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Things to Know About the Longest Running Bible Bestseller: The KJV

I have never been a reader of history books, be they Canadian or American history, or even world history. The middle and high schools I attended were the product of experimental education theories, and I actually have no history credits in high school itself, and my middle school history notes would fill about 16 notebook pages. As a result I have a reading deficiency which fortunately does not extend to fiction or biography, but does impair my knowledge of church history.

God's SecretariesSo five years ago when I picked up the book God’s Secretaries: The Making of the King James Bible a 2005 HarperCollins title by Adam Nicholson, I didn’t realize I was going to finish it, or I might have made more notes. Still there are few things I remember the next morning worth noting, especially given the strange Bibliolatry which surrounds this version in the 21st century.

The Translators were highly motivated by the prestige the project would bring. Climbing the ecclesiastical ladder was as important then as now, and also brought with it political ramifications to more than a few of them. Being a Translator (always spelled with a capital T) meant being part of an exclusive echelon of pastors and theological professors. Like today’s megachurch pastors, they were religious superstars.

Politics guided certain aspects of the translation and what did — or in this case what mostly didn’t — get included in marginal notes.

The Christian community included several different streams. Although the Translators were ostensibly working for the state church, the Church of England, it was against a backdrop which included Roman Catholics and Puritans.

The King, for all his failings, was astute theologically. There was more Biblical literacy back then, and the King was capable of engaging a variety of Bible themes. When was the last time you heard Queen Elizabeth discuss doctrine? Perhaps today advisors to the monarch encourage keeping a safe distance from topics that could be divisive.

However, once it was initiated, the King distanced himself from the day to day workings of the project. There is no evidence that the King interfered once the work was underway.

There is no hint of inspiration included in the mandate given to the Translators. This is important because today there are some marginal groups that use the KJV exclusively and insist that the translation team rested on an inspiration that was secondary or even equal to the original Biblical writers. “There is no hint of inspiration, or even of prayerfulness, no idea that the Translators are to be in the right frame of mind. [Instead] There are exact directions, state orders, not literary or theological suggestions…This is a job to be done…” (p.72)

While literacy increased greatly in the 17th century,priority was given to how the Bible sounded when spoken aloud, not how it communicated when read quietly to oneself. They prized ornamental language, however this had one drawback…

The King James Bible was considered outdated on the day it was published. We often complain about the older language of the KJV being difficult to follow, but from day one the same complaint was heard; the Bible was considered to be using language that was already 60-70 years out of date.

The preface to the original KJV doesn’t quote itself. It’s interesting that there are references in the preface to verses from other translations. In one spot, this affected the verse numbering system used, which means the citation referred to in the introduction is very difficult to find in the Bible it is introducing. It is as though the translation team did not have confidence in the product on offer, a fact confirmed by the following…

Many of the Translators continued to preach from existing versions after completion of the project. Initial acceptance of the project was minimal to say the least.

Nonetheless, the King James Bible was considered a great achievement for both the 17th century church and the nation itself. “…It is easy to see it as England’s equivalent to the great baroque cathedral it never built…”

The King James edition of the Bible was published containing the Apocrypha. I know this is old news to some of you, but it’s interesting to mention it again in light of who currently most uses and reveres the KJV today.

The Translators did not view the KJV as guided by the principles of formal correspondence. They would be very surprised to see the current classification of their work among formal equivalence translations since their goal was dynamic equivalence. What we call formal equivalence was a Puritan value they were seeking to avoid.

The King James Bible of 1611 was, depending on who you ask, about 80% identical to the Tyndale Bible. Although the Lutheran pastor was unable to finish his Old Testament, and worked in exile and was eventually martyred, it’s clear the Translators held William Tyndale’s work in high esteem as they drafted the KJV.

Because of the original KJV was consider an update of an existing work, there is nothing of what we would call today “Library of Congress Publication Data.” This means there isn’t an official record of its publication since it was considered an update of an existing work. Today, that’s almost — but not quite — like saying the book wouldn’t have been assigned an ISBN.

The authority of scripture did not negate the need to work out the details of ordinary living. “The difference came in deciding on the lawfulness of religious behavior and belief that were not mentioned in the Bible. If something wasn’t mentioned, did that mean God had no view on it? Or if it wasn’t mentioned, did that mean that God did not approve of it?” (p. 123)

Would the Translators be surprised to see their edition still on bookstore shelves today? Yes and no. I think they would be surprised to see the extreme cult following that has surrounded it, especially among those who claim that salvation cannot be found in any other translation.

It’s also doubtful that those same KJV-Only leaders would be aware of the history I just finished reading. The story frequently refers to Lancelot Andrewes (yes, it’s spelled correctly), director of The First Westminster Company (one of six translation teams) who ought then to be revered as a saint by those who hold the KJV in such high esteem. But how many of those who claim the King James edition’s exclusivity have ever heard his name? Perhaps the truth would get in the way of the agenda.

The beauty and majesty of the KJV are unique. It has served us well enough for 407 years. But the particular translation was never intended to be venerated.

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Customers Asking for Large Print Actually Need 5 Characteristics to Line Up

When it comes to typeface readability, this is my favorite Bible in our store and offers great value and a compact size. ***

She hated to admit it, but it was time to move up to a larger print Bible. She thought that meant simply getting a bigger font size, but the first few Bibles I showed weren’t working for her. The problem was, to have better readability there were five factors or characteristics of the Bible that needed to line up. Bigger font size can easily be defeated by not having the others in place.

There’s no industry standard for large print. Buying a Bible online becomes very difficult at this stage because descriptions might say, “Font size 9.5” but as you’ll see below that means almost nothing when other factors are introduced.

Be sure to share this article with your entire staff.

Font Size – For my money, “large” should be at least 10.0 and “giant” should be at least 12.0; but the key phrase here is “at least.” Ideally, I’d like to see “large” at about 11.5 and “giant” at about 14.0.” Nonetheless, we keep a font size chart posted in our store at all times. Also, generally speaking large print books are much more generous in font size — as well as the other four factors listed below — than large print Bibles. Some readers question the application of the term when it’s applied to Bibles.

Typeface – This consideration is the basis of Zondervan and Thomas Nelson’s move to “Comfort Print.” * Some typefaces are simply fatter than others. Personally, I like a sans serif font (think Arial/Helvetica) such as Zondervan was using on its Textbook Bibles. But others like the look of a serif font (think Times New Roman) instead.  I find with Comfort Print that some customers who think they need large print don’t, and other who think they might need giant print (with other publishers) can work with large print. You can also explain this to customers in terms of the difference between regular and bold face.

Leading – Wikipedia’s turn: “In typography, leading (/ˈlɛdɪŋ/ LED-ing) refers to the distance between the baselines of successive lines of type. The term originated in the days of hand-typesetting, when thin strips of lead were inserted into the forms to increase the vertical distance between lines of type.” One Bible publisher which I won’t name is notorious for using a large font but then crowding their lines of type together. You should also introduce the issue of white space which is related. Always show a customer both the Wisdom Books of the Bible (which are typeset as poetry with more white space and wider margins) and History Books or Gospels (which are typeset as prose, both right-justified and left-justified).

Inking – Some Bibles are not generously inked. There are sometimes also inconsistencies between different printings of the same Bible edition, and even inconsistencies between page sections of a single Bible. Text should be dark enough to offer high contrast to the white paper.** This blog itself defaults most days to a greyer type than I would prefer. If you’re reading this on a laptop or desktop, look at the difference when, without shifting to bold face, we simply use black.

Bleed Through – On the other hand, you don’t want to see type from the previous or following page. Bible paper is usually thin paper, which means the potential for bleed-through is huge. On the other hand, customers holding Bibles up to the light aren’t giving them a fair test. Your Bible area should be well-lit and then pages should be examined in the same context the person would read them at home. It is possible the customer needs a better quality reading lamp.


*We looked at comfort print in detail in this September, 2017 article.

**Some customers have eye problems which make reading red-letter editions difficult. Be sure to ask about this and use a page from the Gospels as a sample.

***Click the image for this Bible and with the added background, it will render as 500px-width for a relatively blur-free application on your store’s Facebook page.

Let us know if you’d like to see a consumer version of this article (i.e. with references to “customers” removed) to use on your store website, blog or newsletter.

Give Your Friends a Taste of New Translations

We all have people in our stores who are more than just customers, they have become friends. Many share our passion for Christian literature, and of those, some are Bible geeks just like us. They like to know what’s new!

Just like the woman in the white smock at Costco, you can hand out free samples, using your store newsletter, store website, or store Facebook page. With Family Day weekend happening here in Ontario, we doubled down on the amount of print text in this Facebook post in case people were hungry for some input, and because we wanted to give our customers a sample of The Passion Translation (Broadstreet Publishing/FDI in Canada).

Because we did all the work — selecting verses mostly from page one results at TopVerses.com — you can simply copy and paste what follows!


The Passion Translation New Testament by Brian Simmons is gaining readers. A hardcover edition is now available in two hardcover editions and several leather editions, with two more hardcovers due in March and in addition to the NT contains Psalms, Proverbs and Song of Songs.
• Ephesians 2:8 – For it was only through this wonderful grace that we believed in him. Nothing we did could ever earn this salvation, for it was the gracious gift from God that brought us to Christ!
• Matthew 28:18 – Now go in my authority and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
• 2 Timothy 3:16 – Every Scripture has been written by the Holy Spirit, the breath of God. It will empower you by its instruction and correction, giving you the strength to take the right direction and lead you deeper into the path of godliness.
• Romans 10:9 – And what is God’s “living message”? It is the revelation of faith for salvation, which is the message that we preach. For if you publicly declare with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will experience salvation.
• Romans 8:28 – So we are convinced that every detail of our lives is continually woven together to fit into God’s perfect plan of bringing good into our lives, for we are his lovers who have been called to fulfill his designed purpose.
• Romans 12:2 – Stop imitating the ideals and opinions of the culture around you, but be inwardly transformed by the Holy Spirit through a total reformation of how you think. This will empower you to discern God’s will as you live a beautiful life, satisfying and perfect in his eyes.
• Philippians 4:13 – I know what it means to lack, and I know what it means to experience overwhelming abundance. For I’m trained in the secret of overcoming all things, whether in fullness or in hunger. And I find that the strength of Christ’s explosive power infuses me to conquer every difficulty.
…Read more; now available on your computer at Bible Gateway or on your smartphone at You Version.

It’s Time to Standardize “Large Print” and “Giant Print”

A few weeks ago I encountered a Bible with an 8.5 point font being passed off as large print. I’m quite sure my customers would disagree. Of course there’s more to readability than just point size. There’s also,

  • the degree of inking in the print process (can vary even within a single Bible)
  • the space between lines (leading)
  • the type of font used (sans serif fonts seem to be cleaner)
  • the bleed from the page(s) underneath (paper thickness)

Customers with reading difficulty are quick to mention all of these as well as differing opinions on red letter editions. (On your computer, does that stand out more, or does the black stand out more?)

We definitely are in need of a uniform industry standard which all publishers must conform to. If publishers won’t agree to do this, we at least need the point size indicated on the product packaging.

The Type of Men’s Bible Which Meets a Need

This review is appearing tomorrow at Thinking Out Loud; it has been amended for Christian Book Shop Talk…

In the world of Bible marketing, a men’s Bible doesn’t make a splash as do similar products for women, which may be why I was completely unaware of last September’s release of the NIV Bible for Men. Perhaps you missed it as well, which is unfortunate when you consider there is probably a guy in your sphere of influence who would benefit greatly from this edition.

NIV Bible for MenA few things stand out.

First, they carefully avoided the word devotional in the title on this one, but like the Men’s Devotional Bible, there are 260 weekday readings and a single reading for weekends. The placement of these readings is next to adjacent text and there are prompts as to where to go for the subsequent reading which means you could use this as a one-year reading program, but the passages would be of varying length.

Second, they incorporated many newer church leaders and writers for this product. Any awareness of Christian social media means the names of contributors here will create instant recognition; and it also means this is a Bible edition you can confidently place in the hands of younger customers. Some names include:

  • Chris Seay
  • Tony Morgan
  • Matt Chandler
  • Joshua Harris
  • Tim Challies
  • Shane Claiborne
  • Jarrett Stevens
  • Bill Johnson
  • Jeff Manion
  • Pete Wilson
  • Bob Goff
  • Ted Kluck
  • Eric Metaxas
  • Craig Groeschel
  • Joel Rosenberg
  • Andrew Farley
  • John Ortberg
  • David Kinnaman
  • Jeremy Myers
  • Ravi Zacharias

and many, many more. Interestingly, annotations are keyed to the Kindle editions of many of these, an acknowledgement perhaps that guys do much of their other reading on devices. This doesn’t really encourage future purchasing in print.

Third and finally, there are the weekend readings. Set out as Myths, the series of 52 two-page articles cover ideas that are common in society and sometimes even found within the church, such as:

  • It’s possible to get something for nothing
  • Sexual thoughts are harmless
  • The purpose of the church is to meet my needs
  • Image is everything
  • This world is all there is
  • Christians are guaranteed health, wealth and a stress-free life

and some of these will resonate with some guys more than others. Generally, I found this approach more topical than what is usually found within the pages of a Bible, but the second page of each reading — the response — drives you back into scripture. Some guys will want the extra day to cover the material in these weekend readings.

A subject index at the back is extremely helpful for returning to previous topics.

I hope this Bible is doing well as anything which plunges guys into scripture is a resource that needs to be celebrated. Is there a young man you can think of who might appreciate knowing about this?


Note: The Myth section readings appeared previously in Manual: The NIV Bible for Men, published in 2009.

ISBN 9780310409625; 1,684 pages; hardcover; black-letter, double-column format; $34.99 US

Jesus Centered Bible: Promotional Video

Page sample of NLT Jesus Centered Bible. Print bleed through from previous page is at no extra charge.

Page sample of NLT Jesus Centered Bible. Does the previous page always bleed through like that, or was the reviewer’s camera too sensitive?

Two weeks ago, Bruxy Cavey, Teaching Pastor at The Meeting House, Canada’s fastest growing church movement with 20 locations, shared this video in the middle of the Sunday morning sermon. (Link is to sermon, click video to source.)

Learn more at this link to Group Publishing.

Group Publishing (September, 2015) 1410 pages
Translation: NLT
Hardcover 978147073404 $24.99 US
Turquoise Imit. 9781470722159 $34.99 US
Slate Imit. 9781470726881 $34.99 US

The Message 100: A New Reading Plan, A Different Chronological Approach

We live at a time when Bible publishers have offered us a degree of choices and formats that previous generations would never have imagined. Different editions compete both in terms of brand identification and in their desire to readers engaged in the scriptures.

The Message 100The Message 100: The Story of God in Sequence takes the complete text of Eugene Peterson’s version of the Bible and divides it into 100 readings and although the reader is encouraged to go at their own pace, this means that one could read this Bible in 100 days, an acceleration of the usual “read the Bible in a year” type of approach.

Starting in Genesis, I decided to time myself with the first section and clocked in at 26 minutes, though I may have rushed the two genealogies. Still, at less than a half hour, and with only 99 readings left, I was impressed that day how easily this pace of reading the whole Bible might be accomplished.

Because the publisher of The Message, NavPress has merged their marketing and distribution with Tyndale (publisher of the NLT) I was a little wary that this new Message might follow the One Year Bible format which scrambles the text considerably.

Instead, The Message 100 keeps whole books of the Bible fully intact, the First and Second Testaments are completely separated, and the first 30 sections follow the traditional sequence. After that, all bets are off: The minor prophets are co-mingled with books of history, and the wisdom literature is placed at the very end with Psalms wrapping up the 79 OT sections, reminiscent of the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) where Prophets come before Writings.

The New Testament begins with the synoptic gospels, then Acts, then the letters (epistles) in a more accurate chronological sequence, not the sorting-by-length with which we are familiar. The writings of John, including his gospel, concludes the 21 NT sections.

The Message 100 also contains a short introduction by Bono — himself quite familiar with the version — which makes it an instant collector’s item for U2 fans.


Connect to the full text of Bono’s intro at fellow-blogger Dave Wainscott’s review.

The Message 100 is 1,808 pages, available in both paperback and hardcover editions, with a North American release date of Tuesday, October 15th.

I know the One-Year Bibles and One-Year Book of… series are very popular in some areas, but in the three cities where we’ve operated bookstores, we’ve never experienced customer appreciation for this particular genre.

Minor Updates to the NLT

Thanks to the website The Bible Hunter, we were recently made aware of some minor edits taking place with the New Living Translation. You can read the entire page at this link. I’ve listed a few samples below, the strikeouts are obviously the removed sections, the italics represent the new additions. It is easier to read at the link, so I encourage you to click through.

Many involve word changes:

Jer. 40:7 The leaders of the Judean guerrilla bands military groups in the countryside heard…

Matt. 1:19 Joseph, her fiancé to whom she was engaged, was a good righteous man and did not want to disgrace her publicly…

Matt. 6:24 …You cannot serve both God and be enslaved to money.

Matt 8:28two men who were possessed by demons met him. They lived in a cemetery came out of the tombs and were so violent that no one could go through that area.

Matt 9: 8 Fear swept through the crowd as they saw this happen. And they praised God for sending a man with such great giving humans such authority.

More than two-thirds of those listed are from the New Testament.

A few involve the paragraph sub-headers added to the text and the copyright page.

Only one verse undergoes a major change:

Hebrews 11: 1 Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.

 

Comparing The NIV Zondervan Study Bible and the NIV Study Bible

NIV Zondervan Study Bible

Opinions here are those of the author; this is not a sponsored post.

While the title may confuse some, you have to assume the publishers already sorted out that potential confusion and went ahead with the name anyway. The NIV Zondervan Study Bible is releasing later this summer, and is certain to get mixed up with the classic NIV Study Bible which has been with us for several decades. The latter isn’t going anywhere.

At a major online Christian retail site, we read:

The NIV Study Bible will remain in print. With over 10 million copies sold over 30 years, this bestselling study Bible will continue to help readers come to a deeper understanding of God’s Word.

And then it offers this chart which outlines the differences:

NIV Study Bibles compared

Looking closely at the author list above, methinks that that Zondervan is going after the same market as purchased the popular ESV Study Bible. Clearly, to some extent, the Reformed community is in view. However, by virtue of its weight, the ESV product attracted a broader audience containing features not heretofore seen in study Bibles. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but the ESV Study did contain elements worth emulating.

Zondervan is quick to point out that this new project was not adapted from the present study edition, but was “built from the ground up.” We know that like the ESV Study, it contains supplementary articles and that well known Biblical scholars were responsible for particular books, but for many of the finer details, we’re going to have to wait until the August 25th release date to see all its 2,912 pages.

Of course, if Zondervan wants to send me a review copy, they know how to reach me!

Bonus: For those of you who’ve read this far, here’s a look at some of the extras in this Bible below which is a clue to where the advance peek treasure is buried:

NIV Zondervan Study Bible ArticlesClick the image above, and then click the “preview” tab to see the full table of contents and many of the introductory articles.

 

HarperCollins, Foundation Add Ministry Edition Bibles

In almost simultaneous announcements, HarperCollins Christian Publishing in Canada and Foundation Distributing opened up the trade bookstore market to economy ministry editions Bibles formerly not available.

In the case of HCCP, the list includes 61 NIV,  NIrV and NVI (Spanish) titles in the Biblica group of editions. At FDI, the announcement concerned case lots of an NLT complete Bible for only $2.40 per copy; though they have previously offered ministry editions of the ESV and The Message.

Availability of these editions position you to be able offer similar pricing to direct offers churches receive. If you missed either announcement, contact your sales rep.

The Canadian Bible Society also has a program where retail dealers can receive discounts on its bulk-sales editions.


Take it further: Within minutes of receiving the Foundation announcement, we adapted their artwork and sent this out to a number of contacts we felt were open to using the NLT as a giveaway:

NLT Outreach

In a hectic world, the only way to effectively market to churches is to have some type of HTML like this that you can send to church staff, leaders and board members for whom you have e-mail addresses. These editions are also useful for parachurch organizations and Christian camps.

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Bible Typography

February 8, 2015 1 comment

Canadian über-blogger Tim Challies had this linked on the weekend. I don’t know where he finds these things, but hey, he has a staff. How words and paragraphs are set out on the page can affect the meaning we take away from the passage, so this topic actually matters. And Bible sellers should be versed (at least a little bit) on this topic. 48 minutes; some of it quite humourous. [Note: This treatment is translation-neutral.]

The Case for Print

Author Dan Kimball, who is part of a generation that might be more willing to embrace electronic publishing, posted this at Facebook:

“Bring back old school print Bibles to read and carry” was my fellow black leather Bible buddy Dave Lomas from Reality San Francisco ‘s mission cry who taught today at Vintage Faith Church. We both have black leather Bibles where we can draw doodles, underline, color and we are convinced your even learn better with them. Which is ironic coming from two of us living in San Francisco and the Silicon Valley where technology rules. I join Dave in the mission to see hard copy Bibles in hand once again and go retro learning and reading.

Comments included:

  • Studies say comprehension is better, you get a “deeper” connection when holding printed texts compared to a screen. Screens encourage skimming, and it is harder to concentrate.
  • All about the real non-technology bibles. Got a handy brown leather bound ESV myself. I love how you can feel, smell, and write notes in them. Ya can’t do that with technology. I just think it makes your relationship with God organic….I don’t know, that’s me.
  • And when people bring those Bibles to church and look up passages as they are mentioned in the sermon to add notes (or doodles) in the Bible, we all get to hear that great sound of Bible pages turned together when lots of people are reading the Bible all at once. We miss that when you read on a cellphone……

No one is making a similar case for eBooks. They now seem destined to exist on the periphery of the market.