Search this blog

Here’s an amateur video of a professional video presentation by John Makinson (CEO of Penguin Books) on what (some) books could soon look like on the iPad platform:

In their book Laws of Media: The New Science Marshall and Eric McLuhan explained that new technologies have varying effects: somethings are enhanced or become more prominent, other things become obsolete or less prominent, some things are retrieved or recovered, and sometimes there is a reversal or return to older patterns when a technology is pushed too far.

So with any new technology, as John Dyer has helpfully laid out, you can ask the following questions (with mobile phones given as John’s example answers):

  • EnhancementWhat natural function or older medium does the new medium amplify or intensify?
    The mobile phone amplifies the human voice and our ability to communicate. It also extends the range of older land lines.
  • Obsolescence: What natural function or older medium does the new medium drive out of prominence? The mobile phone makes land lines less important, but also other less instantaneous forms of communication like letter writing.
  • Retrieval: What older medium or practices are recovered by the new medium?
    The mobile phone restores oral communication for those separated by physical distances who used to only be able to communicate via letters.
  • Reversal: What happens when the medium is overused or pushed to its limits?
    When overused, the mobile phone disconnects and isolates people. Users can also annoy those around them and no be truly present with those in their midst.

It might be worth trying to answer these questions on your own with regard to enhanced e-Books published on the iPad.

Dyer suggests you can even view technology through the lens of the biblical storyline:

  • Reflection: (Creation) How does this technology display the imago dei (Gen 1:26-27)? How does it help accomplish the creation mandate (Gen 1:28; 2:15)?
  • Rebellion: (Fall) How does this technology attempt to live apart from dependence on God (Gen 4:17)?
  • Redemption: What effects of the Fall can this technology help overcome (Gen 3:7; 1 Tim 5:23)?
  • Restoration: What unintended consequences or shortcomings does this technology bring? Do these make us long for Christ to return and restore all things?

Much food for thought.

View Comments


20 thoughts on “The New Possibilities in Book Publishing and the Implications of New Media”

  1. adam says:

    The video is impressive. But the questions about this as a medium for books is rather disturbing.

    I wonder if some of this stuff will actually lead to the death of reading. I see a bit of a slippery slope here. Maybe pictures are starting to be more important than words. I can see the children’s book section going from books (with lots of pictures and some reading – like all children’s books) to activity centers (all pictures and audio/video – no reading required).

    This would be tragic, since reading has recently been proven to ‘rewire’ a childs brain and help produce more active (and faster connected) gray matter.

    I wonder about the religious implications just thinking about the connotations of ‘word’ and ‘image’ in the Bible.

  2. PD Mayfield says:

    a wonderful case study in how do we honestly and lovingly affirm/challenge culture, technology being one aspect of culture that shapes other aspects.

    adam, your comment makes me think of the book the vanishing word. i have yet to read it.

  3. Jon says:

    Justin – thought you might like this

    1. adam says:

      Ha! Piper’s name is bigger than God and Jesus is nowhere to be found! The next sizes down are White, American!

  4. o.0

    Will we be able to scan for life on planets, or find deposits of dilithium with it as well?

  5. Joseph says:


    I think the Ipad is a big waste of money. America has EVERY ONE of us in some way seduced by the big scheme to buy what’s the latest, have what’s the greatest, and then to band-aid our feeling bad (as we should… it’s conviction from the Holy Spirit) we try to justify our positions with our rich theological loopholes.

    In the end, no one who purchases an ipad, ipod, xbox, yacht….etc. can be condemned by any other American. We are all guilty… starting with me who’s typing this. I am most assuredly just as guilty of consumerism as any other. But that in no way calls for us to continue buying temporarily ‘useful’ toys while literally 30,000+ kids die a day of diseases the money sitting in our toys is able to prevent.

    The lost in America see our toys and go, “He/she has nice stuff with Jesus… I have nice stuff without Jesus… so why do I need Jesus…”

    Call this a young 21 year worldview, but I’m thinking more and more that it just might be time that more of us Christians start taking to heart those commands of Jesus we’ve pushed aside all too much.
    (Luke 14:25-35)
    I know some are MUCH better in understanding greek than I am here, but please explain to me how Jesus is conveying with this message that we should hold our things ‘loosely’….a Christian’s way of Americanizing Jesus’ command to rid himself of his idolatry to stuff.

    Please someone help me if I’m off. Seriously.

    1. chris says:

      We are all called to different roles in the world, some are made to be mechanics, some are made to be IT professionals, some are made to be lawyers or Greek professors (although there are too many of the former and too few of the latter, IMHO).

      I am not sure how you get “guilt” out of all this. God defines sin, and I am not seeing how the creation and use of technology is, ipso facto, sinful. If that is the case, that we are all supposed to abandon our work and start doing non-economic, or volunteer jobs, or charity work, etc, we would not be able to either feed our families, advance a godly culture, or pay for the salaries of those who preach and teach full-time, amongst numerous other “good” things. Business, marketing, sales, etc are all a part of God’s economic plan, not a scheme, but a way of living that is based in creation (Genesis 2:11-12).

      Of course, the heart of man is deceitful above all things, but, that does not mean we lay down our plows- it means we stick at them and trust God. We do need to learn to be content with what we have, but that does not mean that the use of well made tools is forbidden. I’ll take a mac over a pc any day.

      It sounds to me like you are trying to figure out your own calling in the world under Christ. It is not easy, and a lack of direction can make for some painful nights. Just be careful not to jump on board something that appears more spiritual than another path, when what you are good at, what you enjoy, may be the very thing that God has for you. Not everyone is called to the same vocation, although we al follow the same Christ.

      Peace out.

      1. Joseph,

        I am a pastor, and I am looking into getting the iPad for several reasons that I hope are not sinful. For one, it would be extraordinarily handy for me to have access to my library overseas on mission trips and teaching trips. Further, I can build this “virtual” library far cheaper than I can by buying a physical library. I am also assuming there will be an app that will allow me to put documents that I have written or read onto it for help. I believe the iPad and similar forms of technology could be very valuable ministry tools.

        1. chris says:

          Isn’t the iPad incredibly inexpensive too? For what it can do, in replacing a hefty PC, while avoiding the price of a laptop, it seems quite a thing. One question though, does the screen flicker, like any computer? I ask because this is a problem that the Kindle solves, but up to this point I have not seen a computer that does.

          1. Chris,

            It’s pretty pricey. I think the low-end starts at $499. I’m afraid the screen will probably be more computer-like than Kindle-like. However, I read on my computer every day, and it has never really bothered me, so I don’t see it as an obstacle. The reason that I am currently choosing the iPad over the Kindle is because I can get more than a book reader, for a price of course.

  6. Chris,

    Of course, let me say that “pricey” really is a matter of opinion. Certainly, the benefit far exceeds the cost for me. If current “e-book” prices are any indication, I will be able to build a virtual library for a pittance compared to what I have paid to build my physical library to this point. Also, I will probably not buy the low-end iPad because I want plenty of memory space for those books.

    My only thing is that I might regret jumping in early on this. I figure that the next generation will probably have more bang for the buck. Meaning it will probably have radio, camera, more ports, etc., much like the iPod and iPhone have now. Oh well!

  7. Joseph says:

    I am in no way advocating (nor would I ever that a specific career path is sinful, or purchasing a certain thing to be called ‘sin.’ My concern really for all of us is the fact that we so easily justify our spending money on ourselves instead of really examining not what would be most beneficial for me to serve God, but instead what God would want me to do with the money He’s given me. I don’t think Jesus would advice us to spend tons of money on gadget when there are so many people that have so many greater needs than our desire for stuff.

    And Chris, I really appreciate you pointing to the “guilt” I mentioned feeling. The guilt I feel is not condemning. I know I’m counted righteous because of Jesus’ blood. The guilt is in seeing the numerous passages of scripture (which I don’t probably need to mention here) mentioning the poor and our duty to help them that we say we’ve fulfilled by giving said amount of money and then using the rest on self-interested pursuits (aka – Ipad).

    So Chris and Brad, I appreciate ya’ll. I don’t consider my (or anyone elses for that matter) walk any more noble or Holy than the next individual. I understand that being counted righteous in Christ is by God alone and all of us stand equally guilty apart from this sovereign work. I simply think we rich (once again I mean virtually everyone born in America) are not as concerned about our spending money on so much stuff because we don’t evaluate our spending based on:

    1. His ownership of all of our stuff
    2. The purpose of seeing His kingdom advanced
    3. Because we’re selfish

    So, I feel the guilt is legitimate. I believe we should feel guilty for buying things we don’t legitimately need when these amounts of money could literally keep a human being bearing the imago dei alive. I can’t see how God (who sees both the poor and us clicking the ‘submit order’ button in the same glance) can smile on our purchase. I can’t seriously understand any explanation out of that one.

    Once again, not condemning anyone, just trying to work through these things with those I disagree with. Resolve is my eventual goal.

    1. PD Mayfield says:

      Hi Joseph. Can you help me understand your position better? Is it the ipad, in particular, or gadgets that you think are a waste of money?

      Of course everyone can be found guilty for not stewarding their money appropriately; however, it seems, even from some of the discussion in this thread, that brothers are thinking through the purchase of or the desire for an ipad in a God-glorifying, Christ-exalting way.

      I wonder, perhaps, if you are creating a false choice by the two choices “keeping a human alive v. clicking ‘submit order.'” One could argue that buying an ipad is a better choice because in long run you are potentially saving more money.

      Please, help me understand where you are coming from? Such a discussion might require an email conversation instead of a comment thread.


    2. chris says:

      Guilt without sin is just false guilt. You say it is not sin, but then you go on to say that the guilt is legitimate. Is there something to repent of or not? A bit zealous, but maybe you are creating laws where none exist. Prosperity is not a sin, it is a blessing. Helping the poor is not possible without the money created through the marketplace. Your views might be a bit extreme.


  8. Joseph says:

    God has really convicted me of my comments. Chris and PD, thank you both sincerely for your careful responses. It’s funny to me how easily I can become the very thing I hate: A judgmental, condescending attitude towards people based on certain things God has personally convicted me about.

    I sincerely apologize to you two, and to any who my comments may have offended. Technology is beneficial when used to the Glory of God. If I carefully examined my life and the way I spend my money (and the things I spend it on) I am a hypocrite.

    Thanks again guys.


    1. PD Mayfield says:

      Apology accepted. Conversations through a comment thread are the hardest because they are quick, machine-gun responses with no context (such as tone or body language).

      It is not that we are right and you are wrong. The Spirit moves amongst the body to help grow us together into Christ; therefore, you need us and we need you because we both need Christ.

      P.S. by the way, Joseph, you can make it up to me by giving me an ipad!! (of course, I’m joking)

Comments are closed.

Search this blog


Justin Taylor photo

Justin Taylor, PhD

Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

Justin Taylor's Books