So You Want to Publish a Bible?

A reader named Adam posed this question recently:

“I am looking at publishing an edition of the Bible that will likely be 3,000+ pages. Do you know of any self-publishing options for that? I can’t afford normal publishers with a minimum order of 1,000 copies.”

We live in the age of digital short-run printing, after all, so a one-off custom edition doesn’t seem like such a stretch. Even so, the answer to the question as far as I can tell is: there is nowhere you can turn for a custom one-off Bible. That’s because, even though it’s easy to self-publish a book these days, the technology that makes it so easy doesn’t handle the super-thin specialty papers used in Bible printing. 

But suppose you’re looking to publish a small edition for sale? Like Adam, you don’t want to pay a publisher to run 1,000 copies. Isn’t there an easier way to get the ball rolling? A lot of people who never dreamed of becoming publishers ten years ago are getting into the racket now. It’s just so easy! Upload your PDF and wait by the mailbox until, lo and behold, physical books arrive. Authors are publishing their own books, people are starting small magazines left and right. Can’t we do the same thing with the Bible?

The problem for would-be boutique publishers is the same as for those of us dreaming of one-off customs: none of the digital print houses output on thin Bible paper. (At least, they didn’t last time I checked. If I’m overlooking somebody, please let me know.) Your 3,000 page book is going to be an absolute brick, assuming the printer can handle it at all. The best solution for those of you with the publishing itch is to publish an edition in portions. (See Chad Whitacre’s The Gospels as an example.) This cuts down your page count and makes your project manageable for digital printing.

There is a second option. You want professional results but you can’t afford to pay for them? Here’s the answer: do some fundraising. Get a quote from a good designer, have some sample page spreads made. Take them to a printer who specialized in Bibles, choose your specs, and see how much it will cost. Then pitch your project and raise some money. Technology has revolutionized fundraising as much as it has publishing (see Kickstarter). You never know what will happen.

As any working designer will tell you, it’s much easier to raise the money to do the job right than to figure out a way of getting the job done right without a budget.

 

41 Comments on “So You Want to Publish a Bible?

  1. Bertrand. If you were to crowd-fund your dream Bible, I would almost definately back it. Just sayin’.

      • Mark
        I am looking to print Bibles also, I would like to give them away in the thousands to spread his word.How has your project come along? Can you give me any advice?
        Thanks
        Chad

        • Hello Chad,
          Congrats on your laudable intention.
          The Good Lord will enable you see it come to pass.
          You can print cheapest in China and please target recipients properly, so it does’t go to those who already have.
          All the best.

          • How does one go about getting Bibles printed in China?

  2. Of course, if he wants to publish one of the standard translations (aside from the KJV), there will be copyright issues, I imagine.

  3. The only one I’d want to publish is the King James Bible — I’ll have to look in to this, and see if there’s a market for a KJB, either text-only or reference (or both) that meets every criterion I have — none out there do, even in the text block alone. (Traditional 1769 recension or something in the mainstream of Cambridge’s KJB textual-transmission tradition, italics; paragraphs, running heads, original chapter summaries, single-column [preferably], translator’s notes and clarification of old words at the minimum in the margin; cross-references [preferably], variety of bindings calfskin and better, yapp, etc.etc.)

    Many editions come close — the Westminster has it all except for paragraphs and variety of bindings; the Clarion has it all except for the running heads and chapter summaries; the Norton Critical has it all[1] except for italics, running heads, and bindings (chapter summaries are in the notes, but not the translators’ originals), and much more not in the original — so on and so forth.

    [1]…and then some, being also extremely heavy, unwieldy, and with a glut of the most heinously anti-Christian, anti-theistic higher-critical notes possible — even where the theories espoused, such as “tehom” = “tiamat” (first page), have been thoroughly refuted, but also has a degree of included documents (in the NT vol., for example, the entire range of Jewish and pagan testimonies to Jesus are included, several false gospels, half the Nag Hammadi library, along with several hundred pages of interpreters throughout the ages in their own words — and study helps that no other Bible I have seen — not even MacArthur’s or the ESV — can yet rival in either inclusiveness or in formatting, notwithstanding the doctrinal error and bent of the notes (but even MacArthur has the problem of dispensationalism in his notes, which is admittedly less of a problem than the apostasy of the Norton Critical), although the glut truly begins to approach an “embarrassment of riches” — too much information to be easily used. Of course the Library of Congress has every thing in it necessary to undertake a detailed study of the doctrine of justification: good luck getting at what you need, though.

  4. Ah, not to mention decent paper, typeface, weight, leading, font-size, characters-per-line, and form factor –. I was focussed almost exclusively on actual textual characteristics above, whereas I have another list of criteria just as stringent for the details of presentation.

  5. I’d support a crowd-funding effort, but only if someone makes exactly what I want! Therein lies the rub, because everybody else is only interested in what they themselves want!

    Me: KJV, paragraphed, traditional version of the text (not cambridge paragraph bible), no obnoxious italics, no verse markings, no footnotes, nothing in the margins, just text, nicely laid out, on good paper, and bound nicely. (Actually, thanks to this blog, I already have one, the mardersteig new testament, but if anyone wants to crowdfund another one, count me in!)

    • I hear what you’re saying, but a crowd-fund effort could be successful without ticking every box. If people only bought their “ideal” editions, the publishers would go out of business tomorrow. A well-designed Bible to be executed with quality would attract considerable interest even from people whose idea of a perfect Bible is too particular ever to be realized.

      • So list your specs already. Let us commit to a crowd-fund. I’ll bet Allan and others would be listening. A Bertrand Edition is long overdue!

        • It’s tempting, Kyle, but if I list my specs someone with more drive will come along and do it without me. 🙂 The Bertrand Bible (terrible name ) would progress under wraps until I knew it was going to happen. That’s the appeal of the Deus ex machina benefactor I mentioned before. It’s something I’d love to do, though, assuming I could do it right.

          • Actually, a ‘J. Mark Bertrand’ signature Bible would be the new name in Bible quality. Like the James Beard award.

      • I totally understand that people will buy things that they do not consider their perfect ideal, and I do think this is a great time to be a consumer because we have a lot of choices. But I guess the appeal of this self-publishing idea is the dream that you can make *the* perfect edition. The problem with luxury Bibles is that there are so many variables that everyone feels so strongly about but which don’t have a clear consensus “best” choice. So even though the available editions are myriad, most of us (who are probably unhealthily nit-picky and critical) can’t get what we really really want.

        I guess an interesting follow-up question is, if someone wants to crowd-fund their niche ideal Bible, how many copies would they have to produce to make an edition that is competitive in terms of both quality and price with the likes of Allan and Cambridge?

  6. Its the year 2014, and we can print three dimensional objects, but we can’t print on thin Bible paper?!

    More evidence of how bad things are out there…

  7. If I were to do a one-off of my ideal Bible, I would really only need the text block. There are plenty of great places to get it bound.

  8. Wait, was this the same Adam who went on to Kickstart the Bibliotheca project? How cool is that!

  9. Some time ago, I experimented with printing on thin paper (60g/m2, I also have 40g/m2 but haven’t tried it) on a standard printer with the idea to give the printed sheets to a binder, where the main issues are opacity and to find a capable printer or to modify one that it can grab each individual sheet and doesn’t mess it up in the process. I fear that the result might not satisfy your expectations regarding quality, the other consideration is to use smaller font sizes and a dense layout to fit the whole text onto the maximum amount of pages print-on-demand services support, but this approach of course would reduce readability.

  10. This is both interesting and inspiring.
    I have been nursing having a rich or different King James Version with helpful additions to make it more interesting to read.
    Where can I get help with a step-by-step guide from start to finish?
    Thanks

      • Thanks for asking.
        I got a link to download the PDF of (PCE of KJV) Pure Cambridge Edition of the KJV.
        I live in Nigeria. Any assistance or pointer would be highly appreciated.
        More blessings,
        Chaplain,
        Fabian C. Eni

  11. Well, I mostly work on generating PDFs, but a quick search suggested that Amazon CreateSpace is available for Nigeria, too, while shipping costs might be extraordinary high. Do you want to give it a try? There might also be local print-on-demand service providers, at least I found some articles about them. If you favor one or more provider(s), we may try to look into setting up a project.

    • Hi Skreuter, I favor the PDF of the Pure Cambridge Edition, (PCE) which I have access to in different ppint sizes.
      The challenge now is coming up with creative add-ons that would stand the Bible out from what is already in the market.
      I have several options and that has left me confused.
      Can you make some suggestions at this point?
      While contemplating on that, what project offer do ypu have in mind?
      As for the Amazon option, shipping cost is prohibitive.
      I’d prefer using China or India.
      What do you think?
      Shalom.
      Can I call you on the phone?

  12. please, i have a table of content style that can be incorporated to any version of the bible for easier location of the book of the bible, but I don’t know how to implement this idea all by my self. I need help, like suggestions on what to do. Thanks.

  13. Fabian, I think we can fuse ideas to put up a novel bible different from what is obtainable on the shelf today. What do you say?

  14. Fabian, I think we can fuse ideas to put up a novel bible different from what is obtainable on the shelf today. What do you say?

  15. That’s a possibility.
    There are these random questions popping up in my mind.
    What additions would this propossed Novel Bible bring to the market?
    Would it make reading the Bible more attractive and interesting to the masses?
    What will happen to the Message of the Holy Bible, will it be watered down on any way?
    Let me know your mind.
    I’m interested and willing to work with anyone, so far the end is to save more souls through the Bible.
    Shslom,
    Fabian.

  16. Fabian thanks for your comment. I understand the random questions revolving through your mind. But my simple proposition will not in anyway alter or water down a single content in the bible. Its just an “easy-to-assess” add-on feature that will aid new believers/old ones in navigating through the bible during personal study or church meeting. Its just a simple idea that I believe will revolutionize bible packaging.

    • I believe in your conviction that it will fly.
      What next?

      • I have believed for over a year now, its working the believe that’s next.
        The first step will be to know about each other and then what we will be bringing to the table.
        This is my email: yusufu2@yahoo.co.uk. We should continue our discussions there. God bless.

  17. Hi Skreuter ,please Fabian talked to me about you, please how to I contact you privately.

  18. Can I republish the KJV of 1611 or the KJV? After much research, no longer going to republish the NIV, wow scary how NIV has been manipulated.

  19. I would like to publish the 1560 Geneva Bible (with the notes and apocrypha) in modern print. I would like a word for word copy. If anyone knows someone that can do this please email me. Thanks.

  20. Who owns the copyright to The Marked Bible By J. Gilchrist Lawson, 1928; with Chain Reference?

  21. I know that I am extremely late on this post, but I am interested in this and am mostly worried about copyright and printing rights. How does this work for something like the bible? Would you have to pay royalties or an up-front licensing fee?

    Any help would be so greatly appreciated. Thank you!!

    • I’ve worked on a project like this before, and simply sent an email to the Lockman Foundation (NASB), and asked for permission to print less than ten copies. They emailed back within two or three weeks and granted my request.

  22. Pingback: Could Stoics Print a Bible? – Euthyphroria

  23. Does anyone have any update on how to go about publishing a Study Bible at the most reasonable price? We are putting together notes on specific scriptures by a man who was clinically dead for 1 hour and 45 minutes (no heart rate – all verified by medical doctors within the United States). This man went to heaven, and God revealed many things to him about His Word. This man’s story doesn’t prove that the Bible is true, but the Bible proves that his story is true. This will be a valuable teaching tool as well as a very unique Study Bible, but we are looking for choices of companies that can produce this at a reasonable price with very thin paper. Any advice or help this project will be greatly appreciated.

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