GMPSoft: Very Short Introduction to the Bible

by PocketGoddess on December 21, 2005

I was fortunate to get a sneak peak at the latest application from GMPSoft, rheaDER, and it made me fall in love with electronic reading all over again. The developer has managed to somehow pack the entire print reading experience into a single application, with a few improvements besides!

The first book released for rheaDER, Oxford’s Very Short Introduction to the Bible (VSI: Bible), is an excellent choice. It ties in nicely with GMPSoft’s collection of Bible software and is a very good reference work in its own right–many colleges and seminaries use the VSI books as introductory texts on a wide variety of religious subjects. It’s also a great way to showcase some of the very nice features of rheaDER as well. I was a bit skeptical at first, when the developer told me that all of the text formatting and images found in the print version were included, but now I’m a firm believer.

rheaDER Table of ContentsrheaDER Table of Contents 2 

When you first install rheaDER, you’ll be taken directly to the table of contents for the book. Since VSI: Bible is relatively short, only nine chapters are listed, plus the list of illustrations, references, and bibliography. Tap on a chapter, and the small split screen window at the bottom will give you the name of the chapter; it is updated as you tap on each of the different chapters. Once you find a chapter you’re interested in, tap again on that chapter and you’ll be taken to the next level of the table of contents and shown all of the sub-headings in that chapter. Not only does this make things very easy to find, it also helps you to get a better idea of the book as a whole. This “big picture” view is something that is typically lacking in electronic book readers. Tap again on the subheading you’re interested in, and you’re taken directly to the text.

Reading is rather straightforward; after all there are several ebook readers available for all of the major handheld platforms. You’ll find the typical features such as bookmarks (which you can organize into categories) and a note-taker feature. You can access those functions from the icons at the top of the screen. The left and right arrows take you back and forth through the text as a kind of history feature, while the open book icon takes you back to the table of contents. The “blank page with pen” icon opens up the note-taker feature, and the two icons in the top right corner of the screen allow you to add bookmarks and view all bookmarks. You can also use the Preferences menu to change the text size (small, medium, large), use bold formatting, and apply colors.

rheaDER TextrheaDER ImagerheaDER Text 2 

What has me so excited about rheaDER is the way that it duplicates the print reading experience. You can sometimes lose the “flow” of a text in electronic format, because most handheld readers don’t try to duplicate any of the text formatting options in a printed book. But this application does a fabulous job by including all of those little touches that I’ve always missed–block quotes are presented in a slightly smaller font and indented on both margins for example, and sidebar text/quotes are presented on a colored background to separate them from the main text of the book. Since VSI: Bible relies heavily on the Scriptures to illustrate many of its points, there are numerous references sprinkled throughout the text, and they all show up as colored hyperlinks (underlined if you don’t have a color screen). With a printed book, that’s something of a pain, because if you want to follow a point closely you have to get out your Bible, flip the pages to find the correct reference, etc. With rheaDER, and assuming that you also have GMPSoft’s Bible With You and at least one translation of the Bible, all you have to do is tap on the reference. A pop-up window immediately opens for you, and as soon as you’re done reading the reference just tap again and the window disappears, leaving you at the exact spot you were before. If you have multiple Bibles installed, you can choose which one you want to use with the Book menu.

Even better, if you have one of GMPSoft’s dictionaries, you can get a definition of any word in the text with a simple tap on the word. This is an extremely useful feature for students, encouraging immediate learning. I well remember that when I was in school and ran across a word I didn’t know, I would often forget to look it up later, because I was very unlikely to stop what I was doing and reach for a dictionary in the middle of a reading assignment. With this tool, that wouldn’t have been a problem at all. Of course I also remember that my interest in reading assignments was directly related both to the subject matter (since I loved history and literature, and found most science texts a bore) and the number of illustrations. VSI: Bible includes all of the illustrations from the original text, and they’re incredibly well done. Even on my small LifeDrive screen, I can see all of the details clearly and they really do help add to my understanding and enjoyment of the text. Another nice touch is that a variety of image file formats is available, so no matter whether you have a 160×160, 320×320, or 320×480 screen, you’ll be able to see every detail clearly.

I’m really impressed with the features and functionality of rheaDER, and can’t wait to see what additional texts are released to go with this application. If you have other GMPSoft products like Bible With You or DEPReader, you’ll have a richer experience with pop-up Scripture windows and definitions, but even if you don’t you’ll find that this is a great way to read VSI: Bible and future releases. The rheaDER application is free, and a license for VSI: Bible is $9.95, the same cost as the print version. Ordinarily I would feel a bit cheated at the idea of paying the same for an ebook as I would expect to pay for the print version, but in this case it’s definitely worth it for the added functionality. You can get it at the GMPSoft online store.

5 out of 5

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