There are a couple of blog entries regarding Bible publishing and the future of the industry in the electronic age. The first is from J. Mark Bertrand and the other is from the ESV blog where the presentation given by Stephen Smith at the recent Bible Tech ’08 Conference is available.
The two are quite disparate in their scope but it is interesting to see where the future of Bible publishing may be going. Stephen Smith’s presentation as well as the recent conference dealt with the electronic aspects of the future of the Bible while Mark’s post is a manifesto as to what he thinks the Bible publishers should be taking a note of.
The advancements in electronic media have filtered down to the marketing of the Bible and Bible related products. It is not just technological advancements that are of interest but also marketing. I come from a church movement that is quite insular, I used the same Bible translation for the better part of nine years. If not for the information made available through the ‘net I never would have made the switch to the ESV, NASB and Geneva Bible. Even the use of pigment liners for writing in your Bible, these are pens I knew of while at Art Center College of Design, where my friend was a graphics major. Now my blog entry on the pigment liners has been picked up by a few bloggers as well as message boards.
What is the future of the e-Bible? or what of computer programs that will facilitate in-depth Bible studies both for the lay and the clergy. There are several computer programs available that have multiple translations, interlinears and manuscripts in Greek and Hebrew as well as many other features. You can already access the ESV through your iPhone, I am sure it won’t be long before your favorite translation will be available as an iTunes download. But then again, what do I know? I am not the most technically adept person.
Coming from a completely different perspective is Mark’s manifesto. While the future of the Bible in electronic format looks bright, the printed form may be on the decline. The printed form is plagued by cheap bindings, bad covers, and gaudy designs that appear to come from a design team that just graduated from crayons and butcher paper. Speaking of paper, most Bibles are printed on paper that was rejected by USA Today and smudges just as easily.
That is not to say that quality Bibles are not available, it’s just that they are harder to find in the milieu of modern publishing. It seems as though publishers are giving the people what they think they want rather than giving them what they really want or really need. Premium editions are not all that they should be, many suffer from poor print quality, paper quality and overall binding quality. One of the big problems with the premium editions is the marketing of these editions, few if any Bible publisher knows how to take advantage of the internet and Christian bookstores are becoming more and more corporate and less and less likely to carry a Bible edition that can cost close to $200.
There is a lack of education in Bible publishing at the most basic level, among the consumer. The worst of it is, there are few publishers that are doing anything about it. There is a disconnection between the publishers the retailers and the consumers and the real looser in all of this is the consumer.
As part of any future marketing strategy, publishers should take advantage of bloggers and start sending Bibles to the more popular blogs for review and for input on new and unreleased editions.