What do curbs and books have in common?

Dear friends,

This summer our street was completely redone by the city.  Although a lot of people were complaining about the disturbances and inconvenience, our grandchildren enjoyed watching all the workers digging and moving dirt, cement, and asphalt past our house six out of seven days a week.  Sometimes, it is worth putting up with disruption when the end goal is to provide greater access for all.

Since 2006, SIL has been providing access to the Scriptures through its own publishing house, Global Publishing Services (GPS).  Not only do we typeset Scriptures, but also publish academic materials on language and culture from around the world. The team that I (P.J.) manage does composition (formatting). The five of us work remotely from Pennsylvania, Texas, and Michigan, formatting all the academic materials as eBooks, print books and Kindle books.  Last year, GPS produced 33 Scripture publications, three Kindle books, nine print books, two eBooks, and 15 linguistic survey reports.  Most recently, we produced the fourth edition of Bible Translation: An Introductory Course in Translation Principles--both the student and teacher's editions.  This textbook will be used worldwide in translation courses.  By year's end, we will produce the Kindle version, drastically improving the textbook’s global reach.

During this COVID-lockdown my team has had uninterrupted focus to retool and convert the academic publishing department into a digital-first publishing system.  Previously all digital versions were produced separately, long after the print edition with lots of manual editing. We knew there had to be a better way – both in reducing the amount of manual editing and in shortening the time to digital publication. So, after a lot of research, Internet help, and webinars, I was able to come up with a process for the department that produces both a printable book and digital publication at the same time using HTML and CSS. (You may not have heard of them, but they make up every web page you have ever looked at.) Going forward, we will be able to release our publications to field workers more easily, through print-on-demand or digital publications.

You may be wondering what makes print and digital publications so different. Isn’t it the same text? A print publication has fixed pages while a digital publication needs to flow on whatever page size your device has—a five-inch phone screen or a 24-inch monitor. And on digital, there is a lot of added value we can include: Active links to other research materials, instant glossary word lookups, and even embedded audio files. On the upcoming Kindle version of Bible Translation, we'll include additional reference materials that are just a click away! Lastly, digital versions can also provide accessibility options for those of us with impairments. This need is more common than you might think.  One of my webinar instructors recently said about disabilities, "We are all only temporarily abled … just the passage of time will decrease our vision or our hearing..."[Lettie Conrad, DCL Learning Series Webinar].  We are making sure our digital books adhere to accessibility standards to meet our readers' needs.  Since I have dyslexia, I apply a specialized font for dyslexics when reading on my Kindle. Try doing that with a printed book!  When we make something easier for one segment of people, there are usually added benefits for all. 

Let's go back to our street. In 1945, Jack Fisher of Kalamazoo, Michigan, celebrated a victory—one of the first of its kind in the United States. Jack, a disabled veteran and lawyer, was elated because his hometown had just installed the nation's first curb cuts to facilitate travel in the downtown area for wheelchair users and others who couldn't navigate the 6-inch curb heights on downtown sidewalks.[source] Today, our newly paved streets reap the result of Jack's persistence, featuring curb-less sidewalk ramps that benefit all citizens: parents pushing baby strollers, skateboarders, or young children learning to walk. When we apply this accessibility to publishing, I’m so glad that we can be a part of resourcing Bible translators around the world--doing what we can to help them excel at the critical task of making God's Word available in all languages.

Partners in the Gospel,    (Phil 1:5)

Doug & P.J. Higby


Prayer & Praise

  • Praise God for the advances P.J.'s department has made to simplify the publishing path, producing both print and digital publications from the same base text.
  • Praise God for the shift that Doug's department is making to online training.  Pray for wisdom to navigate the difficulties of doing such training virtually.
  • In a year of no travel, it has been less stressful, which has been a welcome change and a chance to find ways to improve working methods.
  • Give thanks that neither the Higby's nor any of the colleagues in their departments have been affected by COVID.
Your gifts enable the Higbys' continued ministry with Wycliffe.
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    • Payable to: "Wycliffe Bible Translators"
      with the memo: "Doug & Priscilla Higby"
      Mail to: Wycliffe Bible Translators, P.O. Box 628200, Orlando FL 32862-8200

Doug & Priscilla Higby are missionaries with Wycliffe Bible Translators. Both are serving SIL International: Doug is the International Coordinator for Language Technology Use, and Priscilla is supervising academic publications.

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