Be sure to read Dan’s follow-up entry: The Lifework of Dr. Jim Rosscup.
Imagine spending your entire life researching everything you could get your hands on in the one field you cared about more than anything else, then only being able to pass on the tiniest portion of your life’s work to future generations.
Too often that is what happens to so many great men and women of God who set out to write down the accumulated wisdom from a lifetime of diligent study and pass it on to future generations. They get a call from a print publisher and are asked to write an article for a new Bible Dictionary, Commentary, Encyclopedia, or Journal. Perhaps they are blessed enough to have a publisher request a complete book from them—either way, one of the commonalities of the interaction with the publisher is the request to watch the page count, or even word count, of their submission. Paper costs money, printing costs money, storing books costs money, shipping books costs money. The higher the page count, the higher the costs. Keeping page count down is a big deal when it comes to printing on paper.
If you were the author, how would you decide what “not” to say? Which pieces of wisdom, or insight from years of study would you be forced to keep from everyone else? What if the detail you left out was the missing piece everyone was searching for? This is your life’s work! You are so deep into this you can’t bear to part with any of the insights you have garnered. What if you had 3,000 pages of content and had to cut it down to 450 pages total?
Okay, slow down… Don’t throw away print too quickly. There is a tremendous benefit to print publishers and editors being conscious of page count, especially in this day and age of information overload: their fixation on page count produces the condensed version that most of us are looking for. We don’t always want to sit down and read someone’s lifework. We just don’t have time.
…but back to that “Life’s Work” for a moment. Just because most of us like to sit down and read the “Reader’s Digest” version of someone’s lifework, doesn’t mean we want all their years of research to be thrown out the window. What a waste to force the next guy dedicating his life to the study of the same subject, to start all over again just to rediscover 85% of what the first guy already found and couldn’t include in the 450 pages he had to work with.
This is where electronic publishing steps in and opens the floodgates. You have 3,000 pages to write on one topic? Go for it! The more comprehensive the work, the better. Write all you want. It only makes sense to have 100% of your life’s work preserved as a reference for future generations so we don’t miss out on one bit of it.
Where could this take us in the future? Has anyone stopped to think about the possibilities that are now opened up to us for the first time? How could this impact the rapid increase of knowledge? What if a denomination that had 1,000 pastors said “Let’s do a comprehensive topical reference work on the top 100 issues facing our membership today.” They could assign ten pastors to every topic and give them two months to write as much as they wanted on their assigned topic and email it back to headquarters. In two months it’s possible they could be sitting on a 30,000 page reference work, with 10 different perspectives on every topically indexed topic, ready for electronic publication.
Needless to say, we at Logos Bible Software are excited by the possibilities. The more content we have the brighter our software shines. The more comprehensive your electronic library, the more likely it is that you will be able to find fantastic content on even the most obscure of topics or “unpopular” passages you are studying.
Casual reading is one thing, you’re busy and want to read lots of books. Most of the time you only want the highlights from the condensed version. However, when you are ready for serious, in-depth research of a passage or topic, and are wrestling with the text—time isn’t the issue, getting the answers to your questions is the issue, and you actually want to be up to your eyeballs in content. You want to read every last bit of information you can possibly find. Having access to the unabridged 3,000 page life’s work on the topic you are studying will be so much better than only having the 450 page condensed version. So let’s hear it for the unabridged life’s work. Long may it live in electronic form to bless future generations!