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.
As 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.