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Posts Tagged ‘Bible marketing’

Ottawa Church Tests a New Christian Bookstore Paradigm

Imagine a store where everything is on a donation basis. Now imagine a mix of used and new products. Now add to that Bibles, not just economy Bibles, but a focus on high-end, high-quality Bibles. Is such a store viable?

The Upper Room at Calvary Ottawa is an initiative of Calvary Fellowship, part of the Calvary Chapel family of churches. In an interview with Spur Ottawa, pastor Andy Falleur explained the vision:

There was nowhere in Ottawa to buy a Bible other than Chapters… There is nowhere you can go where there are Christians. I don’t think it should be like that… We see people from all kinds of different denominations and we get the crossover. That is an important space. It is good and healthy for the Christian community, as a whole. The other thing is that churches are always closed. We need places that are open where you can get resources and where someone is going to pray for you.

Spur Ottawa also spoke to the church administrator, Sharon Weir:

We decided to go with Bibles that are premium, not Bibles you would buy off Amazon… Whether you are looking for the 1611 version of the King James Bible or a preaching version of the Christian Standard Bible, the Upper Room has you covered. I don’t know of a translation we do not currently have. We try to have a $10 all the way up to a $300 version of every translation.

Full disclosure: Steve and Sharon Weir worked with me at Searchlight Lindsay, and Steve helped us find our location there. They spoke with me about three years ago about this vision, and always at the centre of it was Bibles.

But how do you sell a $300 Bible on a donation basis?

They key seems to be a “suggested donation” which is at least 20% below list price. They also take in used Bibles.

Calvary Chapel churches vary in shapes in sizes, but the one common denominator is consecutively preaching through the Bible, verse by verse. Once they reach that final sentence in Revelation 22, the next Sunday usually returns to Genesis 1. The emphasis on Bibles is therefore not surprising.

The new bookselling venture also has an endorsement from Gerry Organ, former CFL placekicker who played over a decade with the Ottawa Roughriders.

Pastor Falleur would probably dispute this story’s headline, telling Spur Ottawa,

We are not a bookstore, we are a church with some resources that we are making available to the wider Christian community. We are just getting going, but it’s been a joy talking to people, praying for them, and in some cases having them pray for me.

It will be interesting to see how this model works.

The Two Constant Objections to The Message Bible

December 17, 2020 1 comment

Like many booksellers, I often find myself having to enduring some rather bizarre comments from customers about Bible versions. I do my best to correct these, but often I’m not considered as authoritative as some random person they watched on a video, or I’m considered to be biased because there is such great profit to be made in running a Christian bookstore. If only they knew…

This week in going through my hoardings, I discovered a single sheet which was no doubt part of larger package used in the early days to introduce The Message Bible. I don’t see an exact date, but this was distributed by the publisher, NavPress.

The first objection commonly raised is that The Message isn’t a true translation. In terms of the translations with which people are most familiar, there is some truth in this. (See below.) But it’s true of all translations to some degree. In the KJV rendering of Romans 6:1-2a we read, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid…”The term “God forbid;” is a popular colloquialism of the time, much akin to “God save the King!” But God’s name, or the name of any deity for that matter, doesn’t appear in the original languages, nor in any other English translation. It’s not the type of thing Paul would say, as a Jew or or as a Christ-follower. The KJV lapses into paraphrase at this point, and several others.

One linguistics source I checked several years ago expressed some difficulty with the word paraphrase. It basically said, “If you’re taking something in one word-set, and re-stating it for other readers in a different word-set, you are in fact translating.” In the Evangelical world, paraphrase has become a pejorative term, leaving the translation ripe for criticism by those lacking a fuller understanding of how the world of Bible translation operates.

Which brings us back to The Message:

Obviously, a person looking for purity in translation would be best to stick with NASB, but those who get irate when they feel a Bible lacks integrity by the addition of things which strictly speaking are not in the original languages would have greater issues with The Amplified Bible or The Voice.

The second common issue frequently raised is that The Message is the product of a single individual. I don’t remember hearing this so much when J. B. Phillips introduced his New Testament in Modern English or when more recently, N. T. Wright introduced his Kingdom New Testament. Both are respected, though people are free to disagree with Wright’s interpretations that are published elsewhere. Ken Taylor’s original The Living Bible was a one-man production, but Taylor freely acknowledged this and the publishing company he created met this objection head-on with the creation The New Living Translation (NLT) which involved 128+ scholars, but still gets confused with its predecessor by some people.

I will admit The Passion Translation by Brian Simmons is enduring much criticism and has been updated at least twice that I am aware of in a very short period of time. And there are a host of independent translations published each and every year which never make it to the Christian bookstore market, some of which are written by people whose scholarship leans more theologically liberal.

Here’s what I learned — which I didn’t consider previously — reading the information sheet:

Academics and scholars use the term peer review to describe the process by which their work is submitted for critique by others, and Eugene Peterson apparently followed this process…

…I think the people trashing The Message Bible are just looking for a fight. They’re the same people who become argumentative on so many fronts, a list of which isn’t needed in these times.

But Peterson himself was apparently surprised the first time he heard of a church using The Message as its core text for scripture readings. He didn’t envision the widespread popularity.

So my advice would be, purchase one, use it, enjoy it, but keep a more formal-correspondence or dynamic-equivalence translation close at hand.

 

Foundation Folds Distribution into Anchor Distributors

October 22, 2019 2 comments

Canadian stores will consolidate ordering through Anchor/Word Alive

This is major news for Christian booksellers in Canada. Earlier this week we heard rumours of this, but today we received the official announcement. Rather than comment further, I want to run the press release exactly as it was sent to industry news outlets. I’m sure the finer details will play out over the next few weeks.

Bob Wood, Bob Whitaker, Pat Chown, (back) Jeremy Braun, Karen Fulton, Director of Operations Anchor Distributors

Foundation Distributing Inc. and Anchor Word Alive Inc. combine to improve efficiency and strengthen the Christian product supply chain

New agreement moves distribution of Foundation vendors to Anchor Distributors

ORONO, ON – October 22, 2019 – Pat Chown, Claire Prodger and Bob Wood, owners of Foundation Distributing Inc. (FDI) are pleased to announce an agreement moving all distribution and operations to Anchor Distributors in New Kensington, Pennsylvania, effective December 1st.

“We see this agreement as one that will aid current and new retailers in Canada in being more competitive against the growing online giants.  It allows for more cohesive marketing opportunities.” — Bob Whitaker, president of Anchor Distributors 

“Sourcing more product from a single location can provide better fill rates, save time, reduce freight costs and simplify day to day business. This agreement will strengthen the Christian Product supply chain and provide efficiencies that will benefit retailers in Canada.” — Pat Chown, partner, Foundation Distributing Inc.

“Anchor Distributors’ mission is to serve retailers by providing Christian and Inspirational resources to the market.  Anchor Word Alive and FDI share this mission and we’re working for a seamless transition. The 72 Hour Sale, 2 Day Sale and other sales and marketing programs will continue uninterrupted.” — Claire Prodger, partner, Foundation Distributing Inc.

“Bob Whitaker is a straightforward, forward-thinking person of integrity. There’s a common mission and purpose shared by the entire Whitaker, Anchor Word Alive team that made us confident this was the right path forward. This agreement is a progressive step for the Canadian market.” — Bob Wood, partner, Foundation Distributing Inc.

“Our customers in Canada are vital to the lifeline of our mission and business and this exciting change will allow us to continually improve to serve them better.” — Jeremy Braun, managing director for Canadian operations – Word Alive.

Anchor Word Alive Inc. is a Canadian subsidiary of Anchor Distributors (“Anchor”), which is a division of Whitaker Corporation established in 1970.

Thomas Nelson Offers 30 Editions of the NET Bible Translation

All of the editions of the NET Bible are plain covers with only the small logo in the upper left corner. Release date for all 30 editions is October 1, 2019.

For its 3rd Cycle in 2019, Thomas Nelson has picked up the NET Bible which it will offer in various Thinline, Thinline Large Print, Journal and ‘Full Notes’ editions with all using the new Comfort Print font. Wikipedia provides some history:

The [New English Translation] and extensive notes were undertaken by more than twenty biblical scholars who worked directly from the best currently available Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts. The NET Bible was initially conceived at an annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature in November 1995 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The translation project originally started as an attempt to provide a digital version of a modern English translation over the Internet and on CD-ROM without cost for the user: “The NET Bible project was commissioned to create a faithful Bible translation that could be placed on the Internet, downloaded for free, and used around the world for ministry.” Many of those involved in the project’s initial discussions eventually became part of the translation team. The translation itself claims to be non-sectarian, “inter-denominational” and evangelical.

The NET Bible’s approach to copyright is self-summarized as:

The Bible is God’s gift to humanity – it should be free.

If you’re wondering about the ‘Full Notes’ edition, this article offers five features, the first of which is that the

NET Bible includes extensive notes with the translation, notes created by the original translators as they worked through the issues and options concerning the translation of the original language texts of the Bible. These notes operate on more than one level – a technical level for pastors, teachers, and students of Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek who are interested in the grammatical, syntactical, and text-critical details of the translation, and a more popular level comparable to current study Bibles offering explanatory details of interest to lay Bible students.

You can read the text online at this link.

Thomas Nelson has a history of snapping up distribution of new, innovative translations. Looking back over the years, one remembers,

  • The Everyday Bible (New Century Translation)
  • The Voice Bible (a translation using dramatic script)
  • The Expanded Bible (an alternative to the Amplified Bible)

but sadly, within 2-3 years the company loses interest and suspends marketing and the printing of new editions; often flooding the remainder/overstock market with more varieties than it lists in its own catalogues.

But there is a market for new Bible editions, if the consumer can be convinced that there’s something to be gained in owning a copy. Prices listed below are in Canadian currency:

9780785224648 NET Bible, Full-notes Edition, COB Gray 61.99
9780785225096 NET Bible, Full-notes Edition, Leathersoft, Teal 86.99
9780785225102 NET Bible, Full-notes Edition, Leathersoft, Teal IDX 98.99
9780785225164 NET Bible, Full-notes Edition, Leathersoft, Black 86.99
9780785225089 NET Bible, Full-notes Edition, Leathersoft, Black, IDX 98.99
9780785225119 NET Bible, Full-notes Edition, Genuine Leather, Brown 135.99
9780785225126 NET Bible, Full-notes Edition, Genuine Leather, Brown IDX 148.99
9780785224716 NET Bible, Thinline, COB, Gray 36.99
9780785224921 NET Bible, Thinline, Leathersoft, Stone 36.99
9780785224969 NET Bible, Thinline, Leathersoft, Stone IDX 49.99
9780785224976 NET Bible, Thinline, Leathersoft, Teal 36.99
9780785224983 NET Bible, Thinline, Leathersoft, Teal IDX 49.99
9780785224907 NET Bible, Thinline, Leathersoft, Brown 36.99
9780785224914 NET Bible, Thinline, Leathersoft, Brown IDX 49.99
9780785224884 NET Bible, Thinline, Leathersoft, Black 36.99
9780785224891 NET Bible, Thinline, Leathersoft, Black IDX 49.99
9780785224730 NET Bible, Thinline Large Print, COB, Gray 49.99
9780785225010 NET Bible, Thinline Large Print, Leathersoft, Brown 49.99
9780785225027 NET Bible, Thinline Large Print, Leathersoft, Brown IDX 61.99
9780785225034 NET Bible, Thinline Large Print, Leathersoft, Stone 49.99
9780785225041 NET Bible, Thinline Large Print, Leathersoft, Stone IDX 61.99
9780785225058 NET Bible, Thinline Large Print, Leathersoft, Teal 49.99
9780785225065 NET Bible, Thinline Large Print, Leathersoft, Teal IDX 61.99
9780785224990 NET Bible, Thinline Large Print, Leathersoft, Black 49.99
9780785225003 NET Bible, Thinline Large Print, Leathersoft, Black, IDX 61.99
9780785224655 NET Bible, Journal Edition, COB Gray 55.99
9780785224808 NET Bible, Journal Edition, COB Coral 55.99
9780785224877 NET Bible, Journal Edition, Leathersoft, Teal 55.99
9780785224860 NET Bible, Journal Edition, Leathersoft, Brown 55.99
9780785224693 NET Bible, Pew and Worship, Hardcover, Black 21.00

 

Bookstores Automatically Filter Out Fringe Bible Translations

I ran this on my personal blog a few minutes ago, and thought it was a valuable object lesson for readers here. .

Every once in awhile I find threads on Twitter which I think are worthy of being preserved somewhere more permanent. Twitter has a 280-character limit, but you can create threaded posts in the style of a longer essay. The writer may have envisioned something temporary — a kind of Snapchat prose — but the words deserve greater attention.

Thomas Horrocks resides in Bloomington, Indiana where he serves as pastor of Stoneybrook Community Church of God and also as a chaplain in the Indiana Army National Guard. He’s co-host of the Sinnergists Podcast

I think you will agree that this story is a prime example of why we do what we do and how it can be of benefit to our communities to not have certain types of merchandise.

If you want to read this on Twitter, go to this link.


Okay, everybody. Time for a mini rant. As you may or may not know, I pastor a small church comprised of mostly older people, all of whom are wonderfully devout but basically none of whom have had any formal theological training. This probably describes most churches to be honest.

Today at my midweek Bible-study, one lady, who deeply loves the scriptures, brought to me a new translation of the New Testament that she obtained. It is called The Pure Word and bills itself as “an Unparalleled New Testament Translation From the Original Greek.”

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Naturally, having both an interest in Bible translations and the things my congregants want to show me, I asked if I could look at it a little closer. I started reading the preface and, folks, this thing is A. Train. Wreck.

Here’s the first paragraph

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“Never before has such a pure and genuine translation been completed.”

Are. You. Kidding. Me?

This is the kind of thing I would write if I was writing a parody. But wait, it gets worse.

They employ a methodology they call “monadic hermeneutics” in which each they assert that each word has “an accurate, single definition.” They, of course, base this  the Psalm that says “every word of God is pure.” They explain:

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“Each word…was intended to have a single specific meaning, never open to personal interpretation.” Somehow these translators, and no one else ever, were able to “bypass personal interjection and cultural influence” and determine these “unambiguous and clear meanings.”

It gets worse. They also capitalize any word “which pertain[s] to God’s Attributes and Characteristics, God’s Works, Works of the Holy Spirit in us, or Works of Angels (as opposed to works of man.)” This they determined, of course, without “personal interpretation.”

“So,” you’re probably asking, “How does this work out in actual translation?” Great question.

Here is their translation of John 3:16, which they insist is “the original Greek to English translation,”

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These people claim they are “Unveiling the Original Meaning After Nearly 2000 Years” and that they are “re-implementing the full and original Greek…as it was understood during the first century” and that this “is commonly recognized as the most accurate…in the world.”

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Now, anyone who has received any kind of training in Greek or Biblical interpretation knows this is all absolute malarkey. But the good-hearted people in our pews may not know this.

These people are preying on our peoples’ desire for certitude and easy answers and using it to slip in genuinely debatable interpretation under the guise of The Original Word of God.™

We need to be teaching our people that the work of translation and interpretation is messy and that there things that debatable, things that are ambiguous, and things that are unclear, otherwise we end with this (below), but for real.

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The Newest NIV Study Bible is Actually a Rebranding

I hate to say, “I told you so.”

At the time of its original release, I said the name, “NIV Zondervan Study Bible” would be too easily confused with the flagship “NIV Study Bible.” Time and the marketplace proved this correct.

So when the time came to convert the Bible to the new Comfort Print font — a change still in progress involving every Bible product sold by both Thomas Nelson and Zondervan — they decided it was a good time to change the name to “NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible.”

They also moved D. A. Carson’s name to the top which is both in keeping with what is seen on academic books in a series, and also creates resonance for the all important Reformed/Calvinist market, which Zondervan would love to lure from the ESV back to NIV.

The other bonus was that with comfort print, people who formerly needed large print can get away with the regular edition. The large print version of the older title was simply huge. So they’ve effective killed two birds with one stone. I actually proved the truth of this yesterday with one satisfied (I hope!) customer.


The original advertising from a few years ago highlighted many of the Reformed/Calvinist contributors. I’m sure they would argue this isn’t, strictly speaking, a Reformed product.

NIV Zondervan Study Bible

And a comparison chart showed the main differences in chart form:

NIV Study Bibles compared


Appendix One: People who feel they are in the market for larger print in a Bible are actually looking at five factors:

Font Size – To meet expectations, “large” should be at least 10.0 point and “giant” should be at least 12.0 point; 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.” 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 who have purchased large print books before question the application of the term when it’s applied to Bibles with smaller fonts. If you’re in a store and they have a font size guide posted, that gives you the language to express what you’re looking for, but don’t go by online guides, as they are sized at the whim of your monitor settings.

Typeface – This consideration is the basis of Zondervan and Thomas Nelson’s move — started last year and continuing throughout 2018 — to “Comfort Print” on all their Bible editions. Some typefaces are simply fatter than others. Personally, I like the clean look of 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. But Comfort Print is a great innovation and I find when it’s available that people who think they need large print don’t, and other who think they might need giant print (with other publishers) can work with Comfort Print’s large print. You can think of this in terms of the difference between regular and bold face.

Leading – This one is actually quite important, and we’ll leave the definition to Wikipedia: “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. The issue here is white space. If you look at the Wisdom Books of the Bible (which are typeset as poetry with more white space and wider margins) and compare to the History Books or Gospels (which are typeset as prose, both right-justified and left-justified) you see the advantage created by white space.

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. Furthermore, some older adults have eye problems which make reading red-letter editions difficult. If that’s the case — and you don’t always know ahead of time — use a page from the Gospels as a sample.

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, holding Bibles up to the light isn’t a fair test. Rather, the place where you check out the Bible should be well-lit and then pages should be examined in the same context you would read them at home. It is possible that an individual simply needs a better quality reading lamp.


Appendix Two: An edited list of features from the publisher marketing includes:

• 28 theological articles by authors such as Tim Keller and Kevin DeYoung; over 60 contributors.
• 20,000 verse-by-verse study notes
• 2,560 pages!
• Hundreds of full-color photos
• Over 90 Maps and over 60 Charts
• Book Introductions
• Cross-references and Concordance
• Single-column, Black Letter


Note: This is a news article. Zondervan didn’t supply a review copy — I already have the original which I traded for the large print I desired — and did not sponsor this blog article.  

Retailers: The graphic which heads the article is proportioned for store Facebook pages.

with files from Thinking Out Loud blog

 

Zondervan Publishing an ESV Edition

The headline for this story is correct: Zondervan is going to release The Jesus Bible in 3 different bindings in the ESV (English Standard Version) translation. The Bible was published originally in the NIV and is a product of Passion, the organization which presents the annual Passion conferences, and whose music adorns the shelves of many bookstores. Additionally, there are special contributions from Louie Giglio, Max Lucado, John Piper, Ravi Zacharias, and Randy Alcorn. In general, ESV Bibles are released through Crossway Publishing.

Clothbound 9780310452201 $44.99 US
Leathersoft 9780310453079  $69.99 US (black)
Leathersoft 9780310453086  $79.99 US (black indexed)

 

Explaining the Translation/Paraphrase Dichotomy of The Message Bible

The Message.Romans.12.1-2 So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

With the passing of Eugene Peterson this week, Michael Frost has written what I feel to be the best overall summary of The Message Bible. He quickly shows us both why it is needed, and what may have given Peterson the idea to creat it. A few short excerpts follow, but first some background personal background from me.

I’ve always resisted people who are dismissive of The Message because “it’s a paraphrase.” I usually point out that first of all, Peterson was a brilliant scholar who worked from original languages. He didn’t just pick up a previous English translation and restate it, as did Ken Taylor with The Living Bible (not to be confused with the NLT, which was the translation-status upgrade of Taylor’s work.)

Second, I will often point out that some linguists have told me they don’t really have the term paraphrase. Anytime you are taking something written for audience “A” and then re-presenting it for audience “B” you are, in fact, translating.

The problem is that for everyone, including me, it was an either/or proposition.

But Frost introduces a new phrase, “rendering the text” which I think really says it best.

…There are many criticisms of The Message, some of them justified. It’s not a reliable translation if that’s what you need. It’s a rendering of the text, an attempt to make the Bible accessible in the common vernacular. But as a doorway into serious Bible reading, it has been a gift to the church. At least that’s how my friend has found it.

In his book on Bible reading, Eat This Book, Eugene Peterson writes about his motivations in writing The Message. He goes so far as to say it’s a form of sacrilege to speak of God in language that is “inflated into balloons of abstraction or diffused into the insubstantiality of lacey gossamer.” …

…Knowing this helps me appreciate The Message for what it is. It’s a protest against arcane and impenetrable religious language. It’s an invitation for ordinary people to enter the Scriptures once again.

…In his 1997 book on spirituality, Leap Over a Wall, he opens by telling us how his mother used to recount Bible stories to him when he was a child. In quite a moving passage, he writes:

My mother was good with words; she was also good with tones. In her storytelling I not only saw whole worlds come into being, I felt them within me through the timbre of her voice.”

Sure, he admits, she took some liberties with the stories, adding extracanonical detail, but “she never violated or distorted the story itself.” …

Here we have our primary clue to reading The Message: it’s like sitting on Uncle Eugene Peterson’s knee and listening to him tell the Bible story…

A rendering of the text.

I need to remember that phrase.

Again, click here to read Michael Frost’s article; and click here to listen to Skye Jethani interview Michael about his new book Keep Christianity Weird on Phil Vischer’s podcast. (Skip to the start of the interview at 30:39.)

…Here’s another phrase to keep in mind if you know someone who is a sharp critic of Peterson’s work: “It wasn’t written for us.” If they persist, just smile and say, “It wasn’t written for you.”


 Image: Bible Gateway blog

You Can’t Sell a Bible Edition You Don’t Respect

Gift and Award Bibles, regardless of translation, have one thing in common: They’re cheaply produced (and they look it.) Fortunately, there are better options.

Thankfully, one of the elements of the Bible publishing industry that seems, from my vantage point at least, to be fading is what is called “Gift and Award Bibles.” Most of the translations on the market have a contract with a publisher to produce these combined Old-and-New Testaments which, like the name implies, are usually given out by churches to visitors or awarded to Sunday School children as prizes.

These Bibles have one factor which unites them all: They’re cheap.

And while a child of 5 or 6 may be honored to receive one, for anyone else, closer examination proves how cheaply they are made. Here’s the way it works:

  1. Newsprint is the cheapest paper available
  2. Newsprint is thicker, meaning the Bible would be “fat” if printed normally
  3. Type-size is therefore reduced to some infinitesimal font size.

So basically, we’re talking about a hard to read Bible printed on cheap paper which fades after a few years.

To be fair, a few companies have tried a better paper stock, but this only resulted in the price going up, defeating their purpose.

I have two observations about these Bibles:

  1. I think that in some respect, these are Bibles churches give away to people that they’re not always sure they’re ever going to see again.
  2. I think that, at least in how it appears in 2018, this genre was developed by people who had little respect for the Bible to begin with.

The only way to avoid giving these away without breaking the church budget was to use pew Bibles (produced in mass quantities and therefore still quite affordable) as giveaway hardcover/textbook editions. But for some reason, people like the appearance of leather when choosing a Bible for giveaway. Also, if your church uses the same Bible edition in the pews, the “gift” can look like you just went into the sanctuary/auditorium and grabbed something off the rack to give away.

The good news is that many churches can afford to do better, and many publishers are now making this possible.

♦ The NLT Bible (Tyndale) introduced some “Premium Value Slimline” editions several years back including both regular print and large print, retailing at $15.99 and $20.99 respectively. (All prices USD.)

♦ Then the NIV (Zondervan) entered the race with their “Value Thinline” editions, again in two sizes at $14.99 and $19.99, with five different covers.

♦ Next, The Message (NavPress) created three “Deluxe Gift” editions in regular print at $15.99.

♦ Then, back to NIV for a minute, Zondervan upped the game by discontinuing their existing editions and replacing them with new ones using their new, much-easier-to-read Comfort Print font. Pricing stayed the same.

♦ Because of their expertise and success with the NIV product, HarperCollins Christian Publishing recently introduced the similar editions in NKJV, using the same Comfort Print font.

♦ Finally, ESV (Crossway) is also in the game, with “Value Thinline” and “Value Compact” editions. I have to be honest here. These are in no way up to the binding standard of the others, and frankly owe more to the old-school, aforementioned Gift and Award Bibles, albeit with better paper stock. The sleeve — from which the Bible is difficult to extract — claims this is “bonded leather” but in my opinion, that’s a stretch. While the others get an A+, I’d give the ESVs a D at best.

These Bibles look like something the church isn’t ashamed to give away, and the recipient is proud to own.

Further, for customers on a budget, there’s nothing stopping these from being purchased individually and becoming someone’s primary Bible.

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.

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.