Many believers consider their sacred texts to be eternal and unchanging, but publishers see things differently.
PW’s annual look at Bibles and other sacred texts highlights one strategy for dividing audiences and multiplying sales: publishing for a niche. To a basic text can be added notes, essays, and many splashes of color: pictures, time lines, maps. This year’s stack of Bibles and sacred texts includes, among others, something for Southern gospel music fans, for charismatic/Pentecostal Christians, for football fans, and for proponents of interfaith dialogue. The old wine that is a sacred text fits inside a remarkable number of new bottles.
Deep Blue Kids Bible
Deep Blue Kids Bible (Common English Bible, Sept.) made a splashing debut in September with an appearance on a Times Square electronic billboard and rollout of 27,000 units, bigger than had been anticipated. This new children’s Bible, aimed at ages 7–12, marries CG art with the year-old Common English Bible translation that was sponsored by five Protestant denominations. The Deep Blue Bible has already shown up on the bestseller list of children’s Bibles in the Christian market.
The interdenominational publishing consortium behind the translation has made an impressive commitment to the children’s Bible, including an advertising budget of $600,000. A related Web site (www.deepbluekidsbible.com) contains resources for parents, from devotionals to reading comprehension quizzes, to promote kids’ emotional and social development and also family literacy. Associate publisher Paul Franklyn says the marketing strategy is twofold: reaching Christian educators as well as families. A Christmas season push will include promotions through retailers and consumer media.
DBKB’s illustrations set it apart: they’re computer-generated, done by animation artists who teach their craft. Design credits include two 3-D artists, Jesse Griffin and Julio Medina, and Eric M. Mikula, who did “facial rigging,” a system animators use for characters’ facial expressions. A hardcover version boasts a 3-D cover in which stars appear to twinkle. Publishing consultants included a panel of kids. “We were trying to get away from biblical bathrobes,” Franklyn says.
Jesus Calling Bible Storybook by Sarah Young (Thomas Nelson, Oct.). Young is a virtual fixture on Christian market charts for Jesus Calling and its line extensions.
Three Testaments: Torah, Gospel, and Qur’an, edited by Brian Arthur Brown (Rowman & Littlefield, Aug.)
Independent scholar Brown, a United Church of Canada minister, brings together texts important to the Abrahamic “People of the Book”: Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Essayists include biblical studies professor Marc Zvi Brettler of Brandeis University; Ellen Frankel, former executive director of the Jewish Publication Society; editor and translator Laleh Bakhtiar, whose translation of the Qur’an is used; and Henry Carrigan, former PW religion reviews editor and now associate director at Northwestern University Press.
The book includes striking black-and-white illustrations drawn from etchings and engravings by such artists as Blake and Doré, as well as Islamic calligraphy by Mohamed Zakariya. Though Brown devotes some of his space to advancing an unorthodox argument for the influence of the Zoroastrian tradition on the three major Western religions, he calls that thesis a “subtext” in a volume that offers a progressive perspective (the New Testament translation is drawn from The Inclusive Bible project) on these key texts, bringing them together under one book cover without glossing over their differences. The tripartite text is welcome in an era of interreligious conflict. The book launched in September with a cross-country tour that finished in Toronto.
The Gaither Homecoming Bible (Thomas Nelson, Oct.)
Southern gospel music giants Bill and Gloria Gaither got together with dozens of their friends and associates who have appeared in the Gaither Homecoming videos, recordings, and concerts to develop reflections and devotionals for a Bible. The Gaithers are general editors for the text, which uses Thomas Nelson’s New King James Version translation. The edition includes poetry by Gloria Gaither, 230 devotionals written by 60 Homecoming artists, and notes on and lyrics for 75 gospel hymns. The Psalms can be downloaded free from the Web site www.gaitherhomecomingbible.com.
Chronological Life Application Study Bible (Tyndale, Sept.)
Those Christians who are curious about the chronological ordering of events mentioned in the Bible, and who also want an edition with notes that suggest practical life applications, will find that marriage of functions here. The Bible text is Tyndale’s New Living Translation; the original LASB has sold 11 million copies since it was first published in 1988. Tyndale associate publisher Blaine Smith says Bible sales have held steady for the publisher over the past several years, testimony to the financial stability that Bible sales can provide a religion publisher. “Given the tough economic times our retail partners have gone through, the resilience of Bible sales is amazing,” Smith says.
Game Plan for Life Bible: Notes by Coach Joe Gibbs (Zondervan, Aug.)
Gibbs’s Bible can draw fans from two sports. The former NFL coach won three Super Bowls when he coached the Washington Redskins. Joe Gibbs Racing has won three NASCAR championships. Game Plan for Life, Gibbs’s 2009 book, made bestseller lists. The Bible, which uses the New International Version translation, contains not only Gibbs’s reflections on success but also devotions, studies of Bible characters, and introductions to individual biblical books, all written by Gibbs. His notes focus on 11 topics of interest to men, such as finances and vocation. Chip Brown, senior v-p and publisher at HarperCollins Christian Publishing, says overall Bible sales are strong. Brown oversees both Thomas Nelson and Zondervan Bible publishing following the recent purchase of Nelson by HarperCollins.
Global Study Bible (Crossway, Sept.)
The Global Study Bible is the publisher’s biggest initiative since the Study Bible, published in 2008. Using its own English Standard Version translation, the Bible features essays by international contributors from 12 countries, including the United States. It aims at global affordability and availability; the paper edition price of $19.99 is low for a study Bible, and print edition buyers who register online for free access to an online version make a second digital or print copy available free to a Christian in another part of the world where need is great. Crossway plans to offer a million digital copies this way. The edition has received a variety of international endorsements, as well as one from popular author Francis Chan (Crazy Love). ESV sales as a whole are thriving, up more than 10% from the previous calendar year, says Randy Jahns, senior v-p of Bible production and sales/marketing at Crossway.
Spiritual Warfare Bible (Charisma House, Aug.)
Charisma, not a major Bible publisher but a specialist in materials for charismatic/Pentecostal Christians, packages materials on prayer and spiritual warfare by a number of its authors, including Jentezen Franklin and John Bevere, using the New King James Version translation. “The development of the Spiritual Warfare Bible was based on a consumer felt need in the marketplace for this type of resource. Many of our bestselling books are on the topic of spiritual warfare, and this application Bible is the outgrowth of that,” says Woodley Auguste, executive director of marketing and publicity.
“The Bible continues to exceed expectations in both English and Spanish and has already gone to reprint. And we’re receiving positive feedback from consumers as well as gaining traction both in the ABA and CBA markets,” says Auguste.
KJV Study Bible (B&H Publishing Group, Sept.)
The King James translation had a big 400th birthday party last year and keeps it going in year 401 in its newest iteration as a full-color study Bible. The study material is the work of more than 100 scholars from different denominations. The edition is modeled after the publisher’s Holman Christian Standard Study Bible.
“Filling niches is a priority,” says Jeremy Royal Howard, director of Bible and reference group publishing at B&H. Bible sales have been strong for B&H for this year and up from the prior year, he adds.