Are Reader’s Bibles (Finally) Here To Stay?

Are Reader’s Bibles (Finally) Here To Stay?

Now that the ESV Reader's Bible, Six-Volume Set is here and Bibliotheca is promised by the end of the year, the question I've been asked is, "Are reader-friendly Bibles are here to stay?" The concept isn't new, of course. Even multi-volume, slipcased editions of Scripture have been released before. They came, they saw, they faded away. What makes this moment in time any different?

Two Reading Recommendations

Over the summer, Comment published an issue dedicated to technology, and they invited me to chip in with some thoughts on how emerging e-book tech might be reshaping our expectations for printed Bibles. The result -- "Are Bible Apps Destined to Purify the Printed Word?" -- makes the case for why beautifully-designed  printed Bibles like the ESV Reader's Bible, Six-Volume Set might owe a debt to the proliferation of Scripture apps on our phones:

"The fulfillment of the hypertext dream by digital Bibles has cleared the way for printed Bibles to pursue other ends. The most exciting reinvention of the printed Scriptures is the so-called reader's Bible, a print edition designed from the ground up not as a reference work but as a book for deep, immersive reading."

Some of the same thoughts came up in an interview I did for 2K/Stories not long ago. Johs Krejberg Haahr asked all sorts of interesting questions, but given 2K/Denmark's passion for good design, it's not surprising we spent a lot of time on Bibles and readability:

"Reading from a study or reference edition can sometimes feel like watching a movie for the first time with the cast-and-crew commentary turned on. The information is helpful, yes, but it can sure get in the way of the film. I can understand the desire to pack a Bible full of extras. The challenge of designing such a text can be exhilarating. But the easiest way to prevent all the features from getting in the way of Scripture is not to design around them. It is to cut the features. An unmediated — or at least, minimally mediated — design might have just one feature: readability. But that’s a pretty good feature to have."

Obviously, readability has always been one of the things people want out of a Bible. My unscientific hunch, though, is that the more we've come to rely on software (and especially apps) for all the other features, the more open we become to letting printed Bibles focus on the thing they still do best.

Two Listening Recommendations

I don't know about you, but I love podcasts. One of these days, I'd like to create a Bible design podcast. In the meantime, it's always a blast to be featured on other people's shows. I have been talking about Scripture, good design, and all sorts of other stuff. Here's a chance to check those conversations out:

The Reformation Roundtable, Episode 9: Interview with BibleDesignBlog.com Mike and Scott picked my brain about all sorts of things, from quality Bibles to theology. They're avid readers, and love talking about my favorite topic: books.

The Red Letters Dialogues: A Primer on Well-Crafted Bibles – Interview with J. Mark Bertrand of Bible Design Blog Jio seems to hate badly-made books as much as I do -- maybe more. He asked a lot of great questions, and hopefully I held up my end of the conversation.

The photo above, by the way, depicts a King James Version published in the 1930s by the Limited Edition Club. I found the Old Testament set in a used bookstore a few years ago. The layout is beautiful, the margins plentiful, and the volumes themselves are nicely made. My wish is that, with the 6-Volume Reader's Bible and Bibliotheca and (hopefully) other sets cut from the same cloth, this kind of edition will leave the realm of antiquarian curiosities and come to represent a sustainable segment in the Bible market.