Bible Atlas for the iPad
I reviewed several new Bible Atlases last summer (see my conclusions here). Several of these are available for Kindle (Holman, Oxford), but the IVP and ESV Bible Atlases are not. Books in the Kindle format read like any other Kindle book. On the iPad you can zoom in on maps and pictures, but the resolution is not particularly high. I purchased the Oxford Bible Atlas (fourth edition) for Kindle and was very disappointed. The maps are not really readable, and it is useless to zoom in. Even if I simply fill the screen with the map it is too pixelated to be of use. In fact, I am a disappointed with all the Bible Atlases on the iPad. There is no single app which satisfies my need for quality maps on the iPad. here is what I am looking for:
- High Resolution Maps. I want to be able to zoom in close and not have a pixelated mess.
- Detailed Information, clickable links. I want to link to a dictionary style entry which gives me a brief overview of the history and geography of the location with the possibility of linking to a serious encyclopedia entry.
- Current Information. I do not really want a link to an old Bible Dictionary, I want the latest scholarship on the location.
- Zoom on Rotation. Many maps are better viewed in landscape rather than portrait orientation. It should not be difficult for an app to sense rotation and fill the screen.
There is really no iPad Bible Atlas App which comes close to this, here are a few comments on the “best” Atlases for the iPad.
Logos Bible Software. (Free, App Store). The free Logos App does not come with any Bible Atlas, but I own the Holman Bible Atlas ($29.95, but included in several of the Logos collections). There are remarkably few Bible Atlases in the Logos collection, which I find surprising. The The Holman Atlas has a nice collection of sidebars and charts along with 132 maps and a nicely written history of the Bible. The maps in the Holman Bible Atlas are reasonably clear, but I cannot zoom in to see the details on the map. There is text on the map giving details for locations which is unreadable on the iPad. This is a problem with the Logos App not the Atlas itself. The Logos Deluxe Map Set edited by Thaine Norris ($29.95, included in all Logos collections) are not particularly useful in the iPad either since they cannot zoom nor do the expand when the iPad is rotated.
Carta Compact Atlas HD ($4.99, App Store) and Biblical Jerusalem – A Carta Atlas ($7.99, App Store). These apps are essentially collections of scans from Carta Atlases. This is not bad, but there is not a lot of detail beyond the maps. The Compact Bible Atlas has no search capability, and the maps are more or less the type you find in a good Study Bible. Biblical Jerusalem is a bit better with respect to maps, but the app itself is little more than an index to the maps.
Big Bible Maps (Version 1.8, $2.99, App Store). BibleStudyPro has a host of iPad apps, including several map collections. For the most part, everything on this site is public domain, which limits the usefulness of the apps. This is especially true for maps, since a free Atlas from 1850 is not particularly useful. BibleStudyPro apps are inexpensive, all are priced at $2.99. A few Android versions of their apps have appeared, I expect all to be ported eventually. The best of the apps from BibleStudyPro is Big Bible Maps. The app tags satellite maps from Google Earth with biblical places. Since the images are from Google, you can zoom in extremely close for amazing detail. The obvious problem is that Google Maps are modern maps! Once on the map, you must touch a pushpin to identify the location. The location flag will appear, and if there is an arrow you can open a description of the location. The text is drawn from the original International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, although this is not identified in the software as far as I could see.
The opening screen offers three options. First, locations are arranged by chapter and book. If I select Joshua 4, I am taken to a Google Earth map with push-pins at locations for that chapter (Jericho, Gilgal, the Jordan River, and oddly enough, Israel). I could not find all the locations in a book, a chapter must always be specified. Only chapters with locations appear on the menu, so Matt 6 does not appear, but Matt 4 does. Second, you can select locations from a list (Jerusalem and Jericho appear at the top, otherwise it is alphabetical). Third, you can search by typing the name of the location.
This app is mystery to me since Google Earth is already a free app and the ISBE is freely available on Google books. What is more, Google Earth links locations to Wikipedia and Flickr, providing (in some cases) better information than ISBE. There is some value to having this information in a single place, so this app may satisfy a need.
The bottom line is that a good Bible Atlas has yet to arrive for the iPad.