Building a Better Bible Aug19


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Building a Better Bible

What’s the last great book you read? You know what I mean, the kind of book that you wanted to take with you on vacation to read while at the beach or lake. Or maybe it’s the book you just couldn’t put down after work, or stayed up at night to finish, or wanted to share with a friend.

That’s an awesome experience, isn’t it? When you just lose yourself in a book and the story stays with you way after you’ve finished the last page and closed the cover.

Book designer Adam Greene wants people to have that kind of experience with the Bible. Because, let’s face it, most of us don’t. But while many of us assume the problem is either with us – we’re not smart or faithful enough – or with the content of the book – it’s too antiquated or complex – Greene wondered if maybe the design of the Bible is a major contributor to the problem. Ever notice the Bible looks more like a reference book – a dictionary or encyclopedia filled with subheadings and cross-reference notes – than it does an actual book? And that it’s really big and heavy? And that our reading experience is regularly interrupted by verse markings?

Greene noticed all of that and realized that if you want people to read the Bible as a great story instead of as a reference book, then you should design it to look and feel and read like great literature. And so that’s what he did. He got rid of chapters and verses, which while helpful when doing Bible study only impede the reader’s experience. He divided the contents into four more or less equal volumes which isn’t actually an innovation as the Bible used to be contained in a number of scrolls and was only bound together into one massive text in the middle ages. He simplified the type, using one he designed for the project that is easy to read but also reminiscent of handwriting, the means by which the Bible was copied and shared for centuries. And he tweaked a common domain translation – the American Standard Version – and updated the language only slightly to eliminate the “thees,” “thous,” and “doth” to read “you” and “does.”

The result is what he calls Bibliotheca, from the Latin for “library” and reminiscent of the Greek “ta biblia” – “the books” – from which our word for the Bible comes. To fund it, he opened up a Kickstarter campaign with a minimum goal of $37,000 that would allow him to produce five hundred sets (2000 books) in order to make production and publishing costs tenable. That was a bit of a risk, as if the minimum goal wasn’t reached, Adam wouldn’t receive a penny and the project would be dead in the water. But word spread, and 14,000 backers and $1.4 million later, the project is on.

While at some point later I want to share some of the insights about publishing, Bible study, and leadership that I’ve been drawing from Adam’s project, for now I just want to admire his creativity, commitment, and courage. Because while people continue to try to build a better mousetrap (the ubiquitous symbol of simple design that can hardly be improved upon), most people gave up on publishing a better Bible. But not Adam. He had an insight – the Bible is filled with great stories – and bent his experience and passion to helping us read it that way. I think that’s just plain cool.

If you want to read more about Adam and his project, you can find articles at The Verge and The Huffington Post, go to the (completed) Kickstarter Campaign (where you’ll find a number of great pictures of the project), or watch the also very well done seven-minute video produced for his Kickstarter campaign below.

1) If you are receiving this post by email, you may need to click on the title at the top of the post in order to watch the video. (Well worth it!)
2) Thanks to several readers who first sent the Verge article my way!