The Wall Street Journal recently looked at the treasure trove of reading-habit data that ebooks can track. Ebooks can potentially give publishers hard data on how their books are (or aren’t) being read. For example:
Some of the findings confirm what retailers already know by glancing at the best-seller lists. For example, Nook users who buy the first book in a popular series like “Fifty Shades of Grey” or “Divergent,” a young-adult series by Veronica Roth, tend to tear through all the books in the series, almost as if they were reading a single novel.
Barnes & Noble has determined, through analyzing Nook data, that nonfiction books tend to be read in fits and starts, while novels are generally read straight through, and that nonfiction books, particularly long ones, tend to get dropped earlier. Science-fiction, romance and crime-fiction fans often read more books more quickly than readers of literary fiction do, and finish most of the books they start. Readers of literary fiction quit books more often and tend skip around between books.
Part of the appeal of this data is that it reports what users are actually doing with a text and not just what they say they’re doing. This can tell publishers a lot about the books they publish—what’s getting re-read, what’s boring readers, what’s being studied carefully and what’s getting skimmed over. These insights might influence the books a publisher pursues and the way it edits and presents them.
But what would this data tell us about our Bible reading?
Given that plenty of Bible publishers have already made the Bible available in digital format, this is already happening. (I’d love to see some of that data!) What would your reading habits suggest about the way you engage Scripture? Reading the Bible is a very personal activity, shaped by our available time, reading skills, spiritual maturity, and motivations. Whether you read the Bible in digital or print format, consider the different ways you might engage the text and what that says about you:
- Do you tend to read Scripture in short snippets, picking out individual verses to read? Or do you read long passages at a stretch?
- Which parts of Scripture do you fly through, and in which parts do you get bogged down?
- Do you re-read Bible passages many times over, or do you tend to read a passage once and then move on to the next?
- Do you follow a specific path through the Bible (from start to finish, for example) or do you skip around as the Spirit guides you?
- Do you read the Bible on a regular, predictable schedule (twice a day, every day, every week, etc.) or at random times?
- What parts of the Bible have you read the least… or even intentionally avoided?
Answering these questions won’t necessarily tell you if you’re reading the Bible the “right” or “wrong” way—but it might give you some insight into your relationship with the text of Scripture. Perhaps simply adjusting your reading habits could help you improve a devotional exercise that has bogged down, or explore parts of Scripture you don’t know well. So this week, consider taking a few minutes to reflect on how you engage Scripture—and what that says about the way you interact with God’s Word.