Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Why I Still Write Bible Software Reviews

SBL Forum carries an interesting article by Mark McEntire, Associate Professor of Religion at Belmont University, Nashville, TN. It is called Why I Still Write Book Reviews. I could immediately relate to what he has to say.

I like his frankness when he asserts, "I started writing book reviews because they were the only things I could get published." (sounds familiar...) But now that this activity is no longer necessary for his professional career, he shares some of his reasons for continuing writing reviews. There are two that stand out, IMO; namely, it's a service to his colleagues that someone has to do, and it helps develop the habit of careful reading and attention to detail (as opposed to skimming). He then goes on with a short overview of the challenges facing "the art of book reviewing" (basically, the need to be fair both to the purpose of the original author and to the role of a reviewer). Finally, he concludes by saying:
As I proceed through an academic career, I regularly feel the impulse toward cynicism all around me. This poisonous attitude can have many targets-university administration, the task of teaching, even the world of academic publishing. One way to avoid such cynicism is to stay involved in the basics of the field. Writing book reviews may not be for everybody, but it is basic, and through the ups and downs of teaching and academic life, it is one of the best ways to keep the critical skills of reading, thinking, and writing sharp.
I must say I enjoyed reading the article, and it elicited the slightly paraphrased title of this post.

As a matter of fact, I have wondered myself why I still write Bible software reviews. I will shamelessly admit that, at first, it was a good way to get to see and use some of the most advanced programs and features available on the market. It was also a way in into publishing a few articles. But soon I outgrew that stage. It has now become a service to a larger community, but also a way to sharpen some of the skills Mark McEntire mentions in his article. Ultimately, I suppose it is a combination of reasons - some relatively lofty, others quite pedestrian and selfish. Still, someone has to do it. It's the kind of thing nobody appoints you to do. There's a need, an interest, a first time, and... before you notice, "you're stuck with it." People begin to come to you for "software counseling," your opinion seems to be reckoned (except by your teenage children!), you publish on the subject, and finally set up a website and a weblog where you can rant and rave about it! ;-)