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.

17 Comments on “Bibliotheca’s Fundraising Campaign Is Finishing Strong

  1. If this project doesn’t capture the attention of the large Bible Publishers then nothing will. After monitoring the Bibliotheca’s sales last night online I posted a reference on Facebook about how successful this project has been. After waking up this morning I checked the Bibliotheca site and realized it had gained over $95,000 in sales in about 13 hours. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Bibliotheca Project hits the $750,000 mark. Adam might want to consider starting his own publishing company after this.

  2. As a roman catholic I’m afraid there might never be a catholic reader-friendly bible, as catholic bibles have to have the notes. Well, I guess the Bishop’s Conference might make an exception for those bibles where they hold the copyright.

    • Javier, can you expand on this? Admittedly, I don’t know as much about Catholicism as I’d like, but I’d never heard this. Is there a specific set of study notes (e.g. those from the Jerusalem Bible) that are expected to be present in every Catholic Bible? That would surprise me.

      • Kaleb,
        I’m in no way an specialist on the subject, but I understand that for a Catholic Bible the translation and its notes constitute a single unity. The NABRE has its notes, and you cannot take the text and publish it with different notes -or without them- just like that (catholic bibles always have notes, because the Church is suppossed to teach through them, and the authorization to publish a given translation includes them). It can be done, though. I’m a native spanish speaker, and there are instances of the same translation having been published with different sets of notes, like for example the “Biblia del Peregrino” and the “Biblia de Nuestro Pueblo” (they share the same translation, but not the notes). But I’m pretty sure that changing the notes required the express authorization by the copyright holder. And the new notes needed express authorization by some bishop to be published. And doing away with them, for a project like Bibliotheca, would probably require that sort of authorization too.

        • I know less than you, Javier, about Catholic bibles and the need for footnote reproduction, but I don’t think the problem you present is all that unique. A third-party would have to go through similar hoops with protestant translation owners (Crossway, Zondervan, etc.) to edit and publish a modern translation with or without footnotes. But there are older catholic translations that are out of copyright that could be used without notes like the Douay-Rheims.

          • Stephen, I think the need for a formal ecclesiastical authorization to be printed would still remain (what in the old days was known as Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur) even for catholic bibles in the public domain, whenever changes -like deleting the notes- are made to them. At least if the publisher aspires for that bible to be an “official” catholic bible, one that could be openly used at RCIA, catechesis, etc.. I think that is the problem faced by several evangelical/protestant translations that include the Apocrypha/Deuterocanon: they have the same books as any catholic bible. But not having received formal church approval, their “official” use in the catholic church has to remain limited. (Of course, anyone could do a Bibliotheca using the Douay-Rheims without notes. And it might even prove to be very successful among catholics. It just wouldn’t be “official”, so to speak).

  3. It’s great that this project has been so wildly successful, and I hope it has an impact on the more traditional Bible publishers. I don’t have enough perspective on the Bible publishing industry, though, to gauge what Bibliotheca’s success actually means. When one of the major niche Bible publishers green-lights a new edition, what kind of sales are they expecting? As of my writing this, Bibliotheca has close to 7,000 backers. If Allan or Schuyler or Crossway brought out an new edition that sold 7,000 copies would they view that as a success or a failure? I don’t have a clue. I feel like we need this data to have a meaningful discussion about impact. Does anyone know?

    • While I don’t know about specific numbers, I know that any numbers at all would be even more impressive coming from a kickstarted campaign than from a professionally-backed publisher with proper advertising and industry connections and so on.

      • I totally understand that a kickstarter campaign is a different kind of thing than a professional publisher, but I still think it would be useful to have some real data. I’d like to describe Bibliotheca as a game-changer, a paradigm-shifter, all that kind of stuff, but I don’t know whether it really is. Are 10,000 customers considered a reasonably large population of Bible buyers, or is it incredibly niche?

        • For high quality Bibles, it’s a huge number, a success five to ten times over. When you consider this is happening to a Bible whose translation has no built-in following, that multiplies things. I think it’s a game changer in the sense that more publishers may follow Crossway’s example and get into the reader Bible market, which would solidify the genre and give it some staying power.

  4. The total is just shy of $800K right now. Amazing. Thanks for the coverage of this worthy project. I can’t wait to get my set.

    • With the explosive growth of the project over the past few days, the $1 million stretch goal could be in reach. Quite amazing, and a strong indicator of how much the reader-friendly concept resonates when it’s communicated well.

      • Mark,

        I’m looking forward to getting the Apocrypha and reading it as non-canon literature (never read it before) if the project hits $1 million. I was wonder what your thoughts were on it’s inclusion.

  5. Seems to me the success is not only down to removing verse numbers etc, but significantly to the elegance and quality of the design. Bibles are rarely offered in such aesthetically pleasing materials, or in such elegant setting. I tend to see the market either defaulting to trashy or to old-school-leather-upmanship (which has it’s own different merits). This is a breath of fresh air.

  6. Bibliotheca just passed $1 Million. There is a hunger out there accessible, personal presentations of the Word of God.

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