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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Crossway's Paperback ESV Study Bible - I don't see their logic

Crossway recently released the ESV Study Bible in paperback. Their blog post about the release is mostly about the kinds of people they expect to buy it. I love the ESV Study Bible; it's the keystone of my twice-extended read-the-Bible-in-a-year program. And I don't doubt that people will buy it in the new paperback format, but I doubt that it will be the people they blogged about.

First they mentioned students buying it as a textbook. I guess it's possible that this will happen to some extent, but I think today's college student likes for everything to be as electronic as possible, and I can't see a student dropping $20-$30 for an almost 2½-pound paperback that they'll have to lug around and which will wear out when they could pay $20 for online access indefinitely at, or drop $8.54 and get it on their Kindle or Nook, or even from Google Books. I know some people like to write in textbooks, and other people like to sell them back to the bookstore to be re-sold the next year as used books, but I don't know... after Apple's recent announcements about releasing textbooks for iPad, I just think students are going to continue to go more and more digital.

The second category of buyer they mentioned is travelers. The argument is that a traveler isn't going to want to carry their "good" ESV Study Bible with them in their luggage and risk it getting damaged. But seasoned travelers, I believe, have also already adopted e-Readers, and they're going to want their ESV Study Bible electronically as well. Besides, don't all copies of the ESV Study Bible come with free access to the online version? If so, then folks who already have a "good" copy at home can already hop on some free Wifi, which is all over the place nowadays, and use the online version instead, and not have to carry along anything but the laptop or tablet computer they were bringing along anyway. Why add those 2½ pounds to your luggage when you don't have to? Also, serious traveling Bible enthusiasts are likely to have software like Logos on their computers, and I'm thinking those people will prefer to pony up the extra cash to have it in that software instead.

The final category from the blog post is "the church leader" ...meaning that it might be used for discipleship programs, Bible study groups, that sort of thing, and that churches might buy copies in bulk. This one, I can see. The logistics of having copies available for members on e-Readers are formidable, although I suppose in more affluent congregations the members are not unlikely to own e-Readers already (or be able to use the vendors' computer-based reading applications); since the electronic editions are lendable, I could envision a situation where a church buys a bunch of digital copies and lends them out for study group use, saving themselves twenty bucks a copy over the paperback version, and with the added advantage that the books would not wear out. But out of Crossway's three scenarios, this would be the one I would consider the most likely to generate sales... if, that is, churches are even using the ESV Study Bible in small groups. It would certainly be a good resource if they are, and if they aren't, this might be a good time to take a look at it.

The main people I would envision using this are people of slim means. I speak as someone who has spent a lot of time living on a shoestring, bargain-hunting every chance I get. In the case of the ESV Study Bible, I was so excited about it that I actually preordered mine and picked it up as soon as it was available, but if I wasn't able to afford the standard editions and had just found out about the ESB, and if I didn't have an e-Reader (I happen to have a Kindle, but let's imagine I don't) I would be all about this paperback version. Outside of the e-Reader route (which is an absolute steal!) it's the cheapest way I know of to buy a new copy, and I think bargain shoppers may well go for it. Heck, this puts the ESV Study Bible among the ranks of the least expensive serious study Bibles available! I certainly don't wish the paperback ESV Study Bible ill - I hope it sells remarkably well, because the ESB is an amazing Bible. I know it's changed my life and perspective on things. But I'm not sure Crossway really knows who their ultimate audience is going to be for this one.