Update: Since writing this post, I’ve become an official partner with Dwell, and am able to offer a 33% discount to all readers of this blog.
We live in a location and age where we have more access to the Bible than ever before. The entirety of the scripture is available to anyone with internet access. We can pull up the Bible on our iPhones with the simple touch of our passcode. And, of course, if we get “old school,” there’s printed Bibles. Some have estimated that there are upwards to 450 English translations of the Bible! And let’s not forget, before the invention of the printing press and the Protestant Reformation, which took strides towards putting God’s Word into people hands, this sort of access was unprecedented.
However, many folks today still struggle to read their Bible with any sort of regularity. A common refrain, probably the most commonly claimed hurdle: “I don’t have enough time.” We’re too busy (which is code for the fact that we fail to prioritize our time in God’s Word).
Audio Bibles are an incredible aid here, and a great supplement to needed “deep dive” time in the Word. With audio Bibles, you can listen to the Bible on your commute to work, while mowing the yard, or doing the dishes. And when you consider, that for a significant portion of church history, a primary way many people accessed their Bible was by hearing others read it to them (many christians haven’t been privileged enough to own their own personal Bibles), audio Bibles are a rather fitting and historically normal medium for Bible intake.
However, if you’re like me — a visual learner, who struggles retaining information or keeping focus while listening to things — you’ve probably found most audio versions of the Bible out there to be too unengaging and drab to be helpful. It’s like they lack personality. Or if they do have some personality, they’re melodramatic, awkward, or come in inconvenient formats (e.g., CD’s).
Enter the new scripture listening app, Dwell.
Dwell strives to be more than just an audio Bible. It exists not merely to make listening to the Bible possible, easy, and functional, but also enjoyable. Its design and format serve to facilitate a reflective, attentive, and meditative experience with scripture.
Users can choose between four voices — Mark (American; casual and conversational), Rosie (British; soft and relaxed), Gregory (American; dramatic and storyteller), and Felix (Kenyan; energetic and warm) — or rotate between them by putting their setting on “random.” The variety of speakers keeps the listening experience fresh and engaging. My personal favorite at the moment is Felix. His Kenyan accent is unique enough (to me) that it causes me to focus my attention on each word.
In addition, Dwell includes a collection of music options which are available to be used as background to the scripture reading. This music can be turned off if you’re not into that sort of thing. But, again, if you’re like me and you easily loose focus with audio, this background music helps provide something of a frame, or place-setting, to the listening experience and keeps one engaged.
Dwell’s vibe could be described as “deliberately aesthetic.” It’s intentional artistry is potent. Everything about Dwell is meant to be, not merely functional, but pleasing.
In addition, it features an incredibly usable interface. You can customize your volumes and playback speeds, and set a listening queue. And if you’re into Bible reading (or here: listening) plans, you can access their suggested plans and or thematic playlists.
If I were to offer three critiques, or constructive suggestions, for Dwell, they’d be as follows:
- The most off-putting aspect of the app to me was the price. The standard price for Dwell is $29.99 a year ($2.49 a month) or $149.99 as a one-time lifetime purchase (although sale prices are frequently available). Although $2.49 a month isn’t actually a lot (that’s less than your weekly latte), $29.99 a year probably “feels” like a lot for a smartphone app, and may prove to be a hurdle for some. However, if you’d use an audio Bible frequently, it’s likely worth the investment to have something of high quality like Dwell. [Update: Get my 33% discount here]
- On the whole, the style of Dwell’s voices is incredibly tranquil and peaceful. On the positive side, this tends to facilitate a very meditative and relaxed listening experience. It also brings character to the reading (in contrast, some audio Bibles feel so choppy and stale you’d think Siri or Alexa was reading to you). However, I would have liked to see a bit more emotion and angst reflected in those parts of scripture where sorrow, vexation, and turmoil are clearly present — think Habakkuk, Lamentations, Job, the lament psalms, etc. When surveying passages like these, the pleasant, tranquil voices felt a bit off and slightly wanting.
- Although Dwell offers a great variety of listening plans and playlists, I’d eventually love to see the ability for users to make or import their own custom plans or playlists.
Finally, this isn’t a critique, as much as a note: Dwell currently only offers the ESV (English Standard Version), although, according to their website, they intend eventually to expand to other translations and even other languages.
Start Your 7-Day Free Trial
The best way to find out about Dwell is to experience it for yourself. Towards this end, if you’re uncertain, or you want to give it a try, Dwell offers a free 7-day trial.
Disclaimer: I received compensation in exchange for producing this review. However, that compensation did not impact the content of this review.