Thanks to HarperCollins, the NRSV is gaining ground

The October sales figures by CBA are out. What surprised me was the appearance of the NRSV. This is the first time that I’ve seen it on the list. It is a pleasant surprise because this is a great translation that has been underrated by evangelicals for a long time. Since this indicates bibles purchased at CBA bookstores, it indicates that evangelicals are starting to pick up this great translation and discovering its merits and virtues. Well, after almost 20 years being published, it is finally being recognized and noticed by evangelicals. And maybe all of my fellow biblioblogger friends out in blogosphere-land who like the NRSV are contributing to this recognition in our own small ways too.

But I think this climb in the sales rankings is largely attributed to HarperCollins’ excellent marketing of its new hardcover edition, the XL edition, and the Go-Anywhere edition. I now see much more of these HarperCollins NRSVs on the bookshelves of Christian bookstores, like the one near my house. Previous to HarperCollins’ getting on board to market the NRSV, I saw very few NRSVs in Christian bookstores. It goes to show that marketing can make a huge difference in how a translation is perceived by potential bible readers. So kudos to HarperCollins and the NRSV, which is one of my favourite translations. It deserves to be read by more people and recognized for its high quality translation. Thank you Harper Collins.

[ Hat tip to: Stan McCullers and Iyov ]

Translations sold based on Dollar Sales:

1. New International Version, various publishers
2. New Living Translation, Tyndale
3. King James Version, various publishers
4. New King James Version, various publishers
5. Holman Christian Standard Bible, B&H Publishing Group
6. New American Standard Bible update, various publishers
7. English Standard Version, Crossway
8. New Revised Standard Version, various publishers
9. The Message, Eugene Peterson, NavPress
10. New International Readers Version, Zondervan

Translations sold based on Unit Sales:

1. New International Version, various publishers
2. New Living Translation, Tyndale
3. New King James Version, various publishers
4. King James Version, various publishers
5. English Standard Version, Crossway
6. Holman Christian Standard Bible, B&H Publishing Group
7. Reina Valera 1960 (Spanish), various publishers
8. New American Standard Bible update, various publishers
9. New Revised Standard Version, various publishers
10. New International Readers Version, Zondervan

15 thoughts on “Thanks to HarperCollins, the NRSV is gaining ground

  1. There is now a very nice little pocket edition of the Anglicized NRSV which I love. It’s very plain, but covered in this Tru-tone binding (red and grey) and perfect for carrying around. It also has quite a lot of footnotes which, for a pocket size, is quite unusual. The only drawbacks I can see are the lack of ribbon markers and the text is quite small, but provided I have my reading glasses with me it isn’t a problem.


  2. I’d love to see an update – it could use some reworking and it’s been 20 years since publication. I think if an update came out that was well done, I’d go almost exclusively with the NRSV.


  3. Wow this is great news. I’ve been wondering for quite some time whether HarperCollins could make a difference in NRSV sales. I’ve long suspicioned that it could’ve been a perennial top five seller if it had been promoted to a broader market than the scholarly crowd only. We shall see if this holds up.

    I have come to love the NRSV more and more, and am sold on it as my main translation now. I would disagree with some here that it needs an update. I think we have become spoiled to a constant flow of new translations and updates catering to our wants and desires to the point that no translation will ever hold a tradition anymore, like say the KJV has. The more translations are churned out, the less chance there is of there ever being another “common Bible of the people.” I just don’t feel the English language changes that substantially over twenty years that there is a call for a new update, but that’s just my opinion.

    I do hope they will continue to market the NRSV in more versions however, for example in more reference Bibles and devotional type study Bibles. I also agree with Gary that they should look into the use of immitation leather such as tru-tone. That stuff feels better than the real leather to me, and no cows have to walk around naked. 😉

    Oh well, in case it doesn’t last I will get my cheers in now. GO NRSV!

    Oh and BTW Kevin, I recently purchased the latest NOASB in leather, and indexed for only $59. I think it was at Amazon, but I’m not certain.


  4. Thanks Tim, it would be interesting to know if the NRSV-CE includes changes that were also in the RSV-CE. The NRSV-CE is probably the most gender-inclusive translation around. I definitely don’t want to see God become a “she”. That’s the boundary line for me.

    Gary, actually I kind of like the XL. The XL is a better made bible than the standard edition because of the hand-sewn binding so if HarperCollins were to make a leather-edition, I’d prefer they put it on the XL. Maybe they need to also make an XXL for Gary-types.


  5. Kevin, I think the easiest and quickest way for Harper to put out a leather (or nice, soft leather-like) cover would be to put one on the NRSV Standard Bible. They could keep the cost down and provide a very nice Bible that many of us would buy.

    I’d also like to see them make a “real” large-print Bible in a normal format instead of the silly NRSV XL.


  6. Kevin,

    In regards to the gender inclusive question, it will be interesting to see what changes are made in the NRSV that will be used in Canadian Masses. They have been using it, although not authorized, for the past decade or so, but with the recent OK from Rome I wonder if there will be any differences.

    From what I have read, I think the Vatican is OK with moderate use of inclusive language. Some horizontal inclusive language is being used even in the US NAB lectionary, but they will certainly not allow any vertical in reference to God as “he”. The other question has to do with passages in the OT refering to the “Son of Man”, which the NRSV obscures. I really don’t know what the Vatican will say about that.


  7. Gary, the only publisher I’ve seen put out excellent leather is Oxford and Cambridge but they’re too expensive. I was looking at one but if I had to shell out $100 for each of my bibles, I’d be in the poor house. Yes, I agree. If HarperCollins sees a continued demand for their NRSVs, they might start putting out leather editions too. I think World puts out a cheap bonded leather edition.


  8. Jeff, the NRSV did a really good job in getting rid of a lot of archaic language that was from the RSV. It’s been 20 years and I think an update would be nice too. Who knows, it might take another 10 years from the next update.

    Brent, welcome to this blog.

    For many years already, most secular colleges, and even many evangelical seminary professors (including at my wife’s alma mater!) did advise students to use the NRSV for academic purpose. And previous to HarperCollins’ involvement, there wasn’t much interest in the NRSV. So it draws me to a conclusion that HarperCollins made a big contribution to the NRSV’s gains.

    Tim, do you think it might be the gender inclusive language that the RC leadership is concerned about in the NRSV?


  9. I also appreciate what Harper is doing to market the NRSV. But I’m a little impatient. I’d like to see more reasonably priced leather and the new soft imitation leather covers on NRSVs. I would think they would be coming eventually, because I think there is a demand for them. Not everybody likes hardcover, you know. Ive been very spoiled by the leather covered Bibles I own. They need to give us some bonded and soft tu-tones in the area of $20 to $40; and give us large-print Bibles in those formats as well.


  10. I think it definitely has to do with marketing by HarperCollins. Up until 2 years ago, I don’t remember seeing any compies of the NRSV in Christian or secular books store, outside of the various scholarly Bibles. They certainly have done a lot better at marketing attractive editions. I emailed someone from HarperCollins about this and she mentioned to me that they were really trying to get the NRSV out there. (They also made clear to me that they appreciated any feedback and also hoped that I would post positive comments on places like Amazon.)

    I also know, being Catholic, that there have has been use of it in the Church. I see more scholarly Catholic works using the NRSV and the Vatican recently approved the NRSV for Mass readings in Canada. However, I have yet to see it being used in Bible study by most Catholics I come into contact with…..many still use either the NAB or RSV-CE.


  11. I think this climb in the sales rankings is largely attributed to HarperCollins’ excellent marketing of its new hardcover edition, the XL edition, and the Go-Anywhere edition.

    My thoughts exactly.


  12. I can’t remember who blogged it, but someone made the point that the sales of the NRSV would be influenced by the start of religious courses in the universities. Therefore the CBA numbers may not reflect a change in stance toward the NRSV, but just that colleges require students to use the NRSV. If the NRSV can continue this trend, then I think your assessments about the new marketing are correct. I bought the NRSV Standard Bible for myself and really like it. I have used the NRSV for about 14 years and thought it has a lot of positive features.


  13. I’ve used an NRSV pew Bible as my main Bible for 2 1/2 years. If it wasn’t for some archaic language I would like it even better. It would be nice to have an update but I don’t think that will happen.


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