Fifty Shades of the Good Book
The notorious erotica trilogy Fifty Shades of Grey, by E. L. James, has sold more than 60 million copies worldwide since March. Of note: Digital versions are outselling print more than 2 to 1.
The discretion offered by digital content has boosted the erotica industry. For example, adult eBooks accounted for 57 percent of Kensington Books' sales in 2011, compared with 2 percent in 2008, according to The Telegraph.
However, this discretion has also been a boon to those seeking access to the Bible.
"There is no question: A lot more people have access now," said Grant Lovejoy, director of orality strategies for the International Mission Board. "Especially in places where it's impossible to get Bibles in, or [where] there is a stigma attached to going into a Christian bookstore."
The fastest-growing areas for digital Bible reading are where access is restricted, said Troy Carl, national director of Faith Comes by Hearing. The ministry's second-most popular audio Bible (after English) has become Arabic. On average, those in traditional Muslim countries listen three to four hours at a time—far more than the average three to four minutes of those in developed countries.
"We've been distributing the Bible in other mediums for 37 years, and we reached 50 million people," said Carl. "In two and a half years, we reached 95 million people. That's exponential."
Lovejoy does offer a caution amid the good news. "It is the way of evangelicals to be blind to the fact that different media impose various restrictions and have an impact on the message," he said. "We need to pay attention. Each medium has its own advantages or reason for being."
Still, Russ Hersman, chief operations officer for Wycliffe Bible Translators, agrees that access is one of digital's biggest advantages. One Wycliffe organization has launched Operation Timothy, which aims to raise $100,000 to make digital Scriptures accessible worldwide.
And while some governments still restrict Internet access, such control is harder to maintain as technology evolves, he said. "Digital Scriptures are Scriptures without boundaries."