Christian Retailing

Innovative Bibles fill the market Print Email
Written by Natalie Gillespie   
Thursday, 07 February 2013 10:11 AM America/New_York

Marketing to niches and meeting the needs of everyone from seeker to saved

AbingdonPress-CEBLifeGearForGradsWhile consumers straddle the fence between print and digital books and publishers struggle to find the right fit for the market, Bibles remain a bright spot in sales, Christian  publishers and retailers report. Downloading a Bible app on a smartphone or reading the Bible on an iPad may be the latest technological trend, but plenty of Americans are still buying what some may deem to be an old-fashioned kind of Bible. 

“I do see some iPads and phones in the sanctuary now,” said Jan Gilson, manager of Chapel Books, the nonprofit ministry bookstore of Calvary Chapel St. Petersburg in Pinellas Park, Fla. “But that hasn’t slowed our Bible sales. Bibles account for 20% to 25% of my total sales, and I see a steady increase each year.”

“Bible sales were at least even if not up for us this past year,” said Rick Lewis, owner and manager of Logos of Dallas. “Bibles sold like crazy. Why? Because people are looking for God, I think. We had a number of first-time Bible buyers in the last year.”

BarbourPublishing-GodHeartsMeAccording to the latest figures available from American Bible Society and Barna Group, the 2012 The State of the Bible report shows that one in seven American adults reported purchasing a Bible in 2011. The same study showed that 85% of American households reported owning at least one Bible. Of those that had Bibles, the average number per household was 4.3 (down slightly from 4.5 in the 2011 report). 

At Baker Book House’s annual Bible sale held last November, the Grand Rapids, Mich.-based store sold 219 Bibles in one day, with the New International Version (NIV) and English Standard Version (ESV) as the top sellers. On the yearly sale day, Baker Book House offers all in-stock Bibles at a 50% discount. Overall, the store sold 7,603 Bibles in 2012 (including New Testaments and Bible portions, but excluding Spanish and children’s Bibles).

“I’d say sales are staying at least the same,” said Louis McBride, Bible and academic book buyer for the store. “The Story did extremely well for me last year, in part because one particular church in our area was doing it as a campaign.”

CharismaHouse-SpiritualWarfareBibleBlackFor 2013, publishers are expanding their Bible offerings for the seekers and the saved while looking for new ways to reach different communities, ages and interest groups. 

“The purchase of a fine Bible remains a very tactile and personal process for many shoppers,” said Randy Jahns, senior vice president of sales, marketing and Bible production for Crossway. 

“For the born again, the Bible is an essential as buying a car or a house,” said Chip Brown, senior vice president and publisher for Thomas Nelson and Zondervan, Bibles, curriculum and popular reference, HarperCollins Christian Publishing. “A customer can go into a store wanting a black, leather NIV, then decide on Thinline, then want to see each one of those that a store has, then open all six boxes to find the one that feels right. There is more of a pageantry with Bible selection than with any other book. That’s why I think sales are up.”



Crossway-GospelApplicationBibleBibles can have all the latest and greatest colors and covers, but what serious readers of the Scriptures are looking for is often the tried and true. Many Bible shoppers want a nice-looking, fairly compact Bible to carry to church and at least one good study Bible in order to dig deeper in their own study. 

“Customers either want something nice and light to carry into church or all the bells and whistles,” Chapel Books’ Gilson said.

The newest translation is the Common English Bible (CEB), which debuted in 2011 and is distributed by Abingdon Press. The first CEB Study Bible and CEB Study Bible with Apocrypha, will hit stores in October in several editions. 

“What I am most interested in seeing this year is the Common English Bible coming out with a study Bible,” McBride said. “In general, the translation hasn’t done all that well in my store, so I am curious to see if the study Bible is as distinctive as it is supposed to be.”

HolmanBibles-KJVStudyBibleFathersAdditional study Bibles releasing this year include the NIV Woman’s Study Bible from Thomas Nelson ($44.99 hardcover to $84.99 leathersoft, April). It highlights women throughout Scripture and shows the many ways Jesus cared for them. 

Nelson also introduces the NIV
MacArthur Study Bible
($49.99 hardcover to $89.99 leathersoft, September), featuring the pastoral and scholarly work of John MacArthur as he explains the biblical text’s context and meaning, with practical application for life today. Crossway releases the ESV MacArthur Study Bible, Personal Size edition ($39.99, hardcover) in September. 

Crossway also debuts in September its ESV Gospel Application Bible, featuring study notes designed to point to Christ and examples of how the gospel message is demonstrated throughout Scripture. Eight editions will be released simultaneously, including leather and genuine calfskin leather ($39.99, hardcover). 

ThomasNelson-NIVWomansStudyBible“Crossway’s retail sales of ESV Bibles were up during the last 12 months—more than 23% in Christian retail, based on P.O.S. data supplied by a sample of stores,” Jahns said.

Several publishers are offering new study Bibles in the King James Version. Holman Bibles, a division of B&H Publishing Group, released its version of the KJV Study Bible last fall and expands with several new editions, including the KJV Study Bible: Father’s Edition ($69.99 LeatherTouch) in June. In July, Barbour Publishing introduces a “handy size,” 4.5-by-7-inch KJV Study Bible with 6,500 notes, book introductions, a dictionary/concordance, maps and presentation pages ($24.99, imitation leather, classic or feminine covers). 

Charisma House plans to launch an update of the King James Version (KJV) Bible called the Modern English Version (MEV). Described as “the most modern translation produced in the King James tradition,” the MEV will be released  in 2014.

Maintaining the beauty of the KJV, yet providing clarity for a new generation, the MEV also capitalizes references of God, “maintaining reverence” for the Scriptures.

In October, Thomas Nelson unveils The King James Study Bible: Second Edition, with updated features, annotations and notes by Edward Hindson, general editor, and a team of scholars ($39.99 hardcover to $69.99 bonded leather or Leathersoft). Also in October, Tyndale House Publishers releases the Chronological Life Application Study Bible, KJV ($49.99 hardcover, multiple bindings available). This King James study Bible is a four-color version arranged in 10 chronological sections, with new section introductions and timelines.



As Bible readers become more and more diverse, publishers are offering customized Bible products to fit particular interests, communities and ethnicities. 

In January, Thomas Nelson released Sisters in Faith Holy Bible, KJV. Edited by Michele Clark Jenkins and Stephanie Perry Moore, it aims to encourage and empower African-American women by highlighting five major areas of life: God, Family, Others, Self and Career.
Additional contributors include recording artist Joann Rosario Condrey and novelists Kim Cash Tate and Vanessa Davis Griggs, among others ($39.99 hardcover to $79.99 Leathersoft).

With the Spiritual Warfare Bible released last August, Charisma House is slated to release a black imitation leather edition of the best-seller on Aug. 6. Featuring the New King James Bible text, the Spiritual Warfare Bible aims to help believers understand the elements of spiritual warfare and be equipped to engage the enemy of their souls. 

“Some of our customers acknowledged that there has been a void in the market for a Bible like this,” said Marcos Perez, Charisma House vice president of sales. “The charismatic market this Bible serves understands the need for this, has reacted favorably and is now being satisfied with the experience that this Bible delivers, according to our customer base.”

In May, Holman will introduce the Biblia del Pescador (Fisher of Men Bible) RVR 1960, a Spanish Bible edited by evangelistic pastor and president of the Global Missionary Society Diaz Pabon. This Bible contains an extensive index enabling the user to easily find verses applicable to many situations. The index guides the reader to the first verse in the chain on a particular topic, which includes a brief commentary and the reference for the second verse in the chain. Themes include evangelism, apologetics, Christian doctrine, church (cell groups) and devotion. 

Homeschool moms are getting Bibles all their own as Zondervan released the NIV Homeschool Mom’s Bible in February and follows with the KJV translation in August. Featuring 365 daily meditations with prayers written by homeschooling mom Janet Tatman, it covers topics like staying  motivated and avoiding burnout ($34.99 hardcover, $49.99 Italian DuoTone).

Zondervan’s NIV Leadership Bible offers 52 weeks of readings designed to help readers turn into leaders with specialized 15-minute daily offerings of scripture alongside practical studies on everyday leadership issues ($39.99 hardcover, $64.99 Italian DuoTone, June).

Marriage gets a makeover with Worthy Publishing’s The 7-Minute Marriage Devotional Bible: New International Version, edited by best-selling author Stephen Arterburn and offering 260 full-page, seven-minute themed devotionals and prayer starters ($34.99 hardcover, September).

Young adults are the focus of two new titles with Zondervan’s NIV College Devotional Bible, featuring stories connecting Scripture to the struggles, questions and decisions college students face ($34.99 hardcover, $49.99 Italian DuoTone, February). The Common English Bible Life Gear for Grads includes a 32-page Life Gear for Grads booklet packaged with the gift Bible. The practical guide offers life lessons that range from how to make the perfect macaroni to finding the right church home in a new city ($34.99 imitation leather, April).



For daily Bible reading, customers continue to look for chronological Bibles and those that are designed to help the reader through the Bible in one year. 

In March, Zondervan offers the NIV Real-Life Devotional Bible for Women, edited by author and Proverbs 31 Ministries President Lysa TerKeurst ($34.99 hardcover to $54.99 Italian DuoTone), and the NIV Mom’s Devotional Bible, edited by Elisa Morgan, president emerita of MOPS International, with daily encouragement for new and experienced moms ($34.99, hardcover; $49.99, Italian DuoTone).

The Common English Bible for Daily Prayer offers 80 pages of prayers and practices for praying, including practices from around the world, praying the Psalms and highlighted prayers found in Scripture ($34.99, imitation leather, May).

In August, the MacArthur Drawing Near Devotional Bible hits stores from Crossway and combines an expository approach to the Bible text with application to daily life drawn from MacArthur’s teachings and personal study. This daily Bible offers an assigned reading passage each day accompanied by a brief devotional to take the reader through the Bible in a year ($39.99, hardcover). 

In October, Tyndale releases The Daily Walk Bible (New Living Translation and NIV), which offers study and reflection as it takes readers through the Bible in a year. It includes overviews, charts, daily devotions and insights to help the reader fully grasp the day’s reading ($24.99, softcover).

Also in October, Barbour introduces readers to the Andrew Murray 365 Day Devotional Bible and The God Calling 365 Day Devotional Bible. The KJV titles take readers through the Bible in a year, pairing daily readings from the Old Testament, New Testament and passages from Psalms or Proverbs with readings from Murray’s classic works ($14.99, softcover; $29.99, imitation leather).



From interactive storybooks to bling-laden covers, tiny tots and young children have many designs to choose from, but tweens and teens are turning to Bibles with more substance than sparkle.

Thomas Nelson’s NKJV Ignite is an interactive teen Bible that introduces teens to parts of scripture they may have overlooked while helping them face everyday challenges ($24.99 softcover to $49.99 Leathersoft, July). Also in July comes Tyndale’s Teen Life Application Study Bible, Compact NLT, offering traditional study Bible features with life applications geared for the high school set ($22.99 softcover).

“We have two groups of kids,” Gilson said. “We have the ones who want the cute pictures, activities and pretty covers. The other half want a real Bible like mom and dad have. Once kids hit the 10- to 12-year-old age range, we direct them to a youth Bible or a smaller version of an adult Bible.”

For kids ages 8 to 12, Tyndale’s compact-sized glikit Bible comes in three bright silicone covers with raised square or heart patterns, plus five pieces that attach to the covers, including a glow-in-the-dark cross-shaped piece ($24.99, July).

Barbour’s God “Hearts” Me New Life Version Bible offers a pink cover and is designed for girls ages 10 and older. It uses a limited vocabulary of only 850 words to make it an easy read for girls ($19.99, imitation leather, July).

Elementary-age girls are gobbling up Thomas Nelson’s Cupcake Bible, a full-text International Children’s Bible offering a Leathersoft cover with a silk-screened image of a cupcake. Features include a Bible timeline, Kids in the Bible and “How do I pray?” ($24.99, January).

Elementary-age boys can wield their own “sword” with Brave Knight Bible (KJV), with 12 full-color pages to encourage boys to develop character traits of respect, honor, love, truth, bravery and other knightly qualities ($14.99 hardcover, April, Zonderkidz).

For the tiny tots, Thomas Nelson released in February the Baby Bear Bible—Boy and Baby Bear Bible—Girl. These clothbound Bibles feature bear appliqués and include the full International Children’s Bible text ($22.99).

Ideal Publications’ Candy Cane Press releases Baby’s First Photo Bible, a board book with stories of creation, Noah and the ark, baby Moses, Daniel and the lions, the Nativity and Jesus as our Teacher. The text relates the message of the story to blessings in the child’s life and includes photo pockets for parents to customize the stories with their own child’s photo ($10.99, March).

Zonderkidz introduces in March the My Learn to Read Bible: Stories in Words and Pictures by Tracy Harrast. Designed for children ages 4 to 7 who are just learning to read, the illustrated Bible storybook uses special icons to help children discover new words and gain reading confidence ($19.99, hardcover). B&H’s illustrated Read to Me Bible for Kids gathers 45 favorite Bible stories about God and how he loves us through Jesus ($19.99, hardcover, March).



Perhaps the most innovative offerings for the year are those designed to reach seekers and new believers, from graphic novels to inexpensive outreach editions that make answers to tough questions easier to find.

Crossway’s The Story ESV Bible incorporates Spread Truth Ministries’ The Story gospel pamphlet (not to be confused with Zondervan’s The Story Bible products) into the front of this inexpensive outreach Bible ($10, softcover, February).

In October, Tyndale introduces The Wayfinding Bible, The NLT, which offers a three-tiered reading plan. Users can choose between the fly-over, direct or scenic routes through Scripture ($39.99, hardcover, multiple bindings available). 

What’s Your Mark? by celebrity photographer and social artist Jeremy Cowart presents 16 compelling stories of people making their mark today, rooted in the truths of the Gospel of Mark (Zondervan, March, $14.99, softcover). 

In September, Zondervan builds on the success of its first graphic novel (The Book of Revelation) with Firstborn, a graphic novel that pairs the original Greek translation with hundreds of illustrations ($19.99, softcover) to tell the story of Jesus and His mission to save the world from sin.