Asked about his response to the suggestion that the NYT might print its last edition in 2015, Sulzberger said he saw no point in making such predictions and said all he could say was that “we will stop printing the New York Times sometime in the future, date TBD.”
Depending on where you stand in reference to this digital evolution of content, that could either be an ominous sign, or the most blatant one yet that things are changing for publishers and readers alike. For Logos and the contributors of the Evangelical Exegetical Commentary, such a comment isn’t so much a sign of the times to come, but a reality that’s worth tackling head-on.
As far as what I’ve been able to research, the Evangelical Exegetical Commentary’s claims of being “the only major evangelical commentary to date to be released first in a digital format instead of print” is a powerful one indeed. Here we have a reference desk that has traditionally taken to conventional models of a larger collection bring broken up into volumes, and sometimes even into abridged versions, that’s now going the digital route. And if going the digital route, we might want to get a hold on a better understanding of what exactly a book is.
From the perspective of a publisher, a book isn’t just the content in between the cover, it’s the entire system of author development, compensation, and marketing that leads readers into the experience the author or publisher is trying to convey. For readers, content is a lead into a moment of imagination, contemplation, and education. Are we truly at that point where the aims of the reader outweigh the traditional aims of the publisher (or even author)?
The Evangelical Exegetical Commentary takes an approach we talked about in our report on the future of Bible software. A completely digital-first production, the commentary will be released as part of the Logos library. This makes it accessible through all of Logo’s currently supported software platforms (Windows, Mac, iOS), but also makes it accessible though the Biblia API Project and website – taking the commentary from something defined by pages and volumes, to something that can be combined (mashed-up) with other software, content, and imaginations (depending on the developer’s whims).
This does bring to light issues of citation (how to do so when going digital to digital, or digital reference to print-first access), and would then authors need to become analysts in the vein of learning how to read the analytics related to how their content is being used. But, I see these points as areas where publishers have an ability to get up to speed and take the lead. Enabling authors not to just product an audience for their content, but leading them towards growing their audiences by having better tools and more refined information to better direct content to them.
For the curators and contributors of the Evangelical Exegetical Commentary, including the folks at Logos doing the development work, this will be a notable mark in terms of how content will be distributed and presented. We can be sure that there’s going to be some base level of interaction and immersion that the Logos software suite will create for this (especially considering the wealth of multimedia components that will bolster the textual content). I wonder how (if) those in the Body with gifts to chop and mix content will also take this commentary series and explore other types of interactions with the content that go beyond display-and-click. How will learning curriculum be affected by this, and will such a commentary (or the next projects at Logos and other places in similar scope) usher in different teaching methods around learning, citing, and contributing to these traditionally locked tomes of information.
Or, will this have the negative effect of leaving access to content only to those who could afford it (device, data connection, subscription to Logos, access to commentary)? Will denominational affiliations curb the use and promotion of such content because while the content is malleable, people aren’t being taught how to critically think and compare in the midst of it?
There are a number of questions that this move to a digital-first offering brings. But, we’d be remiss to not pay attention to the paradigm shift. The Evangelical Exegetical Commentary and Logos are taking a huge step in doing this, and in my opinion, this should eventually be creditable for all. There are questions to be answered, but these are better met head-on, rather than in reaction to the change that’s already happened.
For more information about the Evangelical Exegetical Commentary, including the volume list and how to pre-order, visit their website. According to the Evangelical Exegetical Commentary website, the first publishing should hit next year, with the entire publishing schedule completed by 2019. That’s a long time in digital terms, a lot can and will happen by that point.