"We seldom get into trouble when we speak softly. It is only when we raise our voices that the sparks fly and tiny molehills become great mountains of contention."
- - Gordon B. Hinckley
April 16,2009
Kindle - scriptures everywhere
by Orson Scott Card

When I bought Amazon's new electronic book reader, the Kindle 2, the first thing I looked for was the LDS scriptures.

After all, what could be better than carrying the entire quadruple combination in a single slim volume that I could adjust to any size lettering that I wanted?

The first electronic scriptures I found were from Mobile Reference, entitled "Mormon Church's Sacred Texts." It included several supplementary works, but it was missing the big one: the King James Version of the Bible.

For that, I had several choices, and was quite happy with the one I chose. Except for one tiny problem: To change from the Book of Mormon to the Bible, I had to go back to the Home page and scroll down to find the other book.

So I went back to Amazon and found what I should have bought in the first place, the LDS Book Club version of the Standard Works. It has all the scriptures, with an easy click to each chapter and each verse; it also has a Book of Mormon dictionary, George Q. Cannon's old biography of Joseph Smith, and books by John A. Widtsoe, James E. Talmage, B.H. Roberts, and others.

You can also go online and add to it the Topical Guide for free. It can't be sold on Amazon because the Church will not allow anyone to make a profit from selling it -- and Amazon's policy of keeping 65% of the cover price is definitely profiting.

I had the right electronic version of the scriptures, and the Kindle is highly readable -- easier on my aging eyes that a regular-size quad. I could easily find any scripture I wanted. Besides, the Kindle allows you to search on keywords, which can be faster than looking things up in the Topical Guide.

What about underlining?

You can do it. There's only one color -- grey -- so you can't color-code your marks. The bonus is that the Kindle collects all your marks in a certain book and puts them together.

Now, if you underline everything, what you end up with is two copies of the scriptures. But if you underline only selectively, you end up with your own collection of Great Quotes from the Scriptures.

Or you could discipline yourself to underline nothing except for your materials for a particular lesson you're teaching or talk you're giving. You can also add comments (though it's inconvenient to type in anything lengthy on the Kindle's small keyboard).

Then all the quotes and comments are gathered into one place, automatically. When you're done, you delete the bookmarks and notes, and you're ready for a clean start the next time.

That's the good news.

The not-so-good news is that the Kindle is slow.

How slow? The gospel doctrine teacher mentions a scripture for us to look up. I push the buttons to go to the Table of Contents, select the volume of scripture, then the book within it and the chapter or section, then the verse.

By the time I get there, somebody else has already read it aloud.

Thumbing through the scriptures is fast compared to waiting for the Kindle to find things. The Kindle doesn't seem slow when you're simply reading -- it turns pages as fast as you normally turn them. It just can't riffle through the pages and go straight to where you want to go. There are simply more steps involved in getting from section 4 verse 5 to section 121 verse 41.

Even worse is the latency problem. When you move the Kindle's pointing stick several times in a row, the cursor slides along and stops. But if you press the button too quickly to select what it's pointing at, you're in trouble. Because after it stops moving for a moment, it pauses and then makes one more move. And that's the place you'll go when you press on the stick.

So you have to push the pointing stick and then wait to make sure the cursor has stopped moving before you can make your selection. Ordinarily, this isn't a problem. But in class, searching for a scripture so you can read it with the rest of the class, it can be maddening.

The Kindle just doesn't adapt well to the way we use scriptures in church meetings. At the same time, if you aren't eager to be the one to read aloud, the Kindle's advantages remain: It's lighter than the thousands of pages in a quadruple combination, and the typeface can be enlarged to whatever your eyes require.

There is yet another problem that I hesitate to mention. You can have many dozens of books on the Kindle. This is a marvelous boon when you're trapped somewhere -- a waiting room, an airport gate, a line. You have your choice of reading matter.

But all those books and stories and poems are still there when you bring the Kindle to church to serve as your copy of the scriptures. So when a meeting gets boring, you can flip open the Kindle and read ... well, maybe not the scriptures.

I confess that in one sacrament meeting I succumbed to the temptation to read Buckley's fascinating introduction to Alexander Pope's translation of the Odyssey. It's not like I was reading any of the novels I have on the Kindle. It was scholarly, and therefore serious, and so ...

And so I still had no business reading it. I wouldn't bring a scholarly book to read in Church, and just because nobody knew I wasn't reading the scriptures didn't make me righteous, it just made me a hypocrite.

That's a matter of self-discipline. Or leaving the Kindle home from church.

Here's the unquestioned benefit. I normally don't take the scriptures with me when I travel; but now, with the Standard Works on my Kindle, they go with me everywhere.

As for the cost -- that's entirely a private decision. The Kindle itself costs $350, but the books are usually markedly cheaper than the print edition, especially if you buy a lot of older, out-of-copyright works. (I have the complete novels of Jane Austen on my Kindle, for instance, and the works of Shakespeare.)

If you regularly buy lots of books and carry them around with you, the Kindle may ultimately save you money. It will certainly be lighter! The Kindle is also an excellent player of audiobooks downloaded from Audible.com -- it allows you to move backward and forward in the book in thirty-second increments, so you can instantly replay something you might have missed.

The battery has a long life, especially if you turn off its wireless connection. (You can buy books wirelessly from Amazon and they're automatically downloaded, without any computer connection; for Audible books, however, it's better to download them to a computer and then copy them over.)

I wouldn't recommend buying the Kindle just to replace your scriptures, unless you need large print and money is no object. But as a way of carrying many books with you, including the scriptures, I think the Kindle is convenient and cost-effective.

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More by Orson Scott Card

About Orson Scott Card

Orson Scott Card is the author of the novels Ender's Game, Ender's Shadow, and Speaker for the Dead, which are widely read by adults and younger readers, and are increasingly used in schools.

Besides these and other science fiction novels, Card writes contemporary fantasy (Magic Street, Enchantment, Lost Boys), biblical novels (Stone Tables, Rachel and Leah), the American frontier fantasy series The Tales of Alvin Maker (beginning with Seventh Son), poetry (An Open Book), and many plays and scripts.

Card was born in Washington and grew up in California, Arizona, and Utah. He served a mission for the LDS Church in Brazil in the early 1970s. Besides his writing, he teaches occasional classes and workshops and directs plays. He also teaches writing and literature at Southern Virginia University.

Card currently lives in Greensboro, North Carolina, with his wife, Kristine Allen Card, and their youngest child, Zina Margaret.

More about Orson Scott Card

Orson Scott Card currently serves as second counselor in the bishopric.

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