Bibles and Bookmarks

Too many of one, never enough of the other! Too many Bibles, that is, and not enough bookmarks.

Let’s look at this sensibly: how many English language versions of the Bible do we need? Bearing in mind that Americans don’t know how to spell words like ‘colour’ — let alone ‘Anglicise’ — I suppose we have to make concessions and allow them their own localised versions. But beyond that, do we really need so many different English language versions in so many different editions? Do we need Bibles that feel like handbags or look like hand grenades?

It’s not just a question of cluttering up our bookshelves and overwhelming people with too many choices, it’s about the sensible use of resources in a world that has more than enough to go round but is dominated by the Western world’s me-me-me-market-driven society; and nor is it simply about the abuse and waste of physical resources such as paper and everything else that goes into book manufacturing: it’s also about our use of human resources, of people and time.

Not in my languageAs I write this I’m looking through a flyer from Wycliffe Bible Translators promoting their Vision 2025 initiative. It’s a wonderful vision, to have a Bible translation programme underway in every remaining language that does not yet have the Bible available, and to have this in place by 2025. According to Wycliffe, there are 6,912 languages currently spoken in the world: of these, 2,251 — representing 193 million people — do not yet have the Bible available. And yet here in the English speaking world we not only have so many different translations that we now need other books to help us choose between them, but we seem to have either another translation or another super-duper hip-hop trendy hot-water-bottle-wrapped must-have fashion accessory edition published every week.


I put it to you that if a fraction of the creative energy that’s put into hyping up the Bible for English language speakers and readers went into translation programmes, Vision 2025 could be realised by 2012 if not sooner — and what a gift that would be to the world, far greater than Britain hosting the Olympics will ever be!

So next time a publisher or a sales rep shows you yet another English edition of the Bible, do the world a favour: just say no. Refuse the gimmickisation of the Bible!

Instead, ask them for a bookmark — for a pack of bookmarks to give away! If you’re anything like me, you can never have too many bookmarks. I usually have about half a dozen books on the go at any one time and without my bookmarks I’d be lost. What’s more, my customers at LST can never seem to get enough bookmarks.

And unlike flyers and leaflets that end up in the recycling bin or littering the streets, bookmarks don’t get thrown away: they sit there quietly in your books, biding their time, waiting for the next time you open it — and suddenly, there they are, reminding you of where you bought the book or of who published it or of the other books in the same series. So simple yet so powerful!

Amazon understand it, of course: Amazon rarely miss a trick. Every book arrives with a brightly coloured Amazon bookmark, its irresistible siren song gently calling you back to order another.

So come on, publishers: wake up! Stop producing Bibles that nobody needs and give us more bookmarks.

And finally, a suggestion for the good folk at Wycliffe: instead of flyers, produce lots of bookmarks promoting Vision 2025. I promise you, if you supply me with a stack of Vision 2025 bookmarks, I will put one in every Bible I sell from now on.

The Wycliffe Blog
• Kouya Chronicle

Follow-up Features

17 thoughts on “Bibles and Bookmarks

  1. I like this post – it makes a lot of sense. There are a lot of ‘Christian’ publishers out there who try and cash in on the huge popularity of that one most important book, the Bible. Blatant materialism.
    I’ve just scanned through your archives and notice that you too have been caught out by the STL web exclusives. Which reminds me… they promised me a credit… humph!

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  3. Good point that one part of the world has an abundance of Bibles and many other parts of the world have none. I look forward to the day when EVERYONE has a Bible in their own language.


  4. I loved your post, Phil, especially the phrase about yet “another super-duper hip-hop trendy hot-water-bottle-wrapped must-have fashion accessory edition” of the Bible appearing with annoying regularity. But then, I guess I’m biased. I work for Wycliffe UK, promoting our Vision 2025 and recruiting people to join us short and long term to help make the Vision a reality. The bookmark idea ahs been floating about in my mind for some time, but you have prompted us to action. Look out for a consignment coming your way so you can fulfil your promise! Thanks too for links to our Wycliffe Blog – some fascinating stuff building up there for everyone to read and be inspired and challenged. God bless, John

  5. Thanks John – it’s a great vision you have there at Wycliffe. Look forward to seeing your bookmarks when they’re ready: it’ll be good to give people a challenge with their Bibles!

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  7. Good stuff Phil – well said. More people need to hear what you’ve said. FYI I had tried to explore the idea of a Vision 2025 bookmark being put in with every new Bible that was sold by Faith Mission through their bookshps in Scotland at one point but alas nothing came of it. Your idea is a good one and I hope that John Hamilton (my boss) takes you up on the offer you made.

    Thanks for being an advocate for Wycliffe and the work of Bible translation into minority languages. Keep it up!

    Bye for now and God bless,


  8. On a slightly different tack, what about the new NIV covers? The World’s Most Popular Bible …. This is clearly a blatant marketing exercise – I feel somewhat uneasy ….

  9. John, I couldn’t agree more. I for one don’t want to be seen carrying a Bible that’s had its cover so brazenly redesigned as an advertising hoarding… and you’re not the first other person I’ve met who’s uneasy with it either. I’m all the more uneasy about the way they’ve used the symbol of the Cross as a vehicle for it…

    In fact, since you’ve raised the question, let’s have another thread to discuss it: Bible Bashing

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  11. Pingback: Bibles and Bookmarks: Part 2 « UKCBD: The Christian Bookshops Blog

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  13. Pingback: Bibles and Bookmarks: Part 3 « UKCBD: The Christian Bookshops Blog

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  15. Hey
    Thanks for the opportunity to address another issue that comes up alot these days it has to do with implying somthing is wrong with people because of our skin colour, finanacial standing or the fact that we speak English.
    It’s incredibly sad that as Christian brothers and sisters there is a need to make statements that are so insulting and hurtful. I speak English am white and contribute to a large number of Mission projects, It is a finanacial sacrifice to do so. Although I can not travel I pray and send funds so others can share the gospel and that includes the sending of bibles in native languages.
    Its all about tolerance today unless it means tolerating people with deep Christian beliefs, people who are NOT of colour, or those who speak English. Please note that it’s English speaking people who translated an amazing number of bibles and usually provided them free to sea’s of people through donations (sacrifice) in an effort to bless and fulfill Christs great commission to preach to gospel to all nations to every tribe and every tongue.

    The attitiude of entitlement is not a Christian attitude. English speaking people do not owe you or the world anything.
    What has been given has been done out of love, having things demanded of you is insulting and it does not represent our saviours attitude. Thanks for letting me share. Please consider your audience. We have feelings, we want to provide the bible in every language and as quickly as possible

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