Monday, December 18, 2006

Selling the Bible

This week's New Yorker has an interesting article on the American Bible business. An excerpt:
The popularization of the Bible entered a new phase in 2003, when Thomas Nelson created the BibleZine. Wayne Hastings described a meeting in which a young editor, who had conducted numerous focus groups and online surveys, presented the idea. “She brought in a variety of teen-girl magazines and threw them out on the table,” he recalled. “And then she threw a black bonded-leather Bible on the table and said, ‘Which would you rather read if you were sixteen years old?’ ” The result was “Revolve,” a New Testament that looked indistinguishable from a glossy girls’ magazine. The 2007 edition features cover lines like “Guys Speak Their Minds” and “Do U Rush to Crush?” Inside, the Gospels are surrounded by quizzes, photos of beaming teen-agers, and sidebars offering Bible-themed beauty secrets:

Have you ever had a white stain appear underneath the arms of your favorite dark blouse? Don’t freak out. You can quickly give deodorant spots the boot. Just grab a spare toothbrush, dampen with a little water and liquid soap, and gently scrub until the stain fades away. As you wash away the stain, praise God for cleansing us from all the wrong things we have done. (1 John 1:9)

“Revolve” was immediately popular with teen-agers. “They weren’t embarrassed anymore,” Hastings said. “They could carry it around school, and nobody was going to ask them what in the world it is.” Nelson quickly followed up with other titles, including “Refuel,” for boys; “Blossom,” for tweens; “Real,” for the “vibrant urban crowd” (it comes bundled with a CD of Christian rap); and “Divine Health,” which has notes by the author of the best-selling diet book “What Would Jesus Eat?” To date, Nelson has sold well over a million BibleZines.

The success of the BibleZine was all the more notable for occurring in a commercial field already crowded with products and with savvy marketing ideas. This year’s annual trade show of the Christian Booksellers’ Association, in Denver, brought such innovations as “The Outdoor Bible,” printed on indestructible plastic sheets that fold up like maps, and “The Story,” which features selections from the Bible arranged in chronological order, like a novel. There is a “Men of Integrity” Bible and a “Woman, Thou Art Loosed!” Bible. For kids, there’s “The Super Heroes Bible: The Quest for Good Over Evil” and “Psalty’s Kids Bible,” featuring “Psalty, the famous singing songbook.” The “Soul Surfer Bible” has notes by Bethany Hamilton, who lost an arm to a shark in 2003. “2:52 Boys Bible: The Ultimate Manual” promises “gross and gory Bible stuff.” In the “Rainbow Study Bible,” each verse is color-coded by theme. “The Promise Bible” prints every one of God’s promises in boldface. And “The Personal Promise Bible” is custom-printed with the owner’s name (“The LORD is Daniel’s shepherd”), home town (“Woe to you, Brooklyn! Woe to you, New York!”), and spouse’s name (“Gina’s two breasts are like two fawns”).

I feel like I should have an opinion on this phenomenon, but I'm just amused. Anyone who buys a Bible for the beauty tips deserves what she gets.

See the slide show, too.

(Hat tip to Jewish Atheist)

3 comments:

Jewish Atheist said...

Thanks for the hat tip!

Gabriel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mar Gavriel said...

Ha! I misread "Refuel" as "Refu'el", Galitziyaner pronunciation of רְפָאֵל. Silly me.