# The Battle of the Books

December 19, 2007

Author: Staff Writer

Source: The Economist

http://economist.com/world/international/displaystory.cfm?story_id=10311317&CFID=727173&CFTOKEN=101adbcc08e997bb-FCFA6C16-B27C-BB00-0143EC0AF3150320

CHRISTIANS and Muslims have one striking thing in common: they are both “people of the book”. And they both have an obligation to spread the Word—to get those Holy Books into the hands and hearts of as many people as they can. (The Jews, the third people of the book, do not feel quite the same obligation.)

Spreading the Word is hard. The Bible is almost 800,000 words long and littered with tedious passages about begetting. The Koran is a mere four-fifths of the length of the New Testament; but some Westerners find it an even more difficult read. Edward Gibbon complained about its “endless incoherent rhapsody of fable and precept”. Thomas Carlyle said that it was “as toilsome reading as I ever undertook; a wearisome, confused jumble, crude, incondite”.

Yet over 100m copies of the Bible are sold or given away every year. Annual Bible sales in America are worth between $425m and$650m; Gideon's International gives away a Bible every second. The Bible is available all or in part in 2,426 languages, covering 95% of the world's population.

The Koran is not only the most widely read book in the Islamic world but also the most widely recited (“Koran” means “recitation”). There is no higher goal in Muslim life than to become a human repository of the Holy Book; there is no more common sound in the Muslim world than the sound of Koranic recitation.