ReadTheSpirit brings you news and recommendations about the latest spiritual media—including books, movies and TV. Today, we’re recommending multimedia Bible software from Zondervan. You can order “Glo: The Bible for a Digital World” from Amazon. The Amazon page also lists the computer requirements for this PC-based suite of software.
Our reviewer is contributing writer Joel Walther, a student at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington D.C. We asked Joel to review “Glo,” because he’s an ideal customer for this new approach to presenting the Bible: He’s young, computer-savvy, a veteran of parish work—and Protestant. Why do we emphasize “Protestant”? “Glo” is aimed at anyone who takes Bible study seriously and regularly uses a computer, but Zondervan is an evangelical publishing house and “Glo” offers only two translations of the Protestant Bible. (“Glo” promises that more translations of the Bible will be added, but, sorry—no word from Glo on a full Catholic or Orthodox Bible.)
“Glo: The Bible for the Digital World”
A Great Idea with a Few Quirks
By Joel Walther
“Glo” is the new interactive Bible for computers. The first thing you’ll need to know is that it takes a while to install. The instructions suggest 7-30 minutes depending on your Internet connection, but that’s just for the basic installation. If you want to install all of the content, then it can take up to three hours. So, the question is: Is it worth it? Worth the effort? Worth the cost?
As I waited for “Glo” to install, I was thinking about the long Christian tradition of creating visually stunning Bibles. A contemporary example is the St. John’s Bible that took nearly a decade to create. “Glo” is a digital St. John’s Bible. It is visually very engaging. It may take a long time to install, but this visual feast is worth the wait.
The interface is very intuitive—a la iPhone software. Users can open more than one tab at a time and, much like the browser software on the iPhone, you can see the pages as thumbnails and quickly switch between them.
“Glo” gives us different “lenses” to look at the Bible, including just reading the text or looking at timelines, maps, topical information. Everything seems to be cross-referenced between the various lenses.
“Glo” even includes links to web-based articles and videos from YouTube, but that’s one of the quirks. The web-based media is not explained clearly enough—and the quality of that online content is uneven, not in keeping with the top-notch design of the main software. Clicking on those external links, you don’t know much about the information that will pop up—or the background of the people who might be speaking to you in videos. I found some of the web-based supplements suspect, because of strong viewpoints expressed there and my suspicion that some of this content doesn’t really represent first-rate Bible scholarship. These web-based links outside of “Glo” definitely could use more work.
Another limitation of “Glo” is that it only has NIV and KJV translations. While Zondervan is promising to add content, it’s disappointing not to find more options right now. A true student of the Bible needs to know how various translations differ. Programs such as BibleWorks and Logos offer many more translations.
In some ways, BibleWorks and Logos match “Glo.” You can add your own notes in all three. It’s not quite the same as writing in the margins of one’s paper Bible, but computer notes have the benefit of unlimited space. There’s also a full-scale spiritual journal option within “Glo,” so you can keep expanding your thoughts as you read, reflect and study.
Despite the quirks, why am I recommending “Glo”? Neither of those other popular programs is as visually engaging. It’s the graphic design that really sells “Glo.” Most study Bibles include maps, encyclopedic entries and study notes, but it’s much easier to flip from one to another using the “Glo” interface.
I was impressed with the visual presentation—like “virtual tours” that open up 360-degree panoramas of locations that most of us don’t have a chance to visit. It’s fun to look around areas of the Holy Land that are central to the sacred text.
“Glo” claims to be the future of the Bible. I think this is a bit far reaching. It is a Bible for today, though, and that’s a good start. If “Glo” holds up its end of the deal by releasing new content on a frequent basis, then it could be a Bible of the future. Even better would be a commitment not only to adding content, but to being ready to release software updates that would modify the experience as media tools continue to evolve.
Can a multimedia Bible replace our paper Bibles? Not right now. My paper Bible still is easier to carry. However, if “Glo” does move into the iPhone, as Zondervan also is promising, then I might be tempted to let my paper Bible spend more time on the shelf.
Still, paper Bibles lend themselves to sitting in a group studying the Word of God in ways that laptop software can’t replace, so far. That may be the greatest limitation of “Glo.” In this current version, the software doesn’t connect with the rest of the world. There are more promises that “Glo” may offer some limited sharing options later, but “Glo” right now is essentially a solitary experience.
Then, there’s the cost, which may be tough for most of us to justify at nearly $90—with promises that some of that future content may wind up costing even more.
All in all, is “Glo” worth it? I think so. This is a very beautiful new Bible just as the St. John’s Bible is beautiful in paper. Hard to resist for those of us who hold the Bible as a vital part of daily life.
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(Originally published at https://readthespirit.com/)