Kenya Digital Bible Library Workshop

Digital Bible Library Workshop in Kenya to increase the number of languages with Scripture accessible online.

I've talked about the Digital Bible Library in past newsletters. Simply put, it is an electronic library designed to store translations of God's Word into as many languages as we can find. From the Digital Bible Library website, it is described as follows:

The Digital Bible Library™ is an ever growing, secure yet accessible, collection of quality Bible translations. The library provides standardized digital Scripture texts, all in one central location. In using translations from this library, the creators of websites and applications for mobile devices can develop portals for people from every tribe, in every nation, to experience the power of God’s Word in their heart language.

An obvious advantage is the ability to find the Scriptures in a particular language. Say, if someone asks me for the Scriptures in the language of Achi language of Guatamala, I can probably find them in the Digital Bible Library if they exist at all. So having a single clearinghouse for Scriptures is definitely an advantage. But it is not the only advantage by far.

What if I discovered that the Achi Bible, the text of which is stored in the Digital Bible Library, is out of print. Well, not only is the Scripture text there, but information about who did the translation and who holds the copyright is in there as well. If I am fortunate, I can get the right people together to do a reprinting of the text.

One more reason for a Digital Bible Library is one that I am especially excited about. In order for the text to be accepted into the DBL, it must pass rigorous format inspection. That means that every Scripture in every language that is stored there uses the same standard for marking chapters, verses, paragraphs, subheadings, glossaries, etc. Hold on... I saw that yawn! What does it matter how the text is formatted?

We take standards for granted. But when you pull up a web page on your computer, that web page is written in HTML. Any content that follows the standard of HTML can display in your browser and will look correctly, no matter if you are using an Apple computer or a PC, and no matter which browser. Once we have content that adheres to a standard, we can do lots of things with it, like display it on a mobile phone or a large screen TV.

This works the same with the Scriptures. When all of the Scripture texts follow the same standard, we can pull from this great library and display them on tiny cell phone screens, or print them as books, or display them on the web. This truly brings power to those who are trying to develop applications that use and distribute Scriptures in new ways. One application that already makes use of the Scriptures already stored in the DBL is called YouVersion, found at Because these texts adhere to a standard format, YouVersion is able to pull in the content and automatically reformat it for their extremely popular Bible app for mobile phones.  They have a user-base of over 100 million and growing all the time. As of today, their app lists 978 versions in 676 languages!  Have a friend who speaks Malagasy?  Just pull out the Bible app and switch it to the Malagasy Bible.  Today we have access to a massive library of God's Word in multiple languages that can  be repurposed for many uses at a minimal effort, all because of a common standard.

Starting Thursday, August 7, I travel to Nairobi Kenya to teach at a workshop with the stated goal of adding the Scriptures into the DBL from dozens more languages.  My job for the first two days of the workshop is to help people to get the Scripture texts that they bring from a variety of formats into a common standard format, the one that is required by the Digital Bible Library. There are some tools and processes we use to convert the data, and at that point, it is ready to get checked in to the Library beside all of the existing versions.

Check back at in two weeks.  You'll be able to see how successful we were.  Can we increase the number of versions to 1,000 and the number of languages to 700? Translations of the Bible aren't lacking, but getting them into the DBL repurposes them for greater access by God's people in a global world.

You can help too.  Please pray for safe travels for all those traveling to Kenya to take part in this workshop from countries all over Africa, and some from other continents. Pray that God's Word would go forth and would bring back a great harvest.

-- Doug Higby

International Coordinator
for Language Technology Use
SIL International