and note-taking easier (many can highlight right on the devise which will translate to a printable version). BUT, I have reservations about these modes. First, technology is ALWAYS changing. With the exception of free resources (which are thankfully many) and Kindle who often sells books on specials in e-form, many electronic versions are just as expensive as the actual book. For example, BDAG is $150 in e-form and book form (sometimes cheaper in paper form). But what happens when technology changes? You could lose your material you mad-cash for. And personally, I simply like having a book in my hand. E-devises and computers are hard on the eyes (except e-ink), and flipping through a book can be difficult on an e-device. These are a bit picky, but I would say the ever-changing technology factor is the reservation to be considered strongly.
Don't forget your seminary, local, or university library! Many books in your research will simply be too expensive and would be unreasonable, and just down-right foolish to buy for its cost or limited use. So here enters the library. The technology we possess has effected your library too! Your library can now likely have access to the same resources Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, and Yale has access too (within reason!). This is due to some decrease of book prices, databases, regional sharing agreements, and inter-library loan agreements. You do not need to buy every book you need, nor should you, but the library can fill the gaps that your personal book buy will not fill.
Those are a few thoughts off the top of my head on the technological blessings we now have in book buying, library building, and access to books for our study.
Others Book buying posts:Book Buying series, special edition: Dead Sea Scrolls