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Open-Source Christianity

Cover of Ascend: The Catholic Faith for a New Generation

Cover of Ascend: The Catholic Faith for a New Generation

In the next couple of days the final touches will be made to the design and layout of Ascend and it should then be shortly off to the printer.

One aspect of the book I think is interesting is that it could not have been done without the Internet and especially the open-source movement. As a result, Ascend is more than the product of Vince and me, it is really the product of literally thousands of people around the world, most of whom will probably never even see the book or know that their work contributed to it.

There are more than a hundred images in the book. Many of them are images we negotiated traditional licenses for through photographers and rights-managed agencies like Corbis and Getty Images. For example, that iconic image of Mychal Judge being carried from the wreckage of the World Trade Center is one we found through searching online databases and obtained permission via email. Permission for other images were obtained from The Cincinnati Enquirer, the Hawaii Catholic Herald, the Los Angeles Public Library, individual artists, and the Shrine of St. Therese in Lisieux, France, to name just a few.

But most of the images are from an innovative online community of photographers called iStockphoto.com, where photographers and illustrators upload their work and receive a part of the license fee. It’s a vast cooperative of millions of images by thousands of talented artists.

Other images were obtained from Wikimedia Commons. They are either public-domain images or images graciously released by individuals under Creative Commons or GNU licenses. These are copyright solutions developed within the spirit of the open-source ethic, where individuals share their hard work for the benefit of all. This blog you are reading is an excellent example of the wonders of open-source technology; WordPress is free and is widely considered the best blog solution available. Thousands of people work on WordPress without charge to make it an outstanding platform. WordPress is a shining example of the benefits of the open-source movement.

The book (and this blog post, if you are using the latest versions of Safari or Firefox, the wonderful open-source web browser) uses as its text font Gentium, “a typeface for the nations,” which was developed as an open-source free font to bring better typography to thousands of languages, including many ethnic groups which had no font that accommodated their languages. It is distributed by SIL International, a faith-based group which has as its mission the preservation of the world’s lesser-known languages. Our psalm citations that begin every chapter are in a font developed by a talented Filipino typographer, James Fajardo, who has made his creations widely available at no cost.

Only 10 years ago, Ascend would have been impossible to produce, or at least so prohibitively expensive as to make it practically impossible. Our book is a product of the Internet age, from conception through writing to design and production. Without the ideals of the open-source movement, it would be only a shadow of the work you will soon see. Without the ethos of the hyperlinked Web, we could not have imagined the innovative approach this book takes to proclaiming the Good News.

Of course, this causes us to wonder if perhaps the Church is the original open-source community. In our own low-tech way, we have been sharing ideas and customs and formulations for thousands of years. Is there, for example, any better example of the open-source ideal than the liturgy?

And this brings us to wonder how we as Church will respond to the Internet age. Ah, but that’s a big issue, worth several posts at least. For now, let’s see what impact is made by Ascend, the first Internet-age exploration of Christianity.

One Response to “Open-Source Christianity”

  1. Chris says:

    And yet…not simultaneously released on Kindle…

    Looking ahead, from the vantage point of the paper tradition.

    Already have mine on preorder at Amazon and looking forward to some spring water.

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