Some questions seem to come up all the time. Here are the answers:
Q. I'm buying a new Bible. Any advice?
Start by reading "A Guide for Beginners," which distills most of the basics. Then check the list of reviews to see if the Bible you're interested in has been written about here. Be sure to read through the comments, too -- in many cases, they're even more informative than the posts.
Q. Why do I have to pay so much for a quality Bible?
Books -- and therefore Bibles -- are more expensive to make well than they used to be, so publishers have responded with a combination of price increases and cost cutting measures -- using glued bindings rather than sewn, sourcing lower quality paper, etc. Since most readers focus on the content of a book -- and most books are read only once, if that often -- they are willing to save money at the expense of quality. And really, the declining quality of Bibles is only noticed by people who read them often. (I'll leave you to draw conclusions about the lack of hue and cry.)
Since there's less demand for traditional quality, it ends up costing even more. But you have to put this in perspective. Compared to the expense of quality leathergoods -- decent welted-sole shoes, for example -- even the best Bibles are quite competitive. Plus, they'll last a lifetime.
Of course, there are some folks who are outraged at the thought of having to spend more than $20 on God's Word. Fortunately, the synthetic leather editions available at that price point are better than ever.
Q. I want to have my existing Bible rebound. Any advice?
I don't recommend a particular company for rebinding. There are a number of them out there. If you consult the right-hand column on the home page, you'll find links to their sites, where you can do some research. I encourage you to contact them directly with questions. The more you know about what you want, the better they can tell you whether they can deliver it.
If you want to see how other people's projects have turned out, take a look at the Rebinding Projects category on the blog. These posts feature photos and discussion. (If you've had a Bible rebound and would like to share the results with the rest of us, get in touch with me via e-mail.)
The important thing is to have realistic expectations. Your project won't turn out perfect, but the little imperfections that disappoint you at first might be endearing in time.
Q. What's the history behind the Bible Design & Binding Blog?
About fifteen years ago, I decided to design my own edition of the Bible, one that incorporated all the features I could never find anywhere else. I had a background in design, so I figured it would be easy. I was wrong. After a few months of frustrating indecision -- should I use this font or that one, this page size or that one, etc. -- I began to appreciate the challenges involved in creating the "perfect" edition of the Good Book. I realized I couldn't do it alone. Maybe if I wrote about it, getting more people involved, something bigger than me might develop.
I'm an author first and foremost, so I started by posting a few essays to my site jmarkbertrand.com. The response was overwhelming. Thanks to those initial essays, I made some contacts in the industry and struck up friendships with fellow enthusiasts. As a result, my tastes matured. I had a better idea what I was after -- and I realized other people had different ideals. Instead of advocating for one vision over another, I wanted to explore them all.
The Bible Design & Binding Blog emerged in September 2007. I was re-designing my various blogs and decided this subject deserved a home of its own. At the time, I figured there might be a couple dozen people around the world interested in the subject. Turns out there are many more of us than I ever realized!
Q. Where do the Bibles you review come from?
These days, I'm able to request review copies from some publishers, which allows me to cover a lot more ground than I could relying only on my budget. (My wife is grateful.) When I can't get review copies, I go to the piggy bank and see what I find.
By the way, if you're a publisher and you'd like to talk about review copies, check out the Publishers page.
Q. How do you choose which Bibles to review?
I'm drawn to editions that demonstrate quality production and innovative design. By "quality" I mean what some people mistakenly label luxury: sewn bindings, limp covers, good paper. There's no science to the selection process, only passion. I give priority to Bibles I think my audience will appreciate, and those I think the publishing community can learn from. I don't review everything that's suggested to me -- but I'm happy to receive the suggestions.
Q. Do you sell Bibles?
I'm a writer, not a retailer. If you want to buy something you've seen on the site, there is usually a link in the review that will help you out.
Q. If I send you my address, will you give me one of those nice Bibles?
I'm sorry to have to say it, but no. Charity begins at home, as they say, so when I give Bibles away, the recipients tend to be people I know.
Q. I bought a Bible you reviewed, but I don't like it. What should I do?
First off, my apologies. I didn't mean to steer you wrong. There are some things I like that you won't, and some things that might bother you that don't bother me. While the vast majority of people who follow my advice have reported satisfaction, not everyone does. My advice is always that you provide feedback to publishers and sellers directly. Give them an opportunity to make you happy.
Q. Can I send you photos of my Bible?
Absolutely. Send them via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. The best photos are taken in natural sunlight with a solid, contrasting background. Bibles are tricky to photograph, especially black ones, but if you avoid using the flash and take pains to focus, you should get good results. Sometimes I post photos right away, and sometimes I hold onto them for awhile, so be patient. And when I do post your project, feel free to jump in on the comments and field questions.
Q. What's your favorite edition of the Bible? What's your favorite translation?
My favorite is the one I daydream about in my head. If I could name a perfect edition, I'd probably spend all my time writing about that one. Since I can't, I write about everything. But it's no secret I'm partial to the good stuff -- high end Bibles from R. L. Allan's and Cambridge, for example. I like goatskin covers a lot.
When it comes to translations, I subscribe to St. Augustine's advice. He said the way to understand the Bible if you don't read the original languages is to compare translations. Some people lament the proliferation of translations in English these days, but I see it as a blessing. As a practical matter, I typically refer to the English Standard Version when writing and teaching. I like the fact that it's on the literal side and appreciate its location in the Authorized Version tradition. Still, no translation is perfect, so I make use of both literal and dynamic versions, everything from the NRSV to the REB, the NASB to the NLT. I've even been known to dip into The Message.
Since the purpose of the Bible Design & Binding Blog is design and binding, I don't get into translation debates here. If you're interested in discussing translation issues, there are many great places to do it where the writers are much better equipped than I am to enlighten.
Q. Isn't it frivolous to talk about the design of Bibles instead of the content?
You'll get no argument from me. It's much better to read a Bible that falls apart after a year of use than to own a finely-made edition that sits on the shelf, nothing more than an objet d'art. To be honest, though, when people make snide remarks about the superficial focus of the blog, as they occasionally do, I'm inclined to point out that a discussion like this isn't any more frivolous than just about every discussion taking place online. With so many English translations of the Bible in print, and so much substantial agreement between them, is it frivolous to discuss the instances where they differ? Not if translation is your passion. The same is true for design. It's not the most urgent issue in the world, but that's just fine. I wouldn't enjoy conversation very much if we were only permitted to shout.
And consider this: while design might seem invisible, it has a major impact on the way readers experience the text. I discovered this firsthand by reformatting the text of the KJV for college-age students. When the words looked right, they were much easier to understand than before. Good design can enhance a good translation, and improve a poor one.
Q. How can I support the site?
The best way to support the site is to participate. You can't donate money or anything like that, but if you want to do more, one thing I'd appreciate is if you'd buy a copy of my book Rethinking Worldview: Learning to Think, Live, and Speak in This World (Crossway, 2007). If you're in ministry, you might consider using it as a textbook, too. It's received glowing endorsements and wonderful reviews, so you might actually enjoy it!
Q. Do you read the comments? Do you moderate them?
I read every comment that's made to the blog, but I confess I read some more closely than others. (Don't we all?) If you have a question for me and you'd really like an answer, your best bet is to e-mail me. I may miss the question if it's embedded in the comments. But please know that I do keep track of the conversation and enjoy all the feedback.
The comments on the blog are not moderated. I can't vouch for the accuracy of all the information you'll find there, or police all the personalities. If you think I'm an idiot and you say so in the comments, your remarks won't mysteriously disappear. If anything, I'll share them with my wife, who will commiserate with you. But please, be kind to one another.
Q. I sent you an e-mail and never heard back. What gives?
Unfortunately, the site generates such a volume of e-mail that I'm no longer able to respond to each one. I do what I can. I tell myself that one day I'll catch up again. To increase your chances, it's a good idea to take a look at what's already on the site. If you write to ask my opinion of an edition I've already reviewed, please see the published remarks. If you write to ask a question I've already answered on the site, either in a post or in the FAQ, please use the search feature first.
Q. What are you trying to accomplish with this site?
The site isn't for advocacy. It exists to share my love of good design and quality binding. Naturally I want to see more of both, and so I'm grateful for any influence the blog might have. But this is first and foremost a labor of love, and if it helps foster more appreciation for the physical form of the Bible, and books in general, I will be more than satisfied.