Vision and Mission of the Digital Bible Library
The vision for The Digital Bible Library® (DBL) is to contain digital Scripture, in every language spoken on earth by the year 2033.
Its mission is to gather, validate, and safeguard Scripture translation content in a standardized digital format, and to empower partners to reach people from every tribe, in every nation, with the power of God’s Word in their heart language by providing authorized and licensed access to the library content.
DBL Product Summary
The Digital Bible Library® (DBL) is a primary tool within a larger digital scripture development ecosystem: a deeply integrated, shared technical infrastructure designed to help accelerate the scripture translation process, provide new insight into the translation development process, and facilitate global access to the Bible.
Now housing a secure collection of over 2000 texts, across more than 1400 unique languages, the DBL streamlines licensing and access to high-quality, digitized translations by approved ministries, mission agencies, and technology innovators – to help bring God’s Word to every part of the world.
DBL provides tools for archivists to gather project metadata, validate and upload data to the library, and an administration interface for each participating organization to manage their own activities within DBL.
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Development of the digital ecosystem is facilitated and generously supported by the Every Tribe Every Nation (ETEN) alliance – an informal collaborative alliance between the world’s largest translation agencies and a team of resourcing partners, dedicated to the vision of eliminating Bible poverty. Today, these partners remain committed to collaboration and innovation around these two urgent priorities:
- Increasing the speed, cost-effectiveness, and quality of ongoing translation work, with a focus on those who have no access to God’s Word;
- Creating infrastructure and systems which facilitate Scripture access and use, including not only translation work, but also distribution, engagement, and the commitment of resources toward the goals.
Other components within the ecosystem include:
- Paratext – World’s leading software application for Bible translation development. Developed jointly by UBS and SIL International, it enables consistent and accurate translation, based original texts, and modeled on versions in major languages.
- Paratext Registry – A comprehensive list of ongoing translation projects, team members, and project progress information.
- Project MARBLE – A system for automating linking of media resources such as images, audio, and video to scripture texts within Paratext, helping translators to better understand the meaning of scripture passages, and to translate difficult passages accurately and quickly.
- Publishing Assistant – Paratext helps translators to translate the Bible. Publishing Assistant helps publishers to publish it. This software reads Paratext project data into typesetting software to create PDF files ready for printing.
- Global Bible Catalogue (GBC) – Contains all of the essential background information (or ‘metadata’) about known Bible publications. This database provides critical metadata information for content stored within the DBL.
- Scripture Progress System – A well-organised data warehouse containing a large volume of information about Bible translation worldwide.
- Progress.Bible – What Bible translations are underway at the moment? How far have they progressed? This system will provide donors and other stakeholders with access to the latest Bible translation and publication data in user-friendly maps and graphs.
DBL technical development, maintenance, and support are handled by the Institute for Computer Assisted Publishing (ICAP), a global initiative of the United Bible Societies which provides technology support and training for the scripture translation and publishing community. The ICAP team has extensive experience in text archiving and data conversion and a long history of working closely with national Bible Societies and partner agencies. The knowledge and expertise accrued in this area serve as a foundation for the ongoing development of the Digital Bible Library®.
The DBL follows industry standard protocols and best practices for securing its stored texts and digital files, and for managing access to the library. DBL runs on high availability servers in a proven commercial network infrastructure. Software upgrades, data backups to multiple global locations, and system maintenance are all performed routinely.
What is stored in DBL?
DBL is both a library for securely storing long-term project archives, as well as a licensing management and distribution environment. Scripture texts are stored in two distinct packages – an ‘archive’ component, and a licensable ‘text release bundle’ component.
- The archive component remains private, and is available for disaster recovery of a project’s data for the benefit of the translation team.
- The text release bundle contains the scripture text in XML format together with supporting files providing publication metadata, language, versification, and style references. The release bundle is the package of data which may be licensed to external partners.
Accessing Bible text is commonly done using a reference format consisting of book, chapter, and verse. When preparing a Bible for print, readability is a major concern, which leads to an increased level of complexity. This is because most Bibles contain another hierarchical structure that defines paragraphs, poetical lines, quotes, and other formatting elements. These two hierarchies—book/chapter/verse and formatting for readability—overlap each other.
This overlapping structure is a challenge to describe using XML, since XML is strictly a hierarchical syntax. The suitability of the format is, in many ways, determined by the intended use of the text. For print use, or even some types of digital display of Scripture by chapter, a structure based on readability of the overall content is ideal. However, the selection and display of individual verses may be better defined with a book/chapter/verse hierarchy.
Scripture texts in DBL are contained in an XML format known as USX. USX is an XML structure which is aligned very tightly to the internal format used in Paratext by the translation team. This close association with the translation environment used to author the text provides additional assurance that the validated content has not been altered by a complex conversion process.
Many existing published translations of Scripture are still scheduled to become part of the Digital Bible Library®. Some of these translations already exist in a digital format and need only to be converted to the proper format for upload. Other translations may exist only in a printed form which will require data entry and careful validation. In every case, all required companion metadata providing a full description of the translation text must be added to the Global Bible Catalogue before a submission to DBL can be done.
Any digital file stored in the Digital Bible Library® must meet a strict standard of quality. The founding Bible agencies in the ETEN alliance bring 500 years of combined experience in working with translations around the world, and their expertise is well documented. For this reason, Library Card Holders (LCHs) can be sure that the translations and other digital files found on the shelves are faithful to the biblical text, and have passed a rigid technical validation process.
The Digital Bible Library® streamlines the process of rights acquisition through standardized agreements with copyright holders.
DBL provides an interface for contributing organizations (Intellectual Property Contributors – IPCs) to add and maintain licensing documents, which can then be used for defining the terms for agreements granted to publishing partners (LCHs). Approved LCH organizations are able to browse the DBL catalog and request access to specific content. DBL tracks and manages the agreement workflow, whether initiated by an IPC or LCH, and maintains an ongoing log of events and agreements between organizations.
Each copyright holder has the ability to grant or revoke access to content through the Digital Bible Library® interface.
Paratext provides the uploader client used for submitting scripture text content to DBL. The scripture text itself is maintained within Paratext by the translation or text maintenance team. The Paratext project includes different sections of configuration settings which supply a portion of the metadata required for submission to DBL. The Paratext Registry provides the remainder of the required metadata. Paratext validates that the scripture text and the gathered metadata conform to the standards and syntax defined for a DBL text release bundle.
Every Tribe Every Nation (ETEN) represents a unique alliance of the largest Bible agencies in the world. Although in other settings these global, historic organizations would separately produce their own digital repositories, the ETEN alliance members have worked together to contribute a large volume of digital scripture texts to the DBL – currently over 1,700 texts, across more than 1,200 unique languages. Collectively, these agencies bring 500 years of combined experience in working with translations around the world and are involved in 90 percent of all translation work being done globally. Collaboration in the field has supported cooperation in creating this first-of-its-kind alliance.
United Bible Societies: A global fellowship, combining 146 national Bible Societies that operate in over 200 countries and territories. Joined together, they are the biggest translator, publisher and distributor of the Bible in the world.
American Bible Society: After nearly 200 years of ongoing ministry, American Bible Society continues to invite people to experience the life-changing message of the Bible. American Bible Society contributes significant resources and technical knowledge, including the Nida Institute for Biblical Scholarship, Bibles.com, and BibleSearch (bibles.org).
Biblica: Since its founding in 1806, Biblica has translated, published, and provided more than 650 million Bibles and biblical resources. Today it serves in 55 countries through Bible translation, Bible publishing, and Bible engagement, making the transforming message of God’s Word accessible to people in any life circumstance.
Wycliffe: For its 70-year history, the Wycliffe Family of Organizations has played a key role in completing more than 700 Scripture translations, with hundreds more currently being done. The organizations complete the critical work of translating Scripture, training field personnel, and promoting interest in translation work still in process.
What’s so important about digital translations and mobile delivery?
Reaching people with translations that they can understand in formats with which they engage every day is vital. By distributing Scriptures effectively through a variety of digital and mobile device platform providers, Scriptures can be read, listened to, or watched in any place at any time in contemporary vernacular languages.
Is it possible to have scripture in everyone’s “heart language”?
Put simply, the heart language is the language people use to think. It’s the language they understand best, and the way they interact with the world around them. It’s the language that speaks to their hearts, and that’s why having a Bible in that language is so important.
The founding Bible agencies, along with contributing partners, have completed the translations, developed the systems for quality assurance, printed the texts, and sustained the work of bringing Scripture to the world. They have the expertise and experience to continue moving toward the goal of having translations in everyone’s heart language.
Where is the Digital Bible Library® located?
DBL technical development, maintenance, and support are handled by the Institute for Computer Assisted Publishing (ICAP), a global initiative of the United Bible Societies which provides technology support and training for the scripture translation and publishing community. DBL is hosted on high availability servers in a proven commercial network infrastructure.
Will translations from ministries other than the founding partners be included?
Although the founding partners account for more than 90% of the translation activity worldwide, other qualified organizations have been added as Intellectual Property Contributors (IPC). We are actively looking at adding all qualified IPCs to submit their translations to be included in the Digital Bible Library®.
What are the requirements of ministries that wish to contribute translations?
Any agency or person willing to submit their text, audio or other content (Intellectual Property – IP) to the Digital Bible Library® (DBL) must fulfill certain criteria first.
- Demonstrate Ownership – First and foremost, they need to demonstrate ownership of the content to be submitted as verified by copyright and/or other legal documentation, as recognized by the rules of the country of origin.
- Credentials – They need to be recommended by one of the ETEN Alliance Ministries (UBS, Biblica, Wycliffe) or follow the Forum of Bible Agencies International (FOBAI) standards. For the full documentation please go to FOBAI website.
These standards represent a set of requirements for consultants, Bible translations, and Bible translation agencies that the members of the FOBAI recognize and implement.
- Technical Knowledge – DBL will also expect that an application makes it clear that the agency has sufficient technical capacity to be able to interact efficiently with DBL staff.
- Product Designation and Ethnologue – In Bible publication and distribution/engagement, each member agrees to follow the United Bible Societies (UBS) designation of Scripture products (Bible, New Testament, Portion, Selection). As for the identification of the languages of the earth, each member agrees to reference the SIL Ethnologue as well as its accompanying statistics regarding the number of languages.
- Application Review Process – Agency or individual understand that each application is reviewed by the Partnership Credentials Committee (PCC). The PCC reserves the right to review individual texts for conformance to above-mentioned criteria.
If your organization can meet these requirements you can submit content to the DBL.
How will intellectual property rights be protected?
Every organization that submits a copyrighted translation to the Digital Bible Library® will sign a license agreement with the United Bible Societies which specifies the level of permissions given. Each copyright holder will, in addition, have the control to grant or revoke access to a platform provider through the Digital Bible Library® interface. The administrators will maintain records of copyright ownership and the specific rights made available to the Digital Bible Library® for use by various cardholders.
How secure is DBL?
The Digital Bible Library® follows industry standard protocols and best practices for securing its stored texts and digital files, and for managing access to the library. DBL is hosted on high availability servers in a proven network infrastructure. Software upgrades, data backups to multiple global locations, and system maintenance are all performed routinely.
Why do ministries and organizations need a library card?
The Digital Bible Library® Partnership Credentials Committee (PCC) reviews formal applications for access to DBL to ensure that each participating organization is likely to work with Intellectual Property (IP) contributors in a way which is compatible with the vision and mission of DBL and its partners.
What criteria do you use to determine which organizations can obtain a card?
Any agency, ministry, or person interested in gaining access to the Digital Bible Library® (DBL) must fulfill certain criteria in addition to a minimum level of technical expertise.
- Reputable Standing – Only reputable organizations will be considered for participation in the DBL. A reputable organization is one that follows the historic tenets of Christianity.
- Accessibility – Receiving a “Library Card” does not automatically mean access to content. Although some content in DBL may be accessed by default (fair use policy / open access), a majority of the content will require additional licensing steps in order to secure permissions from each IP holder.
- Technical Background – Library card holders should already possess viable distribution technology and a well-functioning digital platform before receiving a library card.
- Provide Statistics – All participants need to be able to provide engagement statistics on a regular basis. These statistics need to be detailed enough to accommodate requests from each IP contributor who has provided them access to their content.
- Cooperation – While we don’t expect all partners to hold to similar confessional practices or standards, we do expect them all to be able to operate cordially and constructively with all ETEN members, including the inter-confessional ones. Applying organizations should not have any outstanding conflicts with any current ETEN partners or other Library Card Holders.
- Authentication – The ultimate authority for approving new library cardholders will be the Partnership Credentials Committee.
What are the technical requirements a library cardholder must meet?
Those desiring to become the DBL Library Cardholders should be well able to handle the intricacies of accessing a web API. In particular, they must already be proficient at:
- Understanding written web services documentation.
- Making authenticated HTTP requests using any of the usual REST verbs.
- Handling data returned by those requests in the form of XML, JSON, or zip archives containing those formats.
In addition, applicants will need the technical skills and staffing to provide a means for copyright holders to preview and approve presentation of texts before public release.
As the DBL participation grows, we understand that many people and organizations may want to be involved. At the same time, it’s important for applicants to understand that accessing the DBL data for publishing takes a high level of proficiency and dedication. If the requirements above talk about technology you don’t use every day, you should not participate in this phase.
Our Support – We’ll work to quickly resolve any problems with the DBL interface or data. We provide succinct documentation of the application process and to the API (available here). We welcome clarifying questions and feedback regarding the API, but applicants should not expect tutorial-level support in the above requirements.
How can I get a library card?
Qualified ministries can gain access to The Digital Bible Library®.