The editorial introducing this inaugural quarterly print issue, stated that ..."[t}he ERB was started not only to encourage the practices of reading in our churches, but also to nurture practices of conversation..." I must admit that I had experienced neither aspect of ERB in its online edition. I have not read any of the books of the few reviews I have read in ERB, and I never had the sense of being in a conversation. So as I began reading through the ERB print edition I was a bit skeptical and yet my curiosity was peaked by such an ambitious mission for a review of books.
Pleasantly the print edition did live up to the ambition. A number of things contributed to this: the layout was inviting, interviews with authors (reviewed in the online editions), drawings that conversed with content, and poetry.
I think too the physicality of paper and print on the page brought to me a focus that I simply don't have when on line. This may be my age- I have lived longer with books than I have with computers and the interwebs. Yet, I think there is also a lesson in this about differing technologies and media having an effect on our engagement with material and ideas. Online I am constantly aware that with a click I will have immediate access to another conversation, another bit of information, in the time I spent writing this sentence countless number of tweets have passed through the Twitter stream, articles, blog posts and tweets all have links to other posts, articles and information. This can facilitate conversation, (and it has for me on more than one occasion), but it can also mean simply gliding along the surface of numerous ideas and conversations. By contrast when I sat down with a printed book and relevant to this review the ERB quarterly print edition, the ERB had my full attention. I sat alone in the library of my community and took in only one article at a time, and a deep conversation was elicited from me. I found myself being changed and effected by the reviews I was reading (I will say more about that in a moment). In the end I think ERB's print edition may well be extremely important in furthering its sense of mission, for the print edition forces one to slow down, to and to truly listen, things essential to good conversation.
Somehow reading the few reviews online I had missed the quality and character of ERB reviews(at least in this issue): each review was scholarly but not detached, each author was explicit about their own engagement with the book being reviewed. I found this refreshing, as I wasn't simply being told about the contents of the book and the effectiveness of its presentation and argument, but the place the book and the ideas given might have in our world and in my own thinking.
If you are unfamiliar with or already know ERB online, pick up the print edition. If you have experienced already something of what I found in the print edition online my sense is that that experience will only be expanded and enhanced through reading the print edition. The only negative of ERB quarterly print edition is a tiny thing about the layout that I found irritating:the continuing of a number articles at the end of journal. Having edited and published a student publication in seminary I know that at times this is simply necessary, but the frequency of it felt like it was a tactic to get me deeper into the review. If so that was unnecessary as the design and quality of the review does so with out any need of such a tactic. The moment I read the first interview, I wanted to read the whole thing.