New Bible Changes Form to Attract More Readers

October 13, 2008 at 11:55 am Leave a comment

Martin Luther King Jr. graces one page, Angelina Jolie the next. A photo of a man on fire opens the Book of Revelation. And laid across a two-page image of gasoline spilling from a pump is the quote that begins, “The whole earth was amazed and followed the beast.”


It’s not the good book some may remember.

While the Bible has
been recreated and repackaged innumerable times, publishers of the
newest editions are using some distinctly unique formats to capture the
attention of readers.

“In general, Bible publishers have always been creative, but now they
are scrambling to meet a culture where people are moving away from
print reading,” said Paul Gutjahr, an associate professor of English
and adjunct associate professor in religious studies at Indiana University.

Secular as well as traditional religious Bible publishers are getting
in on the act. Dozens of different versions of the Bible come out each
year for various niches: the outdoorsman, the married couple, business
leaders. There are electronic Bibles available for the Kindle, iPods
and handheld devices. There are graphic novel and comic book
interpretations. There’s even a new chronological version of the Bible
coming out this fall.

It’s difficult to capture how many
different versions of the Bible are sold each year. But the Book
Industry Study Group estimates that Bibles, testaments, hymnals and
prayer books were a $795.2 million market in 2007.

Experts say
Bible sales tend to rise in times of war and economic crisis. And the
Book Industry Study Group says a Bible publishing boom is indeed under
way. The market size has grown steadily over the past several years and
is expected to jump in the coming years. The group estimates the market
will reach $823.5 million this year – growth other publishing
categories might covet.

The Bible is reinvented quite often.
While essentially still the same book, Gutjahr said that for the past
two decades, updates were largely focused on new translations. There
are also versions that come out each year that are essentially the same
book, with different covers and sizes based on people’s wants. But he
sees the next trend as one toward textual translation and visual
translation.

“In a visually literate, advertising-skeptical age
– how do you grab people’s attention?” Gutjahr asked. “Mixing the
biblical text with Angelina Jolie doesn’t surprise me.”

First published in Sweden last year, Bible Illuminated: The Book
is the glossy fashion magazine-style publication that features Jolie.
It looks like it might be more at home on a coffee table or the
nightstand of the latest hipster hotel than a church.

The
creation of former advertising executives, it pairs intense photo
essays – including images such as a child with a gun or beatings in the
Belgian Congo under King Leopold’s II’s regime – with passages from the
New Testament. It is aimed at people who might not otherwise ever read
the Bible.

Illuminated World is quick to point out that they
are not affiliated with any church or religion. The Swedish version was
sold first in boutiques and design stores, and mainstream bookstores
were hesitant to carry it initially. But as it gained popularity, the
book was sold more widely and even found a strong secondary market in
secular sales.

Norton said sales of Bible Illuminated
in Sweden, where an estimated 60,000 Bibles are sold each year, reached
30,000 in its first year. They are hoping for similar success in the
U.S. and plan to release the New Testament in October.

Source: Baltimore Sun

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Entry filed under: Christian, National. Tags: , , , , , , , .

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