Today I jumped on the Bibliotheca bandwagon.
What is Bibliotheca, you may ask, and where is said bandwagon heading to?
The Bibliotheca Bandwagon is heading toward this:
What is pictured is a remarkably crafted, expertly arranged, and biblically honoring set of the Holy Scriptures.
Here’s five reasons why I’m on this bandwagon:
The Craftsmanship Reason
I love books. Sure, I own multiple Kindle products, buy most of my books there, and read in iBooks on my iPad or iPhone daily. However, there is just something special about a physical book, and I love the attention to creative craftsmanship that Bibliotheca is giving to this project. The typeface, classic styling, the binding (rather than glued perfect bound, a european-style rounded sewn binding) and many other reasons excite me. When I’m handed a book (even if it’s one of those I wrote) I spend the first few minutes looking at how it was crafted, not reading the back cover, so for that reason alone I’m on the Bibliotheca bandwagon.
You can watch this video to see more about the craftsmanship that goes into a Bibliotheca volume:
The Readership Reason
Adam Greene is the book designer behind the Bibliotheca phenomenon. He starts his appeal for Bibliotheca by referring to our fascination with narrative: “People still love to get lost in a good story.” He then draws us to the critical question, followed by a key implication, asking, “Why do people love stories so much, yet they view reading the biblical literature as a chore?” His claim is that the way we publish Bibles today is not helping us. “Could it be that the encyclopedic nature of our contemporary Bibles is what’s driving this idea that the biblical literature is dry and boring?” I believe so. In fact, I would say that with all the digital helps we have for studying scripture, we no longer need a one-volume do-it-all encyclopedic Bible to tote around. We’ve got the internet to help us with cross-references, people! With one click on a free app on my phone I can tell you more about that Hebrew word my Pastor just referenced in 10 seconds than my pastor learned in all his years of seminary and sermon-prep. Perhaps it’s time to re-engage the narrative, instead of making Bibles try to “do it all” when the internet can give us all the rest of that stuff.
Greene’s motivation is to do just that. I’m excited that these volumes will make every effort to present the scripture narrative unfettered by all the other chaff that I don’t need and that makes other people’s eyes glaze over, and will help me engage with the scriptures in one of the most distraction-free ways I can imagine. There’s just no app for that, friends, because your mobile device is a distraction-producing tyrant. A Bibliotheca volume may be just the ticket for diving deep into the greatest true story every told: the Holy Bible. The Community Bible Experience that my denomination just went through in partnership with Biblica was similar to this journey–in that the version they use stripped out much of the chaff to help people just engage the story. Bibliotheca is like that in the text, but with all the amazing craftsmanship added in which makes me want to buy this thing. (Actually, I wonder if Biblica should just go out and buy Bibliotheca, since they agree on so many levels. I’ll actually have to email my contact there to see if there is any possibility of that.)
The Romantic Reason
I am more of a Bible nerd than most people, but you don’t have to be a Bible nerd, nor even a Hebrew or Christian beliver to appreciate that The Bible is not like any other book. I surely enjoy The Message translation for the work of amazing relatability that it is, and the helpful New Living Translation–but people aren’t idiots about this stuff… if the stories was written down 1800-3,000 years ago nobody expects it to read like The Hunger Games in sandals. Because of this I’m glad that Bibliotheca will use a more timeless 100-plus-year old literal translation that preserves some of what I might call the “romantic language” of old English. When you truly fall in love with Shakespeare you don’t mind that it is rendered as “To be, or not to be, that is the question,” or even “O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou, Romeo?” It would be disappointing to read it as “I’ve been wondering, should I kill myself, or not, bro?” or even worse, “Why is your name “Romeo’?”
For these more romantic linguistic reasons I’m excited about getting a set of handy reader-version scriptures that are more classical in their treatment of the text (most of those handy reader-version ones are of the ultra-dynamic-equivalence kinds). Also, along the way it seems Greene is planning to fix a few of the very minor problems I have with the translation he’s chosen, so as to in fact enhance the reader’s relationship with the Good Book (or more accurately: Good Books) and the Author behind them. (I should clarify, that I actually have a problem with almost EVERY translation, so while some people don’t like certain ones and are fan boys of others, I think all translations are flawed somewhat, and so you just pick your poison along the way, in case you wondered.)
I’m likewise pleased to see that Robert Alter has been a key influencer of Greene, because Alter is the best Hebrew translator our generation has seen, and were his translation of the Hebrew Bible complete, perhaps that would be the only choice better for inclusion than the ones Greene is making.
The Heirloom Reason
I’m on this bandwagon in part because this set will become something I can hand down from generation to generation. I plan to get mine embossed at a local bookstore when they come, not with my name, but with our family name, hoping to see my grandkids have these volumes on their shelves, pulling them off when they are 11 or 12 years old, and reading (spoiler alert) about David slaying Goliath or about the men surviving the Fiery Furnace or of Jesus Walking on Water or Paul and Silas’s prison earthquake. I envision them being completely riveted by the story of God, thus potentially making it their story too!
The reality is that my Kindle book collection is a selfish thing. It will die with me. Those books are no more precious to me than the magazines I read, in the end, perhaps less so. However, these Bibliotheca volumes will outlive me, and so I would rather spend a little more for an heirloom quality book, especially when it’s the Only Book That Really Matters To Me In The End.
The Publishing Reason
I also really want Bibliotheca to show publishers the future. When Amazon’s founder, Jeff Bezos, bought the Washington Post everyone was amazed. “Why would the digital guy buy such an old world media company?” everyone wondered. Bezos gave the most futuristic answer one could hope for, in saying this:
“Some day, I don’t know how many years in the future – it could be decades – but I think printed newspapers on actual paper may be a luxury item, people still have horses but it’s not their primary way of commuting to the office.”
So Bezos, the genius behind the Kindle I have hundreds of books on, is buying a NEWSPAPER because he thinks that “actual paper” products may become a luxury item? Publishers need to pay attention to that (especially since they didn’t pay attention to Bezos 10 years ago and he beat them all). The more our publishers print shallow content-books in shoddy ways the more digital media will punish their short-sightedness. Instead, print publishers should aim higher, and raise their prices to do so. I even envision a day when I would buy an heirloom version of a novel and it would come packaged with a digital version for free, or vice-versa for an upcharge, or as a gift for someone else I love (who wants to give a digital book as a gift anyway–that seems cheapo).
For Christian Publishers, and especially Bible Publishers (including a few I won’t name that I have actually been employed by), I wonder if they might have the edge for this. Their content is not shallow, inherently (in my opinion) because it deals with eternal realities. No matter how shallow you think Christian Publishing has become, I should remind you that they’re not printing books about the Kardashians, so please don’t argue with me on this. But Christian Publishing is not putting out books of high enough quality, nor Bibles of high enough intentionality. All the Bibles I can buy in a Bookstore seem pretty much the same to me, except for a few that are pink for girls or camo for boys (seriously, is that all you got, publishers?)
So, part of why I am on the Bibliotheca Bandwagon is to help a startup prove to publishers that this is the future. The Kickstarter for Bibliotheca’s set of scriptures only needed to raise $37,000 to reach it’s modest goal and go to print. Within a short while (and with the help of coverage by media enthusiasts as diverse as the Wall Street Journal, The Bible Design Blog, and web scripture propagators Bible-Gateway) they blasted past the goal with $169,191 pledged. Now that everyone from Fast Company, The Verge, and The Huffington Post has jumped the bandwagon I jumped on too–because I’m pretty sure I should care more about high-quality publishing of the Bible than Fast Company and The Wall Street Journal.
If so, go jump on the bandwagon with me. As of today $836,060 has been pledged… and if you get involved by July 27th it might be possible that a million dollars will be pledged… 27 times the original goal because we all love the Bible THAT much!
If you wanna jump in, just click this Bandwagon Button and go check out how you can be involved and get some of these on your shelf. This is the only way to do so right now, and you only have till July 27th:
UPDATE on 25 July 2014 (24 hours after I posted this)
The 1 Million Mark was reached (reminder: the goal was just $37,000)
Here’s the report: