Pity the poor book. Its obituary has been written many times as prognosticators glance over the horizon and predict that the Internet and downloadable literature and e-books will soon replace pages-between-covers.
These prophecies are stirring debate in America and Western Europe, where computers are widely available and Internet access is cheap. But the same prophecies do not apply to the developing world, where even a relatively wealthy country like South Africa has only 62 computers per 1,000 people. Fewer than one in five people in Africa have reliable access to electricity. A pastor in Kenya has to pay $225 per month for dial-up Internet access in his rural area—service that is out of operation for weeks at a time. Church historian Kurt Berends observes, “We in the ‘minority world’ take political stability and infrastructure for granted.”