Jump directly to the Content


The Updated Bible: Moses v. Steve Jobs

How the publishing industry is keeping up with the 21st century as technology changes how we study the Bible.

2011 marks the 400th anniversary of the King James Version, a classic Bible that still outsells many of the most contemporary translations.

Recent technological advances are changing how businesses publish the Bible, how people consume the Bible, and how we share the Bible, says John Sawyer, former vice president of Bible marketing at Zondervan and current brand and marketing strategist for Somersault.

Sawyer told attendees of Religion Newswriters Association's conference yesterday that people are reading the Bible without historical context and reading the Bible in isolation as a result of many technological advances.

"Scripture has been packaged for a sound bite culture," Sawyer said. "Readers have lost the narrative arc of the Bible." Technology is also changing how we share the Bible through tagging, Wiki, widgets, webinars, and other recent shifts on the Web.

Of course, one of the ways the Bible is transmitted is through Twitter's 140 characters. The top tweeted authors include RevRunWisdom, Rick Warren, and John Piper, though Piper's account has been inactive since March, probably due to his leave. Miley Cyrus was the most frequent recipient of Bible tweets (1,200 times), mostly encouraging her to keep her life in order.

Despite the print Bible's popularity, publishers have adjusted their approach towards more Web-based tools. For instance, Biblica is releasing a new Bible that strips away all the footnotes, red letters, chapters, verses, and columns, and rearranges the Bible chronologically (see the video below).

LifeWay (of the Southern Baptist Convention) will release a new Bible called the HSCB Bible and launch MyStudyBible.com in October.

Tyndale was the first publisher to simultaneously release a Bible in print and searchable online versions when it released the NLT Study Bible, Sawyer said.

Zondervan's eBibles represent more than 40 percent of their eBook revenues and sometimes outsell their print Bibles. The company's BibleGateway.com sees over 8 million users per month.

Consumers appear eager to purchase e-readers. The Magazine Publishers of America found that nearly 60 percent of Americans expect to purchase an e-reader or tablet (such as an iPad) in the next three years.

Sawyer also offered the other following data:

–1.6 billion Bibles have been distributed worldwide. More than 700 million Bibles and New Testaments were distributed in the last 10 years. About 80 million copies of the Bible were distributed last year.

–About 90 percent of American households own one or more Bibles, and those who do own Bibles tend to have over three Bibles in their homes.

–Approximately 25 to 26 million Bibles are sold annually. In 2009, Dan Brown's best-selling The Lost Symbol sold 5.5 million copies. The Bible offers $500 million in retail value.

–The latest numbers suggest that at least one book of the Bible has been translated into 2,500 of the 6,900 languages in the world.

–Classic translations still sell pretty well, according to the data. The King James Version and the New International Version account for over half of the Bibles sold in the U.S.

Support Our Work

Subscribe to CT for less than $4.25/month

Read These Next