Thursday, May 26, 2016

Bibliotheca and the perils of modern book publishing.

Bibliotheca was/is an ambitious project announced in 2014 that sought to produce the bible (KJV, I believe) in four volumes and formatted in such a way as to appeal to the contemporary reader. A Kickstarter campaign was launched that raised some 1.3 million USD towards the project. Nearly two years on and early backers and enthusiasts of the project are beginning to question the project's credibility.

First, it needs to be noted that I don't have a dog in this fight. I didn't back or endorse the project, so there is nothing invested in it. No do I think the person behind the project is scamming anyone.

Second, I genuinely like the idea of reader's bibles and I entirely agree with those who say this is a timely project. This said, I eagerly awaited Crossway's own multi-volume reader's edition of the ESV.

Third, in no manner am I trying to disparage the project or dissuade anyone from supporting.

This being said...

There were a few indications that this project would take on a life of its own that Adam Greene was not prepared to reign in. By his own admission (via updates sent to backers) he has conceded that there were numerous criteria to the project that he did not anticipate and fulfilling these criteria is essential to the project's credibility. My gut impulse then was that this was a talented individual from the book designing/packaging world but that the project was too much caught up in the wave of excitement over reader's bibles. Like many Kickstarter projects, there were many concrete details that were lacking which would normally be part of any business proposal the closer the deal gets to involving commitment to buy and/or the exchange of funds. Most importantly, there was no published timeline with clearly defined check-in points that would illustrate the progress of the project and agreed upon landmarks denoting success or failure. Adam Greene has had the baptism-by-fire experience of learning on the fly what must done for a venture like this. Furthermore he has also learned that in the publishing world, delays are inevitable. As of the latest update, the contracted proof reading with Peachtree is finished and European printers have begun printing the initial batch.

Is two years a long time to wait for a publishing project to be completed? That depends on one's point of reference.

Remember the Baronius Press Breviary? Not long after the successful publication of the same company's hand missal, a three volume Latin-English breviary was announced. Between re-typesetting, replacing the Pian psalter with the Vulgate psalter, and settling the funds to get the first print run in production, it took approximately 4-5 years. And this from a publisher that had successfully announced and launch titles involving similar production.

Delays happen. If the design process is not fully vetted, increased time-to-market is inevitable. It takes either a massive corporate publishing house with copious resources or an independent house with smart people (and a lot of foresight) to successfully set a publication date and reach it.

Will Bibliotheca deliver? I suspect it eventually will. What remains to be seen is whether or not the final product can meet expectations.

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