I hope the revision of the NIV Bible is wildly successful, both in its faithfulness to the original languages and in its reception by the public. If it is not faithful to the original languages then I hope it is a commercial failure. I am not an expert in marketing or business. I am not an expert in linguistics. I am not an expert in Bible translating. I am simply a pastor who love’s God’s Word and desires to help people be transformed by God’s Word. So it is with much humility that I offer my thoughts on what it will take to make the 2011 NIV a success:
1. The 2011 NIV needs to maintain the current NIV’s reputation for smooth reading, clarity, and accessible vocabulary. The NIV is a pleasure to read. It is not choppy or rigid. It is not too free that one senses there is a lot of interpretation supplied by the translators. These qualities need to be retained. In fact, I would argue that it needs to avoid making too many changes to the current NIV text or NIV supporters will feel like it’s an entirely new translation.
2. When it comes to the gender-neutral language debate, the 2011 NIV needs satisfy the complementarian base more than the egalitarian base. I know that the verbalized goal of the CBT is to not to seek to please men or factions, of which I agree and am grateful, but the reality is that they are either going to lean toward a translation philosophy that is more in line with the egalitarian wing of the evangelical world (employing gender-neutral language) or they are going to lean toward a translation philosophy that is more in line with the complementarian wing of the evangelical world (maintaining traditional gender language). Let’s face it, the commercial risk of offending the complementarian wing is far greater than offending egalitarians. If egalitarians revolt against a traditional gender language version, they are basically revolting against 2,000 years of translation history, as well as the original languages themselves.
3. Zondervan and Biblica need to package the 2011 NIV with a uniform style and image. A logo and name alone will not unify the product line. Here is where I think they could really steal a page from the Crossway/ESV playbook. They need to decide on a fashion code/style guide that would define the NIV “look” and then stick with it for a few years. For example, I think it would be wise to offer two fonts for adult Bibles: the Palatino font that was so loved through the history of the NIV and a pleasant traditional font similar to Times New Roman, perhaps something like Garamond. Bibles geared toward children or teens could have a couple of fonts as well. Part of the problem with the TNIV was they only seemed to offer that awful, strange, make your eyes hurt font. Maybe they were marketing the TNIV toward a younger crowd, but it was repulsive to a lot of people (I’m purposely exaggerating my own distaste for the font for effect).
4. The 2011 NIV needs to win pastors over to both the version and the design. If they win the pastors, they win the congregations. Winning the pastors means listening to the pastors. There are a LOT of pastors that are passionate about the Bible to the point that they are passionate and picky about the color of the Bible they preach from, the type of leather used, and the size, weight, and thickness of the Bible they use. I know a pastor who won’t use anything but a black Bible. I know another who prefers only a non-paragraph, verse-by-verse layout of the text. I know of others who would love to see the single column format overtake the double column format in popularity (I’m on that bus!).
They should commission Cambridge and R. L. Allan to produce many high-end NIV layouts. They should establish kiosks within Christian retail stores with samples of these high-end Bibles in the store. If they handle them, they will want them. They should offer pastors a significant discount on these high-end Bibles during the year 2011.
5. The 2011 NIV needs to come out of the gates with excellent design and quality materials and binding. As Christianity continues to decline and secular influence increases in North America, those who are Christians will be driven to become more serious students of the Bible, which will result in a demand for better made Bibles. They might as well develop a reputation right from the start for the 2011 NIV as a high quality Bible. One of the best ways to do that is to not produce a single bonded leather Bible. Wanna go cheap? They should go hardback, polyurethane mix, or paperback. But for leather Bibles, they should only use real leather. This will impress the Mavens (most notably J. Mark Bertrand), so that good rumors will be spread about the design and quality of the NIV.
6. The 2011 NIV needs to establish a strong internet presence, including getting on Facebook and Twitter asap. The NIV Study Bible was a HUGE success. Congruent with the release of the 2011 NIV, they should put the entire NIV Study Bible online for free, accessible to everyone. If that is totally unrealistic, then they could put the code to unlock the online version in every NIV sold (except outreach editions), not just the NIV Study Bibles.
7. Zondervan and Biblica need to loudly sing the praises of the KJV in 2011 (the 400th anniversary of the KJV). I suppose this would be more in Zondervan’s area of responsibility rather than Biblica. This would show that the NIV is standing on the shoulders of the KJV. They could tie the purpose of the NIV to the Translator’s Preface of the KJV.
8. The 2011 NIV doesn’t need to try to compete with the formal translations as being better for in-depth study. Instead, the new NIV needs to position itself as THE most trustworthy functional translation. If I could speak to the marketing department I would say: “Promote the NIV as a reading Bible. Emphasize Bible reading. Emphasize reading the whole Bible. Emphasize reading through the Bible in a year. Promote Professor Horner’s Bible reading plan. I know a lot of Christians who enjoy reading the NIV over the formal translations. Leverage that reality. Promote the NIV as an outreach Bible. Tell the story of the layperson who was the catalyst for the NIV in the very beginning. He wanted a Bible he could use in witnessing. His desire set the wheels in motion for what eventually resulted in the NIV. Celebrate that story.”
Back in the late 70s, my Mom wanted to get me a Bible I could easily understand so she bought me a Children’s hardback edition of the NIV. Since I had only been reading for a few years by that point, there is a real sense in which I was raised on the NIV. I am thankful for the NIV and still enjoy reading the NIV. Yes, I use other versions. In fact, I think every Christian who wants to get serious about studying God’s Word should use more than version, preferably at least one formal translation and one functional translation. For several years now the NIV has dominated among English translations. I suspect that in recent years, that dominance is being challenged, with the success of the NLT (New Living Translation) and ESV (English Standard Version). But if done well, the 2011 edition of the NIV certainly has a good chance of retaining the NIV’s place as the best-selling English Bible.
Anyone agree or disagree with these ideas? Any additional ideas?