Every year at this time I look forward to looking through all of the new catalogs for publishing houses to see what new works are coming out. Every year I celebrate and cheer at so many great writings. Every year I also wince a little and get frustrated that there are still many resources or books I wish were being written. This year is no exception. Zondervan’s Playful Puppies Bible tops my list. On Amazon, it reads that it is a deluxe edition and leather bound! Are you freakin’ kidding me?! I have nothing against puppies, I have a dog I quite like. There’s a larger story at play here.
For a little more than a decade now, I unintentionally began a tradition. At Fall conferences I talk with acquisitions editors of publishing houses about Bibles. In particular, a Bible which is accessible for friends with disabilities. I am thankful for the advent of e-readers and know the game is changing but there is still something about holding your own Bible and being able to know the rhythm of its pages. To know where you have made notes and written dates and experiences.
I dream of a Bible which is, most importantly, spiral bound. For many of my friends this one feature would be the difference between being able to open and read their own Bible and having to rely on someone else because the Bible could lie flat on their lap. I dream of a Bible which has wide margins on the left and right for friends who are unable to write notes in tiny print. I dream of a translation that is accessible to a wide variety of reading levels and with a font size that allows friends with poor vision to see the words. Finally, I dream of the entire Bible being made this way, not just a book or two. I am aware of the challenges, of the possibility that it might require two volumes or some other modification. I also know I have 400-page books that are printed on lightweight paper in order to reduce the book’s weight.
In this time when we have Bibles geared to girls, boys, teens, teens who like skating, business people, stay at home moms, alcoholics, workaholics, archeology and ecology, surely the marketing for a Bible which is accessible would not be that difficult. Even more, I see Bibles encased in metal with a magnet enclosure, whose binding is hot pink crocodile print with inserts of stories for girls and Bibles worked up as magazines or graphic novels. A spiral bound Bible suddenly seems like a walk in the park!
I have talked with Thomas Nelson, Zondervan, IVP, Chalice Press, Oxford, Wm. B. Eerdmans, Group, Blackwell, Jossey Bass and countless others at AAR/SBL, Youth Specialties and any other conference where I have been able to meet with someone. I know they don’t all specialize in Bibles but I thought such a project might interest them enough to pursue it. Some of these publishers however do have entire divisions devoted to Bible acquisitions. I have written and called. What I have been told is that there is no market for such a Bible. That the disability community is too small to warrant the cost and effort that it would take to create such a book. This despite the fact that disability cuts across gender, ethnicity, socio-economic status and geography.
Am I really to believe that the community of those who love puppies is larger than the community of those in this country and around the world who live every day with a disability? According the US Census, in 2010 there were 54 million Americans with disabilities. According to the Humane Society, there are 78 million owned dogs in the US, and nearly 40% of homes own at least own dog. With a US population hovering around 310 million, some rough estimates would place that at 120 million dog owners. Surely, not every dog owner or person with a disability would want a specially made Bible. Then again, both communities dwarf the estimated number of skateboarders worldwide (18.5 million in 2002), at least according to that venerable font of all knowledge, Wikipedia.
Am I really to believe that those in the publishing houses are prohibited from seeing the marketing possibilities? While I began this idea with teens with disabilities in mind, I can only imagine the brilliance of a publishing house in design to allow this to be marketed to older children and adolescents who like to doodle, heck, to adults who like to doodle or take notes. For those taking Bible classes to make notes or cross references in the margins for study. For our senior saints who would also benefit from a Bible that does not close in their lap and allows aging hands to handle it with ease for turning pages and making notes.
Refusing to design a Bible for those with disabilities is shocking to me in this day. ADA was passed over two decades ago and it is the church which is still trailing instead of leading the world. Theologically, this is shameful. Morally, it is embarrassing. My hope is that some Bible acquisitions editor reads this post and one day writes to thank me for sending a softball his or her way. If you know of such a person, feel free to forward this post!