eBible.com Review

Since I got my eBible.com invite, I have been playing with this "Web 2.0" version of on-line Bible service. It is packed with heavy Javascript, dynamic HTML and "rounded corners". Very "buzzword compliant", but at the same time also provide a very useful tool if you like your on-line Bible to be more interactive.

This is a brief review of their service. Note that eBible.com is still in beta (like most other Web 2.0 products) and I have an impression that they are under active development. So YMMV.

eBible.com

What I Like about eBible.com

  1. eBible.com: Loading verse when hovering Interactivity -- combining AJAX and DHTML gives you interactivity over an otherwise static web page. In eBible.com you can do many things without reloading the page. You can go to next/previous chapter, load the commentary, etc. My favourite feature is hovering your pointer over a Bible verse in the left-hand-side commentary pane, and a pop-up will appear and load the text in the background. It reminds me the useful feature of many desktop-based Bible study software, where you can check the snippet of other verses without leaving your main passage.

    In the example here my mouse pointer is hovering over the Bible reference 4:16-18 (under 2 Corinthians), and a popup appears showing "Looking up verse...". Then the verses got loaded and fill up the popup box. This feature also appears in other parts of the eBible site (like Answers) but somehow not very consistent.

  2. eBible.com: Commentary appears after clicking on CIn-line commentary -- want an explanation on the verse? Instead of providing another link, you just click on the "C" symbol next to the verse number, and a popup appears showing the text from your default commentary on this particular verse.

    It is actually not a popup, but a floaty <div/> which pushes main text away. More on that later.

  3. Short-cut keys -- not everyone works on mouse, and having easy to use short cut keys is essential for accessibility. eBible.com listed out the short-cut keys available under the main passage pane. You can easily navigate around the Bible using the short cut keys.

  4. Parallel Bible -- eBible.com allows you to show parallel translations over the same passage, which is useful when you want to have a literal translation next to a dynamic translation to help you to understand the flow of the text. You simply click on a small icon, and it lets you choose which other translation you would like to display. Then it just loads that translation without refreshing that page. Neat.

    You can actually display more than two translations side by side. Actually I am not sure about the limit, as it appears you can keep on adding more translations (although the number of translations is limited, more on that later).

  5. Integrated search -- the search bar is always at the top of the page. It also allows you to specify a verse reference or search for a keyword. When you search for keywords, the result is actually quite good. In the example above I searched "rich young ruler", and Luke 18 jumps out as the first result.

  6. eBible.com: Answers on AbrahamAnswers/Bible Dictionary -- eBible.com has a Bible dictionary search built in, which they called "Answers". It is not integrated together with the Bible pages, and but can be accessed when you click on "Answers" at the top of the page.

    It searches through various Bible dictionaries and concordances, which gives you some relevant information over a specific topic and related verses. In case where there are more than one dictionary available, you can even use the select box to change the dictionary, and then extra info gets loaded and merged into existing window, without reloading the page.

  7. Great community -- how can a Web 2.0 production be without a blog and a forum? Well, eBible.com has both.

  8. Extensibility -- eBible.com is cleared designed to be extensible. When you go to your "My Bookshelf" preference, you can see your list of Bible translations, dictionaries, encyclopedias and commentaries. You can set default for each of these categories. Moreover, it implements rooms to let you purchase extra books and add them into library. Just like how you can "unlock" books in your desktop Bible software, you too can unlock more books and add into your on-line Bible bookshelf.

What I Don't Like about eBible.com

  1. Beta quality -- there are actually quite a few rendering glitches. Interface inconsistency issues. Slow speed. Because of these glitches, eBible.com is still at the point of "fun to play around", but will not be a suitable Bible study software until those bugs are removed.

    Then again might I emphasis that they are indeed labelling themselves as "beta"? Hopefully we will see it improve soon.

  2. Limited resources -- they only have 5 Bibles at the moment -- New Century Version, The Message, King James Version, New American Standard Bible and New King James Version. I would probably still use NASB, but I still prefer the English Standard Version.

    Obviously there is no Bible translation resources on other languages. Will Chinese (CUV or NCV) ever going to be supported?

    Again the quantity of resources in other departments is poor as well. 2 free dictionaries. 2 free encyclopedias. 2 free commentaries. That's it, and they are all very old material which you can find in many free desktop Bible software.

  3. Not all resources addressable -- I guess that is one problem with all those AJAX powered websites, that not all resources are addressable by URL. You can use query strings to address specific Bible verses, but there is no way to point to say, a specific entry in commentary or in Bible dictionary.

    Would be nice to have a permalink to those resources so they can be referenced on the web.

  4. Too commercial -- well, it is just a beta software, but it is already fully equipped with sponsored links, an on-line store to sell you books and a bookshelf ready for you to subscribe. Very obviously this tool was designed with a specific purpose, and that purpose is different from most other on-line Bible.

    Or maybe it is also an essential part of Web 2.0?

Conclusion

eBible.com has its cool factor. It is one of those nice shiny new web applications that help your web browser to leak memory like there is no tomorrow. It makes an on-line Bible study site to be as usable as a desktop equivalent.

However there really lacks content, and it just does not feel polished. Maybe we will come back a few months later to see whether it can really be a Bible Gateway challenger.