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Open Scriptural Information Standard (OSIS)

From:      Simon Kershaw <> [forwarded]
Subject:   'Free trade zone' for electronic Bible texts takes major step forward

Date: Wed, 29 Aug 2001 08:39:26 -0700 (PDT)

August 29, 2001


'Free trade zone' for electronic Bible texts takes major step forward

By Jan Nunley

(ENS) Commercial and non-profit groups, spearheaded by the American Bible Society (ABS) and the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL), have agreed to develop a markup of the Bible and related texts, based in the XML document format language, to be called the Open Scriptural Information Standard (OSIS). The effort has been dubbed a "free trade zone" for the Bible by John Walter, group director of strategic development for ABSinteractive, the technology arm of ABS. The initiative was announced at the Bible Technologies Conference, held earlier this year in Chantilly, Virginia, which brought together a global mix of Bible publishers, scholars, software manufacturers and technical experts.

Steven DeRose, chief scientist at the Brown University Scholarly Technology Group, was one of the keynote presenters at the conference, where he was appointed chair of the newly formed Bible Technology Group. "This joint effort of many commercial and non-profit groups, spearheaded by ABS and SBL, will be a great boon to all those interested in studying, distributing, or otherwise working with the Bible and related texts," said DeRose, a veteran of standards efforts, including XML, X Base, XPath, XPointer, Xlink, Open eBook, TEI, EAD and others. "I have been especially impressed by the goodwill, focus on results, and intellectual quality of the Bible Technologies Conference participants."

When completed, OSIS will free texts from "proprietary" formats that make it difficult for publishers to reuse their own materials and for users to exchange or reuse their own work. The interim organization of working groups will investigate the various aspects of creating a "portable text" which will enable all persons to read, without hindrance, an open source portable text. Participants envision a greater electronic sharing of the Bible itself, which will aid scholars, publishers and missions organizations in their work.

Kent Richards, executive director of SBL, notes that the situation now is "mass chaos" because everyone uses an individual computer language rather than using OSIS. This is especially confusing to "mass users who are unsophisticated," Richards says.

A half-dozen working groups were formed at the conference to address the variety of topics raised by the establishment of a common text format, in essence creating roadmaps for standards development. The guiding principle for the groups is increasing communication between scholars, religious communities and laypersons interested in biblical and related texts.

The Bible Technology Group will have a two-day meeting to discuss OSIS just prior to the American Academy of Religion/Society of Biblical Literature (AAR/SBL) annual meeting in Denver, November 15-16, 2001. Registration for the OSIS meeting will open at the website on September 14, 2001. Registration for AAR/SBL covers the OSIS meeting.

[The Rev. Jan Nunley is deputy director of Episcopal News Service. This article is based on information from the BTG website at]

Prepared by Robin Cover for The XML Cover Pages archive.

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