Bible Publishing Economics 101

Bryce from The Lion Rampant asks an excellent question about how Crossway decides which editions to publish. The answer requires a look into the economics of Bible publishing.

The What

All editions of the ESV come from a family of settings. A "setting" (short for "typesetting") is how the text appears on the page. For example, compare these pages from the Classic Thinline and Classic Reference editions:

Side-by-side comparison of pages from the Classic Thinline and Classic Reference editions

Even from this small image you can see several differences. Most noticeably, the Classic Reference (on the right) has an introduction and a center-column reference system. The Classic Thinline has a longer line length and can fit more on a page--the Classic Thinline has 200 fewer pages than the Classic Reference.

The Classic Thinline and Classic Reference are two distinct settings of the ESV text. At the time of this writing, Crossway has four settings of the complete ESV, developed in this order: Classic Reference, Classic Thinline, One Year Bible, and Large Print.

But Crossway has more than four editions of the ESV, and with that realization we uncover an important part of Bible publishing: Crossway uses the same setting for multiple editions at multiple sizes. They simply shrink or enlarge the text to fit. Here are the settings used in most of the current editions:

Classic ThinlineClassic Thinline, Compact BattleZone, Compact Thinline, Compact TruGlo, Compact TruGrip, Compact TruTone
Classic ReferenceClassic Reference, Deluxe Reference
Large PrintLarge Print, Children’s Bible
One Year BibleOne Year® Bibles

Thus, if you compare a Compact Thinline and a Classic Thinline side-by-side, you’ll see that the only difference between them is the size of the paper and of the type.

The Why

With that background, we can now talk about why Crossway puts out the editions they do. Simply put, creating a new setting of the ESV text costs about $50,000 to typeset and proofread. To be good stewards of their resources, Crossway tries to use each setting in as many ways as possible.

Therefore, publishing a TruGlo edition (for example) using the Classic Thinline setting is much less expensive than coming out with, say, an entirely new, single-column edition of the ESV.

The TruGlo edition is just one of many bindings that are part of a multiple-edition print run. In other words, Crossway prints the text for all the Compact Thinlines, TruGrips, TruGlos, etc. at the same time and puts different covers on them. Thus, in comparison to doing a new typesetting, there is very little additional cost when Crossway does multiple bindings of one print run.

Crossway recognizes that people want variety in settings, sizes, and covers, and Crossway will provide choice in all of them: over time, Crossway will be developing new settings. (They do plan a single-column edition, for example, though they haven’t yet set a date for it.)