Watchtower has issued a letter to all congregations informing them that henceforth, congregation speakers are free to use tablets from the platform.
The letter, dated October 12, 2013, notes that tablets have become “increasingly common in many parts of the world.” The Governing Body has therefore decided that use of tablets on the platform at meetings and assemblies “should be left to the individual discretion of each program participant.”
The news is likely to receive a mixed response from Witnesses. On the one hand, as tablet technology becomes increasingly available it is inevitable that tablets should eventually be widely used at meetings. After all, books are now considered an essential component of Christian meetings even though Christianity predates the popular use and availability of the codex.
On the other hand, many will point to the fact that tablets are still relatively expensive and beyond the reach of poorer Witnesses, who are already under pressure to forsake material belongings in favor of putting the preaching work first. It could therefore be considered a “showy display” for wealthy brothers to use this technology conspicuously from the platform – especially in impoverished areas. -1 John 2:16
Then there are the practicalities of using tablets from the rostrum. A printed or handwritten sheet of notes cannot black out into a screensaver or run out of power. And you do not need to continually stroke it to scroll up and down.
Indeed, Watchtower’s letter acknowledges there could be technical considerations. It suggests that a speaker using a tablet “should set his device to a mode that would not emit sounds, and he should void electronic alerts, such as incoming e-mail notifications. Additionally, it may be wise for a brother using such a device during his talk to have a backup hardcopy of his notes for use in the event he experiences a technical problem.”
The letter also hints at the fact that use of tablets could prove to be a distraction for those who cannot afford one. “If a brother will be giving a talk in an area where he knows such devices are not commonly used, it would be appropriate for him to inquire if his doing so from the platform would not be advantageous.”