Why I Haven't Given Up on Bibliotheca

It’s the beginning of 2016 and Bibliotheca, the Kickstarter project that took the world of Bible publishing by storm over the summer of 2014, raising nearly $1.5 million dollars to print a multi-volume, readable edition of the American Standard Version, still hasn’t delivered the goods. The culprit seems to be mission creep: all the design and printing choices have been made, and now we’re waiting on a revision of the ASV that wasn’t part of the original pitch. This has caused a lot of frustration — a lot of us backed the project in spite of its use of the ASV, not because of it — and a number of my friends have gone so far as to request refunds. Since I backed Bibliotheca on Day 1 and wrote about it extensively for Bible Design Blog (you can see my coverage here), I get polite e-mails on a regular basis asking whether I’ve given up on ever seeing the end result. And I get a few not-so-polite ones suggesting there is egg on my face for promoting Bibliotheca to my readers. The fact is, I haven’t given up on Bibliotheca, and I want you to know why. First, I need to clarify a few things. I don’t have any insider information about the state of the project. All I know is what has been released to the public. Although I was in touch with Adam Greene during the fundraiser, I have not heard a thing from him since it ended. I’m in the same boat as the project’s other backers. If I’m not giving up, it isn’t because I know something you don’t. It’s because I’m putting a different interpretation on the knowledge we have in common. Fair enough?

So here are the six reasons I haven’t given up on Bibliotheca:

1. I haven’t given up on Bibliotheca because, where Kickstarter projects are concerned, late deliveries are the norm. Of the four projects I backed in 2014, none of them delivered by the deadline. The earliest arrival hit my doorstep six months late. None of them, when they finally showed up, was a disappointment. Now Bibliotheca is the last one I’m waiting on, and they’re currently talking as if the set will be in our hands by mid-year.

2. I haven’t given up on Bibliotheca because mission creep isn’t always the kiss of death. I hate mission creep. If Adam had asked me, I would have told him the most important thing following his unprecedented success was to deliver what was promised in the time it was promised. Use the leftover funds to pursue bigger projects in the future. Instead he started thinking about how to upgrade every aspect of Bibliotheca, and then made the decision to abandon the light update to the ASV originally pitched to backers in favor of a deeper revision. The thing is, mission creep of this nature, while it delays the end result, also improves it. And some of the best results in history can be attributed to mission creep (see the Emancipation Proclamation).

3. I haven’t given up on Bibliotheca because Adam Greene seems intensely committed, and that makes a difference. Some of the disillusionment with Bibliotheca stems from the belief that his huge success led Adam to take his eye off the ball. I’ve even seen some people online speculating that Bibliotheca would never ship and Adam would take the money and run. I don’t understand this, frankly. The reason for the delays strike me as the result of the fact that, for Adam, this is a life goal, an obsession. I’m sure there were people telling the Pope that the Sistine Chapel would never be finished and Michelangelo would disappear with the money and sun himself on the Lido. Meanwhile the maestro was wiping paint from his eyes and saying, “It’ll be finished when it’s finished.”

4. I haven’t given up on Bibliotheca because, obviously, I’m still in love with the concept. You’re talking to a guy whose life work centers on making the Bible readable. If the original pitch had included the caveat that Bibliotheca wouldn’t ship until this summer, I still would have backed it.

5. I haven’t given up on Bibliotheca because its influence has been positive. Call it self interest, but I’d been blogging about readable Bible design for seven years by the summer of 2014, and I’ve now had more conversations with people in publishing about making my own dream edition a reality than in all that time. Way more. And Crossway recently announced the release of their own multi-volume Reader’s Bible coming in October of this year, which means you can have a Bibliotheca-style edition in a translation you’re more likely to use.

6. Finally, I haven’t given up on Bibliotheca because I’m actually looking forward to discovering how Adam’s revised ASV will turn out. When the project passed the $1 million mark, I remember people saying that this would give Adam the change to license an in-demand translation, the assumption being that he’d settled on the ASV because it was royalty-free. Based on the way he talked about the translation, though, I figured that was unlikely. While I am not nearly as excited about the American Standard Version as he is, I can relate to the impulse that led Adam to love it and want to reintroduce it to the world. And if the result ends up finding favor, the extra investment made in creating the revision could make a kind of sense: Adam could license it, or release new editions in different formats.

Those are all the reasons I haven’t given up on Bibliotheca. It’s not that I’m not frustrated, it’s just that the frustrations seem understandable to me, and haven’t blunted my desire to see the books on my shelf. If you feel differently, no problem. My goal isn’t to convince anyone to see things my way, just to explain why I feel the way I do. Whether you backed the project or not, the good news is, we can expect more reader-friendly editions of the Bible in the future. While they may never supersede the classic reference format, I have hopes that at long last readable Bibles, which have come and gone over the years, will carve out a sustainable niche.