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Playing God: BiblePlayer for iPod catches on

A freeware Bible reader is gaining fans--and proving again that Apple's iPod could be a saving grace for e-books. Photo: BiblePlayer meets iPod

Take me to the river, but don't get my iPod wet.

For those seeking spiritual guidance via a handheld device, a California start-up called BiblePlayer is offering free downloads of the world's best-selling book for use with Apple Computer's iPod media player.

The brainchild of Los Angeles-based programmer Pablo Mendigochea, BiblePlayer offers three different text versions of the Bible that can be read on the iPod's screen using the device's "Notes" function. The company also markets a deluxe version of the product, which features MP3 audio readings of the Bible on CD-ROM for $29. Either product can be used with any third- or fourth-generation iPod.

Since launching BiblePlayer in the beginning of October, the free version of the software has been downloaded roughly 7,000 times. Mendigochea said the idea to create the software came to him after he bought an iPod for his sister's birthday and discovered the Notes function, which allows users of the device to read text on the machine's screen. The programmer had been working on an audio version of the Bible for use with Microsoft's Windows Media Player software and had already licensed several public-domain, or freely licensed, versions of the tome.

"I think this is another great example of people using the iPod in ways that Apple probably hadn't imagined," Mendigochea said. "Once I saw 'Notes,' I knew that it could work, and so far, the feedback from consumers has been great."

BiblePlayer offers a King James Version of the book, as well as the World English iteration and the Spanish New Testament. Mendigochea has plans to launch products based on Dutch, French and German translations of the Bible, as well as a Torah-oriented download.

The BiblePlayer Deluxe package takes advantage of the iPod's multimedia capabilities, offering a combination of text and audio features. In addition to a complete audio version of the book, the product lets people create a Bible-reading schedule, launch automated "daily devotionals"--consisting of excerpts and Bible-related stories--and tune in the audio content on any MP3-capable device.

Combining the use of the iPod with the Bible highlights the gadget's potential as a conduit for e-books. Digital books have long been eyed as a potential market for growth, but they have largely failed to catch on. Despite the relatively small amount of screen space available for reading text via Notes, Mendigochea believes that people are ready to embrace the iPod as an instrument for viewing e-books.

However, Mendigochea said that to become truly friendly to e-books, Apple will need to add more memory for text in order to allow for larger downloads.

"For Apple to have a 1,000-note file limitation on iPod, and (to) offer 20 (gigabytes) of memory for music but less than 5(GB) for text, seems like an artificial limit," he said. "I think they never guessed that people would be using e-books with them, but clearly, it would be very easy to make it more compatible."