Purple Goatskin, No Numbers, Hipsters, and Writing in Your Bible

And I’m back. Sort of. At least I will be back next week, with some interesting Bibles to talk about from Schuyler, Cambridge, and R. L. Allan. I also have some thoughts to share on reader-friendly editions. In the meantime, here are a few items to check out.

Tired of living in a world where there are no purple goatskin reference ESVs? Be of good cheer. Pre-orders are now being taken for the limited edition R. L. Allan New Classic Reader in purple Highland goatskin. This first edition, stamped accordingly, will only number 75 copies, which should ship in November. Given the limited quantity, I’m not likely to get my hands on a review copy, but if you’re curious about this edition, check out the review of this Bible bound in blue which I posted in June.

If you missed it earlier, Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra’s piece for Christianity Today on Bibliotheca and reader-friendly Bibles is worth checking out: The Book of No Numbers: Deleting some stuff from the Bible can be profitable — and okay.” I enjoyed talking to Sarah for the piece, and hope it helps bring more attention to the idea of Bibles designed for reading.

Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but satire is a close second. Enter Biblica Hipsteria. Equating reader-friendly design with hipsterdom would make me sad if the project hadn’t gone viral, but then I’m typing this on a MacBook Air as I gaze at the screen through tortoiseshell glasses. And I came really close to wearing a bow tie today.

Finally, I’m in love with this post from the Crossway blog circa mid-August: “What Do I Use to Write in My Bible?”  They tested four different writing instruments on a Single Column Heritage ESV to see what worked best, and posted photos to demonstrate. The Pigma Micron did well, as expected, but I’m leaning more and more to pencil as the best option.

Lessons from Bibliotheca, and More Thoughts on the ESV Reader’s Bible

The funding campaign is over and Bibliotheca has raised in excess of $1.4 million. While success on this scale always brings out detractors, I’ve been impressed how widely Adam Lewis Greene’s effort has been appreciated. While the idea of designing Bibles for reading rather than reference isn’t new, this is the first time in awhile that a Bible publishing project has connected with the wider world on the basis of its design choices first and foremost.

If you missed the Kickstarter, there’s still a window for ordering Bibliotheca. Check out the details on Adam’s new site, Bibliotheca.co.

There are lessons to be learned from the experience, and not just for publishers. Michael Hyatt has summed up four of the big ones, quoting some remarks of mine along the way: “What the Success of Bibliotheca Tells Us About the Future of Publishing.”

So what should you do while you’re waiting for Bibliotheca to ship? How about giving the ESV Reader’s Bible a try. Similar in concept to Bibliotheca, the ESV Reader’s Bible is available now, and for a very affordable price. You’ll experience the benefits of a reader-friendly format for yourself. Here are some links to my pieces on the ESV Reader’s Bible

The Original Review: The ESV Reader’s Bible

A Video Introduction to the ESV Reader’s Bible

ESV Reader’s Bible: Some Notes on Daily Use

My own experiences with the ESV Reader’s Bible have been echoed by many others, including this piece by John Sherrod, who shares his first impressions after he and his wife gave the new format a try: “The ESV Reader’s Bible: First Impressions.” If any of you have shared your own impressions online, feel free to post a link in the comments. 

Bibliotheca Reaches Its $1 Million Stretch Goal

“Finishing strong” turns out to be the understatement of the year. As of this morning, with two days left on the clock, the Bibliotheca funding campaign on Kickstarter has already reached its $1 million stretch goal, which means a fifth volume containing the English Revised Version Apocrypha will be added to every set, along with slipcases (see the details here). If you haven’t backed the project yet, there’s still time … and you’ll be in good company. More than 10,000 people have signed on, an incredible number that testifies to the appeal of this beautifully designed, reader-friendly Bible.

Congratulations to Adam Lewis Greene for the breakout success of this labor of love. I can’t wait to see how Bibliotheca turns out!

Bibliotheca’s Fundraising Campaign Is Finishing Strong

Bibliotheca could even break the $400,000 mark,” I said to the journalist on the other end of the line. “It already has,” she replied, clicking the keys. That was yesterday. This morning Adam Lewis Greene’s four-volume, reader-friendly edition of the Bible has passed the half million dollar mark and doesn’t show signs of slacking off. The project has gone viral, too, making a popular appearance at The Verge. The Bible Gateway blog has done a good in-depth interview with Adam, too. There’s no question now: the idea of an uncluttered, readable Bible resonates with a lot of people.

If you want to know more about Bibliotheca, here are my earlier posts on the topic:

My initial post about Bibliotheca

My interview with Adam Lewis Greene: Part 1

My interview with Adam Lewis Greene: Part 2

My thoughts on Bibliotheca, the ESV Reader’s Bible, and the future of printed Bibles.

Reader-friendly Bibles aren’t a new idea. Every so often a publisher makes the attempt (going back to the original release of the New English Bible and before), yet today the concept seems to be gaining momentum in a way it never has before. I’m not sure we can articulate a list of characteristics yet that make an edition a Reader’s Bible; the defining trait at this point seems to be removing verse numbers from the text. Bibliotheca does this, as does the ESV Reader’s Bible. So does The Books of the Bible, which I reviewed back in 2007.

Christopher Smith compares the features of Bibliotheca and the ESV Reader’s Bible to The Books of the Bible, which offers the NIV in a reader-friendly format (now available in a single volume or a four-volume set). The Books of the Bible goes farther than any other edition I’m aware of in rearranging the text to follow natural literary divisions rather than traditional chapter and verse, and Smith does a great job articulating the reasons behind these choices. He shares my optimism about the future of reader-friendly editions, too.

All the attention on reader-friendly Bibles has led to some interesting thoughts about what our experience with Scripture is meant to be. For example, I’m intrigued by Paul Sutton’s post about reading the Bible aloud. When I praise this emerging category of Bibles for offering a “less mediated” read, I’m not suggesting this marks a return to the original reading experience. Rather, I love reader-friendly Bibles because they improve the experience for today’s audience. I believe this is true whether we’re reading silently to ourselves or reading aloud to a group (or, as I’ve been known to do, reading aloud to ourselves). Whenever I design a text for out-loud reading in church, I format it the way a reader’s edition would be formatted: removing chapter and verse, presenting the text in a manner that is natural for reading. The importance of hearing Scripture read aloud can’t be stressed too much, and I believe the new generation of reader’s editions will make that practice smoother.

As the Bibliotheca campaign draws to a close this Sunday, I’ll be rooting for it not only as an early backer but as someone who sees the success of Adam’s project as a new chapter in the long journey to make reader’s Bibles a viable alternative to sit side-by-side with the ubiquitous reference editions. This project has introduced a host of people to the design problems of the Bible who’ve never thought about the subject before, and more importantly, should result in a beautiful edition of the Bible which will serve as a lifelong companion to many people, and an inspiration for future publishing endeavors.

Are reader-friendly Bibles just marketing hype?

I’d like to highlight a comment from earlier today, because Steve Atherton’s experience with the ESV Reader’s Bible echoes my own:

“I have had a few days now to read my copy of the ESV Reader’s Bible and it has been an amazing experience. I was hesitant at first since the ESV isn’t my preferred translation but I’ve been surprised how the format somehow lends itself to an appreciation of the translation. Due to the format, I find myself reading longer than my reading plan calls for in a given day. I appreciate the lack of distractions such as verse numbers, references and footnotes. I have the cloth over board edition and it is crafted very well given the price. This edition has given me a new appreciation for hard back Bibles.”

Someone on the Bible Design Blog fan page on Facebook suggested a couple of days ago that the idea of a “reader-friendly” Bible is just marketing hype, because he’d never had any difficulty personally reading the traditional reference layouts. Though well intended this view — which is certainly not unique to one individual — ignores the fact that, well, readability is a thing. The fact that you can manage just fine doesn’t mean the experience is optimal. Reader-friendly design attempts to create an optimal, not passible, reading experience, like the one Steve describes above.

Most of us understand the impact of design choices on readability when it comes to type size. No one would seriously argue that 6-point type is just as easy to read as 12-point type. Personally, I can read 6-point type. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t prefer the print to be larger. Unfortunately, until you experience the difference, most of us are unaware of the other ways design influences reading habits. Even those of us who are can be surprised by the difference good design makes.

Take me, for instance. If you’d told me before I left home in early June with only the ESV Reader’s Bible (supplemented by the Pocket NT and the Psalms) that I would find myself reading much more, and much longer passages than I had with either my Clarion or my Legacy, I would have been skeptical. In the Legacy’s case, the paper is better, the type larger … the only difference is that the ESV Reader’s Bible is smaller in size and doesn’t have verse numbers. Yet, like Steve, I’ve found myself getting sucked into the reader, coming up for air much later than expected. Is that solely the result of design? I don’t really know. But the design certainly plays a role.

Think of it this way. If you were the designer and someone gave you the task of formatting the Bible’s text for reading, what intentional choices would you make? Would you end up with something closer to the “traditional formatting,” or would you model your choices on other texts intended for deep reading? The odds are, even if the apparatus doesn’t distract you anymore, if you were starting from scratch with the goal of readability, you’d design something similar to a Reader’s Bible.

The Perfect Format

Are reader-friendly Bibles just marketing hype?

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

I’d like to highlight a comment from earlier today, because Steve Atherton’s experience with the ESV Reader’s Bible echoes my own: “I have had a few days now…

Bibliotheca, the ESV Reader’s Bible, and the Future of Printed Bibles

Monday, July 7, 2014

The release of the ESV Reader’s Bible and the launch of Bibliotheca have made the past couple of weeks rather exciting for those of us eager for well-designed,…

Interview with Bibliotheca’s Adam Lewis Greene: Part 2

Saturday, July 5, 2014

This is the second part of my interview with Bibliotheca’s Adam Lewis Greene. If you haven’t read Part 1, start here. Last time we talked about the origins…

Interview with Bibliotheca’s Adam Lewis Greene: Part 1

Friday, July 4, 2014

Bibliotheca is taking Kickstarter by storm. Adam Lewis Greene’s four volume edition of the Bible hit its $37,000 funding goal in just over twenty-four hours, and has now…