Amazon has just taken its vast knowledge of the reading habits of the users of it’s Kindle e-reading device and put them to somewhat interesting use. They’ve released a list of most highlighted passages and books with most highlights in them. Here then, is a list of books a wide range of people have read, and passages that struck them in that. In the list of highlighted books, the NIV comes in at number two with four other bibles making the top twenty-five. If you look at the passages highlighted in those books, a few things are telling. Firstly, people using the NIV don’t know how to use the Kindle, as most of them have just highlighted the contents page. Secondly, and more pertinently, only a few verses make more than two of the bible’s popular verses lists; these verses should tell us somewhat what people treasure and value. John 3:16 is obviously up there, but there are only two other verses that appear consistently. Philippians 4:6,7:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus
and Matthew 6:33,34:
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
What are these verses about? Anxiety, and the call to trust in the goodness of God in dealing with it. What can we learn? Overwhelmingly people worry.
Another other interesting thing to see is that if you look at different Bible translations you see what readers of those Bibles value more. And it’s not particularly surprising. It’s users of the ESV study bible that highlight Romans 8:28 and 8:38, and them with NASB users who highlight 2 Timothy 3:16. And it’s users of the NLT who have the more guidance orientated verses (e.g. Psalm 37:23 and Proverbs 3:5-6).
At the moment this stuff is interesting, but Amazon gives us precious little information to go on. Give it a few years and maybe we’ll be able to see popular bible passages over time (have people been highlighting 1 Timothy 2:12 more in the UK lately?) or see when people are highlighted stuff (is the morning devotional really more popular than the one before bed?). There are a few bits of data that are useful right now though. The Shack is the third most highlighted book and The Purpose Driven Life the ninth. What really struck people as they read these books? Was that the author’s point with them? I haven’t read either book, so can’t really comment, but I’d like it if someone did.