The New Living Translation
Books, Bibles and Soldiers: Post-ICRS Musings

I returned last week from ICRS in Orlando (that’s “International Christian Retail Show” for those not in “the biz”). I always have mixed feelings about ICRS. There is a lot that frankly makes me cringe, but there is also a lot that gives me hope. Lot’s of great books are out there which will do some serious good I believe. In my former life I was a book buyer for a small franchise chain of Christian stores. As a rule I don’t carry a lot of handouts around because, frankly, they get heavy and I wouldn’t get a chance to read most of them anyway. I did pick up a total of 5 books this time however:

  1. Original Sin by Alan Jacobs (Harper One)
  2. Life With God by Richard Foster (Harper One)
  3. Surprised By Hope by N.T. Wright (Harper One)
  4. Culture Making by Andy Crouch (IVP)

I picked these up because, 1) the publishers were willing to give them to me, for which I am very thankful; and 2) they will make me think. I need books that challenge me. It’s much easier to read books that don’t stretch you of course, but i find myself always wanting more. I have already started reading Original Sin, I actually heard him a week or so ago on “Extension 720” an evening radio program on WGN radio in Chicago that deals with all kinds of interesting topics. Very intriguing book.

The fifth was a Tyndale book which I know is crazy for me to pick up at a trade show in Orlando, but the author was there signing it. We The Purple by Marcia Ford. Generally I don’t do politics, they stress me out too much, but this one intrigued me enough to pick up. I look forward to reading it.

But of course this is the NLT blog so I must talk about Bibles. One of the editors and I walked the floor and looked at the various Bibles out there. It’s always fun to get a sense of what is going on, and it’s definitely one of the things that I miss from my buyer days. The fact is there are a lot of great Bibles out there from several publishers. We are all different as people and different things appeal and minister to us. As Bible publishers we have gotten a lot better at producing great looking products. This is not exactly new, take a look at Bibles from 100 or 200 years ago. They were beautifully crafted. We are getting that back a bit I think (granted we also have all done some silly things as well). I have to say that I am glad that the utilitarian days seem to be over. I believe that we should celebrate the Scripture as a precious thing.

I look forward to seeing a lot of the Bibles that are coming. I got a chance to see the ESV Study Bible sampler (Gospel of Luke) and I have to say it looks great. I haven’t been able to review it thoroughly, but from what I have seen, I’m impressed and I hope that it does well.

For our part, we had two major foci.

First was the launch of the NLT Study Bible. I really encourage you, if you haven’t done so already to check out the Study Bible web site and blog. There’s going to be a lot more coming in the next weeks and months. I am really excited about this Bible. I know that’s the party line, but when I was a buyer I interacted with most every study Bible on the market. I know first hand that there are a lot of good ones. Really good ones. That’s why, when I came on board Tyndale about 2 1/2 years ago I was excited to see print outs of Isaiah. I had been bugging my sales rep for a couple of years “where’s the study Bible?” and I was not disappointed. I was actually blown away. I can’t say enough about the job that the editorial team and the scholars have done. I believe that the best comparison will literally be to start in Genesis and look at the NLT Study Bible side by side with any other study Bible in the market, I have that much confidence in it. Now if only I can actually get my copy . . .

The second focus for us was the Operation Worship Bible. This is a unique and particularly gratifying product. The concept is simple and the ministry impact is huge. Call me crazy, but those are the kinds of products that I can get behind. Tyndale has partnered with several organizations, most notably Operation Worship, to create a Bible that will be given to U.S. troops. It’s a compact Bible that fits in a fatigue pocket. The really cool part is that there are a couple of pages in the front for people to write a personal note to a soldier. It’s not about supporting a war (or not supporting a war), but ministering to the hearts and minds of our service personnel.

Here’s how it works. Go to a Christian bookstore, buy a Bible for under $5. Write a note. Give the Bible back to the store. That’s it. The store gets a pre-paid UPS call tag and once a case of 32 is filled, they print the label and put it in the mail. The Bibles go to one of several locations around the country and Operation Worship gets them out to the troops. Very cool.

Our goal was 100,000 Bibles in 100 days. There will be more on that later, but let’s just say it’s going very well. It’s still going and has helped push the NLT to the #2 spot in translation marketshare in Christian bookstores. It was encouraging to hear from retailers how happy they were to be a part of this program. The store gets to sell a Bible, make their full margin and be directly involved in a tremendous ministry. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a $5 Bible, the stores aren’t making a lot of money here, but that’s not the point really. I like to think of it as benevolent capitalism.

We gave retailers the opportunity to come by our booth and sign the Bibles to the troops over the several days of the convention. (They didn’t have to pay for them). The stories we heard were amazing. One of our favorites was the Bible signed by someone from Beirut, Lebanon. You get chills. I talked to another person who was with the Kuwait Bible Society. On Thursday, I talked to an African American gentleman from, I believe, Alabama (forgive me if I got that wrong). He owns a bookstore. He was an Air Force Advisor in Vietnam. He told me some stories of what he saw and how people are still dealing with the affects of what they saw, did, and how they were treated when they returned to the States. He said he was called a warmonger. It was clear that it wasn’t true and that it hurt. He was so excited to be a part of the Operation Worship Bible. He implored me to keep it up.

That’s why I do this. It’s really easy to get jaded. It’s really easy to get competitive and want to “beat the competition.” But in the end that misses the point. We want to minister to people. We want to be a part of what God is doing to redeem us all. That’s why I am excited not only about the products that Tyndale is producing, but believe it or not, about what the ESV Study Bible is going to do as well even though it’s from the “competition” across town.

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