Watering the "Desert of Books"
Following on from my previous post The "book" of the future
Theologians Without Borders has converted a comment to a stimulating post in Transferring Knowledge in a Desert of Books Jennifer Turner
puts the experience of teaching in Africa where "libraries were very sparse, due both to shortage of funds and lack of materials in the local language
" with the sight of an OLPC laptop, to generate the dream that we might "skip to the next generation of knowledge transfer
" by putting a library on such a machine for village pastors.
How about we put these two posts together, and then tweak the results a bit?
At selected centres (like theological colleges) someone provides a laptop stacked with out of copyright or e-texts for which permission had been given. Senior pastors with a good command of the "imperial" language (English, French or whatever) then read selected works a paragraph at a time into the built-in microphone, translating into their mother tongue as they go. It would not be an accurate translation, and it might well include explanation, but that would just make it more useful!
It is in the senior pastors' interest to help, because they get to base a laptop at their home (their kids will nag them into it) and the churches they are responsible for will respect them even more.
These audio books get loaded onto mobile phones (or MP3 players) for village pastors and others. The result semi-literate (and lets face it in much of the world village pastors are often either semi-literate or less than fluently literate) pastors get real solid stimulus and information for a fraction of the cost of print.
It is in the village pastors' interest to listen because they will seem better educated, without all the hassle and risk to their status involved in moving from partial to full literacy.
Do the maths! For a district with say 20 local churches:
- cost of one laptop, loaded with "books" $250
- plus 20 MP3 players @ $30 = $600
Round it up to allow for labour $1,000. This provides all the pastoral workers and anyone else who is interested with all you can eat access to all the "books" on the laptop for (say, on average) five years. Compare this with printing "real" books, the same money probably buys 100 paper books!
All we need are:
- enough people to catch the vision
- publishers of texts like the Africa Bible Commentary to be willing to see their print editions reach extended twenty-fold
- people to "sell" the idea to senior pastors
- a bunch of Western agencies to give up their fetish for print!
Which of the above bottlenecks do you think will scupper this vision? Or can you see other problems with it?
Labels: audio, bible, biblical.studies.online, copyright, digital, education, publication