As one who enjoys reading books, I’m sometimes frustrated by certain “bookish” things. For example, I can’t stand it when a theological or biblical book does not have a Scripture reference in an appendix. I’m annoyed by endnotes and I appreciate footnotes. I’ve also quit reading the endorsements publishers use as they try to sell a book, since sometimes I seriously have doubted whether the endorsers actually read the book before they commented on it. Those are a few minor book pet peeves I have.
Furthermore, it bothers me when publishers milk a best selling book for all its worth. Do we really need 64 editions of a book – one for moms, one for teens, one for tweens, one for men, one for dads, one for Christmas, etc.? Do we really need the same Study Bible available in calfskin, sheepskin, snakeskin, thinline, softcover, bling-cover, and wide margins? (That begs the question: do we really need another study Bible at all?)
I’m also irritated by repackaged material. I’ve noticed with some authors that once you read one or two of his/her books, every other one is just repackaged and even cut-and-pasted. Recently, publishers have been selling older books by updating the cover, adding a new foreword, and advertising it as “newly updated and revised!” To me, this is a foray much too far into the realm of marketing by making consumers unsatisfied with what they already have and making them think they need the latest update of this or that.
The book cover pictured above is an example of repackaged publishing. Understanding the Big Picture of the Bible (Wheaton: Crossway 2012) is a collection of articles that gives an overview of the different parts of the Bible. However, the articles in this book are the articles from the ESV Study Bible tweaked a bit and put into book form (without any proper introduction or presentation of contributing authors). The problem is the only way the reader could figure this out is by noticing the fine print buried around the ISBN and publication information. Many readers might miss this: it is repackaged material! (I don’t have an ESV Study Bible, but if you do have one, you certainly don’t need to get the aforementioned book.) I wish the publisher was more open about the contents of this book.
Finally, I’ve noticed that many books being published have already been written. What I mean by that is there are many good books on marriage, parenting, preaching, and so forth, so any new ones are not really new. Before I purchase any book, I look to see if this topic has already been covered – and usually it has. I suppose it is good that newly written solid Christian books are getting out there, but I hope it doesn’t make people avoid what has already been written. I realize this is a little subjective, but I usually find that older books on a certain topic are better than newer ones on the same topic. It seems to me that, unlike modern authors, older authors weren’t tying to be hip, relevant, or cool by many various references to popular culture. In my opinion, readers can understand a biblical teaching or principle without an illustration about IPods, the Hunger Games, or the NFL.
Though this blog post is only a whisper in a tornado, I would like to encourage Christian publishers and editors to pursue excellence in what you do. Don’t give in to the marketing schemes so prevalent today! Give Christian readers something better than that. Don’t mislead us in advertising. If a book is repackaged, just tell us clearly that’s what it is and exactly how you updated and/or revised it. If it is a best seller, don’t treat us like idiots by trying to get us to buy the college (or whatever) version of it. If it’s been written before, think long and hard before publishing it – is it really needed? Please don’t stop publishing, just work hard to do it better – following biblical principles and thinking of what is best for us as readers while standing against the money-making marketing trends of our day.
Comments from other readers are, of course, always welcome.