The OSIS Website
"A Common Format for Many Visions"

What is the OSIS initiative?

The mission of the Bible Technologies Group is to maximize production, distribution, access, use, impact, and preservation of the Bible and related materials from all time periods. Co-sponsored by the American Bible Society and the Society of Biblical Literature, the OSIS initiative plays a key role in meeting this goal by providing a common format to facilitate production, distribution, etc. of the Bible and related materials. Since people engage with the Bible at a number of levels - as literature, as a religious text, etc. - OSIS is "a common format for many visions."

OSIS stands for the Open Scriptural Information Standard, a standard way of describing scripture and related text using Extensible Markup Language, or XML. Now, for the cheerleader version:

O - the standard is part of an open source effort, co-sponsored by the American Bible Society and Society of Biblical Literature. Major Bible societies, publishers, scholars, software manufacturers, translators and techies have contributed to the effort since the first Bible Technologies Conference in April, 2001, where it was agreed that the effort was worth doing and the Bible Technologies Group was formed. Anyone can participate.

S - our primary focus is scripture, specifically the Bible. Because the effort is ecumenical, this includes both Protestant and Catholic Bibles.

I - information tied to the Bible is also of interest, because it leads to deeper engagement and understanding of the text. This would include literature (such as Milton?s Paradise Lost), commentaries, sermons, works of art, songs and other scriptural information currently in a variety of formats.

S - scriptural information exists in all sorts of formats, so a standard is needed. There have been a number of suggestions in this regard over the years, but they've been rejected for different reasons - they were proprietary, they didn't meet functional requirements, etc. XML was chosen for OSIS because it describes data, as opposed to formatting it. Once there is a standard way of describing the data, XML allows people to format it however they like - conversion to HTML and other electronic formats for electronic publishing, or conversion to things like PDF for print publishing.

OSIS solves a number of problems for the diverse groups who interact with scripture and related texts. For snazzy marketing purposes, we have selected four words which begin with the letter P to explain what these are:

Permanence - in the electronic age at-risk texts are no longer just old scrolls susceptible to air. Let's say 20 years ago Billy Graham or Mother Theresa or ___________ (fill in important author with theological leanings of your choice) sat down at their Commodore 64 and wrote world-changing text, which they saved on their floppy disk. If they handed that floppy disk to you today, you wouldn't have the hardware or software to access the information. Because XML describes as opposed to formatting data, hardware and software upgrades are no longer an issue.

Portability - people want their information now, in the format of their choice. XML (with the help of stylesheets) enable people to view text in all sorts of formats, but again starting from a common format.

Process - as a standard, OSIS leads to process efficiencies for those seeking to archive and exchange scripture and related texts.

Products - while producing scripture engagement products such as improved software is not a focus of the BTG, we hope to enable better products in the for-profit and non-profit marketplace.
Please explore the rest of the website, especially the OSIS Tools and OSIS Texts sections to learn more about OSIS.






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