The reality is that consumers crave more than utility.
They crave elegance—even beauty. ~Michael Hyatt
How many niche Bibles have had a $1.4 million dollar budget? My guess is not many, and probably none, ever. But Adam Lewis Greene’s Bibliotheca Kickstarter clearly spoke to people as his initial goal of $37,000, to produce 500 sets, was dwarfed thirty-nine fold. 500 sets have turned into 14,000. Honestly, $37,000 to fund an American Standard Version (never a particularly popular translation) reprint in four volumes was pretty ambitious. Or everyone thought it was.
What led this explosion? Well, not a few have pointed to the hand of Providence, and I certainly won’t argue. But we can also see that this is the culmination of what has been a growing trend.
J. Mark Bertrand has been beating the drum for better Bibles for years now on his Bible Design Blog. A lot of us have spent a lot of hours there. Bertrand’s push for “reader’s Bibles” has been a constant theme, one that has resonated with thousands of people. Greene has acknowledged his own debt to Bertrand. As a result, we have seen real steps forward with the work from Bible publishers like R.L. Allan, Schuyler, Cambridge, and Crossway. Don’t discount Bertrand’s work as a visionary behind Bibliotheca.
Crossway’s new ESV Reader’s Bible, available delivered for a twenty dollar bill and change, was another great step forward for a commercially produced Bible. I have seen how excited people have been about it. I think one of its keys is its affordability. We all love our Highland Goatskin semi-yapp bindings, but relatively few are going to splurge on such expensive Bibles. And even those Bibles still look “Bible-y” with their traditional leather covers and thin Bible paper.
And that’s where Bibliotheca comes in. Greene took everything to a new level, one of his most radical, and counter-intuitive, decisions was to go with four small volumes. Producing it as traditional, albeit well-designed, cloth over boards books was also a move that opened the type of reader who has never heard of Bible Design Blog, Allan Publishers, or Highland Goatskin. That production approach combined with relative affordability—you can buy the four volume set for $75—clearly touched a chord.
Greene also used a popular, and modern, method to reach out with Kickstarter. His beautifully produced promotional video explains his vision, and also introduces us well to the personality behind the project. Each of these elements was important to Bibliotheca going viral.
Well worth your time is this assessment of Bibliotheca from Michael Hyatt, a well-known success guru, but also former CEO and Publisher at Thomas Nelson Publishers, one of the Big Boys in Bible publishing. His observations are spot on, but I especially appreciated his point number three: “Elegance is always right.”
The Bible, and the search for God, is also a search for divine beauty. Shouldn’t the word of God be presented in as beautiful and elegant a way as possible? That doesn’t have to mean expensive or inaccessible. Adam Lewis Greene embraced accessibility and affordability.
If you missed out on the Kickstarter window, which ended on Sunday, you can still order the Bibliotheca set until the final order is placed with the printer. I honestly believe that the Adam Lewis Green’s Bibliotheca Kickstarter is a milestone project that will not only become legendary, but will cause reverberations in Bible publishing for years to come.