Within weeks of 2008's release of the second iPhone -- and, with it, the birth of the App Store -- a young parish priest in the Italian countryside cooked up an easy recipe for unlikely success: put the full Liturgy of the Hours (four-volume print price: $150, give or take... not to mention the hassle of carrying it around) into an application that would automatically load that day's Office -- all five Hours of it -- onto an iPhone in six languages: antiphons, hymns, propers and all.
Carrying an initial price-tag of US$1.99, Fr Paolo Padrini's iBreviary racked up an impressive 10,000 downloads within days of its release. Since then, it's made its way onto some 200,000 devices; the figure includes a free version of the program for Google's "Droid" phone.
After 20,000 copies, the app became available for free for iPhones. But beyond its fiscal rewards, iBreviary's success -- and the global media coverage given its creator -- brought Padrini (right) into the Roman spotlight; now an advisor to the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, the cleric spearheaded the creation of Pope2You, a papal web-portal intended to launch the Vatican into the world of social networking.
While a bibliophile myself (and also one who is also quite familiar with the limits of technology), the concept of an iBreviary has always appealed to me at very least from the perspective of the lay user, for it seems like a particularly good tool for the person who wishes to get an introduction to the Divine Office without having to invest more than a few dollars (if that) -- which might encourage more people to take it up -- or as a tool to assist in understanding or confirming the propers of the season (of course, the concurrent danger is simply to rely on such a thing without ever learning how these things work of course). I believe there are also potentialities for the individual, lay or clerical, who is travelling and wishes to leave their printed breviary at home or in their hotel room for various practical reasons. Perhaps it could even have a practical use for the person who has eyesight issues, particularly in an iPad version, if the text is easily resizable.
Beyond this, these sorts of digital applications also have the potential to be applied to daily spiritual reading. For example, daily excerpts from the Roman Martyrology, from the Rule of St. Benedict, from the Imitation of Christ, from Cardinal Newman or the Fathers.
Speaking personally, I for one would be very pleased if an "iMartyrology" were to make its appearance.