I heard rumors of this during the summer when Christ Alone encountered problems on amazon.com. The site refuses to stock books that don’t offer sufficient margins, which is why many books are not available for two to three weeks.
Today’s New York Times explains that Amazon is attempting to cut out publishers and agents and publish the books that they sell. My guess is we’re headed for a world in which everyone can cheaply publish their own books on cheap paper with cheap editing. As Garrison Keillor said, soon everyone will have written a book, and they will sell exactly five copies to family and friends.
Since I’m feeling pessimistic, I also don’t think we’re too far from the time when most education is received online. This has several advantages, such as cost and convenience, but it promises to offer inferior quality. If you disagree, look at the advertisements for online education, and notice what they’re selling. It’s always convenience (get an education without leaving your home!), rarely quality. The next student that tells me their online class was better than their oncampus experience will be the first.
The other downside to online education is that few professors want to do it. Online professors often become glorified graders. Once their material is uploaded, they merely service the course, which amounts to responding to student posts and grading student work. No one I know put in the effort to receive their Ph.D. so they could grade online courses.
So, when education moves entirely online, it will also remove the incentive for any seminary student to study beyond the M.Div. We may soon encounter the day when we have very few doctorates in Bible and Theology, for the simple reason that they just aren’t worth the sacrifice. If the church should lose her theological leaders, well, that can’t be good.