Tuesday, October 20, 2009
  Ethics and "Christian" Publishing: Case of Thomas Nelson
On my 5 Minute Bible podcast a recent post "Ruth is from Moab, but Boaz is from Bethlehem" attracted an anonymous commenter, who failed to interact with the audio, or the text material in the post, but did advertise a commercial audio Bible published by Thomas Nelson. (I am not linking to them here as I find this practice of comment spamming despicable and have no intention of promoting the company as a result.)

I am writing to ask in general if you are aware of any other dubious ethical practices used by this publisher, and in particular if anyone else has seen examples of comment spam from them?

For the record if the person who wrote the comment, even had they chosen to hide behind anonymity, had interacted with my material or other comments in some way I would NOT have deleted the comment. As it is I intend to cease recommending any works audio or print published by Nelson to students and churches if a viable alternative exists from a more ethical publisher.

Addendum: [in case you do not rerad the comments] this comment is posted below, in fairness to Thomas Nelson I am copying it here so that you can read it with my post:

Michael Hyatt left a comment:

I am the CEO of Thomas Nelson. We do not encourage or promote comment spam. Like you, I hate it. I spend more time than I would like deleting it from my own blog.

If you have an IP address or other information from the person who commented, I will be happy to take the appropriate action.
Blogger, unlike WordPress :( does not seem to collect (or at least does not offer bloggers a chance to see) the IP addresses of commenters, and this one was "Annonymous" but I am glad to hear that such behaviour is not approved, though puzzled since another biblical studies blogger has had similar experiences advertising your company's products. I do NOT object to anyone linking to your product pages, IF they are relevant and add something to the discussion.

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Thursday, October 15, 2009
  Biblical studies podcasts
Chris Heard has begun a podcast series that specialises in Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) topics at first I was unable to check it out as he only published it to iTunes now it is also available for non-proprietary download. Sounds good, I am looking forward to episode two of "God and Someone Else" looking forward since Chris smartly ends with a cliff hanger ;)

Chris thus joins the existing biblical studies podcast series (the order is chronological, since style, audience and frequency offer interesting variety):
Do try them, you'll like (at the very least some of) them!

Incidentally (but appropriately) our PodBible daily podcasts of the Bible itself from various amateur readers precedes all of these biblical studies 'casts :)

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Saturday, September 05, 2009
  Digital audio and 'reading' the Bible
This morning I did my talk at the Digital Faith session at the University of Auckland, I've prepared short summaries of the two sections of my talk. The first is the introduction, which sets the scene, and introduces the PodBible project:

The second is a summary of the ideas behind the vernacular resourcing through approximate oral translation (that I have presented before here - but cannot resist

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Friday, July 17, 2009
  PodBible podcasts the last chapter
Today PodBible podcast the last chapter to complete the whole Bible! Fittingly the chapter was also a whole book - Philemon. After nearly four years of work, starting with 300+ volunteers reading the whole Bible live over Labour Weekend in 2005, and continuing with teams who brainstormed ideas for "something to Think about, Pray about and Do" for each daily chapter the podcast series (of the 66 books of the Protestant canon) is complete.

The daily chapters will continue to be podcast, but the whole Bible is now available to download chapter-by-chapter. Work has begun on two new delivery projects to develop PodBible further.

First packaging chapters to make 60 minute collections (book by book) so that people can download these "Bible60" collections to put on CDs, tapes or their car radios to listen to longer swathes of Scripture (with no TPDs added).

Then making the daily podcasts available in AMR format (much smaller files than MP3files) for download to mobile phone...

By the way, if providing Bible readings to more than a thousand people a day sounds worthwhile to you maybe you could help by taking a share of the regular tasks needed to run the podcasts, with a little training we can provide, anyone who is moderately computer literate could do what is needed in less than an hour a week... write to Tim to get more details...

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Wednesday, January 07, 2009
  Hebrew Bible audio
For a course on Biblical Narrative I am teaching this year I want to give some students (who are beginners at Hebrew) a text that has parallel Hebrew and English translation, with also the Hebrew as audio. The Worms Document System allows me to create this, not just as a video but so that a student can click on a phrase to hear it, or hear each chapter while the text is highlighted and scrolls. (See Learning Jonah below for a video of this in operation.)

The trouble is that the Hebrew audio Bible commonly available on the web, by Shmuelof, is copyright and the copyright holders are difficult to contact and might not be willing to give permission. My own Hebrew reading is not good enough. I used it for the Amos commentary, but it was criticised in Ehud Ben Zvi's review of the published version (he suggested I could have used the Shmuelof version, perhaps unaware that it was copyright protected).

There are bound to be others who would be glad of such a resource. In fact I know that Charles Grebe, who produced the magnificent Jonah Comic, as well as a load of other brilliant Hebrew learning tools online, would be. So, does anyone have suggestions of people able (i.e. with good clear voices and good clear Hebrew) and willing to start recording the Bible under a CC or public domain licence? I'd be delighted to give technical assistance and encouragement!

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008
  Gen 6:1ff. yet again
Several bloggers have spotted and amended (maybe an amended version of the amendment will return one day) Scott Bailey's Genesis 6:1-6 (SBV) in the light of the interest this passage is eliciting, and to return the discussion to the biblical text, do please listen to this MP3 reading of the passage. I think this reading has been very well planned and executed to capture the meaning (or at least what seems to many the most likely meaning) of this notoriously difficult passage.
What do you make of it?

[The MP3 was produced by a husband and wife team, and together with a very good essay explaining and justifying the performance it was submitted for the last assignment in the Genesis class I taught recently. I shared some of the thinking behind this assessment on Theologians without borders.]

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008
  Hour long audio Bible collections: Joshua and Judges
In order to make the PodBible audio Bible recordings useful to more people we are collecting Bible chapters into roughly one hour sets. They are aimed at people who want to record to CD, or cassette tape, for elderly people or those with bad eyesight, or who want to listen to a longer chunk of Scripture. I've just uploaded another couple of books to the collection.

Next we must do some New Testament, perhaps the Gospels...

For the full list (updated as we add more) go to Bible60 @ PodBible


Tuesday, November 04, 2008
  Vernacular resources for local communities
The idea for producing resources in local (tribal) languages by approximate oral translation, and for distributing these by mobile phone and/or cheap MP3 players is explained in a post below: Watering the "Desert of Books" and with some followup ideas and replies to objections in Vernacular resources: watering the desert of books II. For those who prefer to see and hear there is a short presentation available either in Flash format (which most people can watch) or a Quicktime movie (which is much smaller, 2.5MB instead of 9MB for Flash).
Photo by
If you can see problems or fishhooks that I have missed, I'd like to hear from you...

If not, and if you know of someone working or interested in the area of resourcing local churches in languages please point them to this post as I'd REALLY love to hear from them!

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Monday, October 20, 2008
  PodBible promo
Having seen David's promo video I've been playing with Animoto. Since in email conversation with David we determined that I have an unusually short attention span here first is the quiet slow version...

To put this video on your webpage or blog use this code:

<script type="text/javascript" src=""></script>

The photos are all from Flickr with CC licenses, here are the credits:

Photos by freecultureNYU, biblicone, kretyen, Edward B.,, terren in Virginia, Alan Joyce, liewcf, GeoWombats, Wonderlane, knowhimonline, the bright and morning star, nexus6

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Wednesday, October 08, 2008
  PopeBible II: .con
Below Richard, offers a clarification on what I'm calling the "real PopeBible".
Only the first and last hour of the marathon are on the normal TV channel of the state broadcaster. The rest is on one of the broadcaster's satellite channels, so not very accessible to Italians (although it can be watched live on Internet as well). This created quite a few complaints from Italians - I have had more comments on this fact than on any other on my blog. I don't believe there are only plans to distribute the video after the event. By the way, most of the readers are not celebrities, but "normal" people that signed up to read a chapter.
To me this just indicates the failure of traditional models of distribution to get to grips with the possibilities of electronic media.
Photo by sean dreilinger
forget baby photos in the wallet,
they've got kid videos on their cell phones
You have a great chance to distribute the Bible more widely and to engage more people in listening to the Bible, so what do you do? Lock it up so people have to pay for it - reducing the potential audience to a small fraction!

The failure is driven by the need to be commercial, and only advertising and porn make money on the Internet. With a different model - in this case one that the Bible societies (I include many organisations with somewhat different names under this blanket heading hence the small S) have been doing for years - you could harness the possibilities of the electronic medium and maximise distribution. Set the Bible free and unexpected people will hear... and hearing they might understand.

But how can they hear if the message is hidden away! "Broadcast" on a cable channel, or sold on DVDs is very narrow casting indeed ;) And in the world of Bible distribution, that is a con. People donate money to Bible societies to distribute the Bible, the means are available to do this almost infinitely more widely and freely than ever before. All that is needed is imagination and the willingness to take a small risk. Nike have the right slogan, just do it! Video a score of NZ celebrities reading Mark's gospel as a serial story, then set the video free, you can even sell DVDs to recoup some of the costs, and watch the fun!

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Tuesday, October 07, 2008
Photo from CNN
Have you seen this? Pope begins Bible-reading marathon

What a neat way to use the pope's star status!

I could not help wondering what would happen if BibleSoc and the Scripture Union's Christians in sport group (and a few others) got together and got NZ celebrities to read a gospel. It might not get on free to air TV here, but it could be cheap (by TV standards) to make, at least if the celebs volunteered their time. It could also go on DVD and YouTube so get wide distribution. Even with some imagination, become a serial story, stopping at exciting places and distributed by mobile phone as well as the other routes.

What a way to get Kiwis in touch with the Bible! And the cumulative impact of a whole bunch of celebs could really help make faith cool. Each of them would only have to give an hour or so of their time...

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Friday, September 12, 2008
  Audio Bible easy download
We are just starting to deliver the PodBible audio Bible readings in a new format. We are calling it Bible 60.

Basically Bible 60 packages chapters from the PodBible audio CEV in convenient clusters.

Each package is about 60 minutes playing time. That is perfect to dub onto a C60 cassette, or write to an audio CD, for someone who's eyesight is going. It is an easy 20-30MB download you can listen to on a journey...

We've begun Bible 60 with the first book of the Bible, Genesis:


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