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Shaka Schwartzman

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GRAND RAPIDS — Christian publishing giant Zondervan is blending new wording and new packaging for a Bible intended to meet needs across the board.

The Grand Rapids-based company released the first in a long line of updated New International Version Bibles last week.

The newest version of the NIV translation is the first for Zondervan since 1984. The original NIV came out in 1978 as a result of an independent committee formed in the 1960s to produce a new translation.

The Committee on Bible Translation meets yearly to consider changes in the NIV Bible. Zondervan, which holds North American publishing rights, and Biblica, which holds noncommercial rights around the world, approached the committee in 2009 about a new translation.

“About 95 percent of the words are the same,” said Doug Moo, committee chairman and professor of New Testament at Wheaton Graduate School. “On the one hand, we tried to keep the continuity because the translation was so good the first time. But there were a lot of changes in the English language that needed to be reflected as well.”

The committee considered how certain words were used in recently discovered ancient manuscripts and evidence from scholars gained over the past several decades before proposing changes to the text. The 15-member committee votes on each proposed change, with 70 percent having to be in agreement before it’s made.

“The vote is very rarely unanimous,” said Moo. “We don’t want to change easily, nor fall prey to every whim and fashion that comes around and stays just a year or two.”

The committee issued a public appeal to the scholarly community asking for its best ideas for updates on the NIV Bible, then met for four separate weeks in 2010 to decide what to change.

“It’s a complicated process,” said Moo. “We take pride in producing a Bible that is very accurate, and all view it as a solemn charge because we’re working with the words of God.”

Zondervan has updated the NIV Bible’s packaging as well. The company hired IDEO, an award-winning design firm, to help. IDEO initiated shop-alongs with consumers and home interviews.

“When you shop with someone, you discover how hard it is to buy a Bible,” said Chip Brown, executive vice president of Bibles at Zondervan. “We had ended up making Bible buyers need a seminary degree. Consumers are embarrassed that they don’t know enough and won’t ask for help.”

The new NIV features sturdier packaging, windows to see cover color and texture, and clear symbols on front, back and side indicating print size, whether the Bible can lay flat or not, and that it’s the NIV. A QR — “quick response” — code on the back leads buyers with smart phones to a video about the new NIV.

“We wanted to create something that delivers increased value for the customer, but also for distributors and bookstores as well,” Brown said.

Area bookstores are stocking the Bibles as they come in over the next months. Zondervan has 177 different skews — or varieties — of the NIV that will be released, along with a variety of posters, end-cap kits and shelf-talkers for bookstores.

“We’ve seen a slight uptick in sales,” said Bob Gillett, manager of Kregel Parable Christian Store on the East Beltline.

“The new packaging is driving attention to the NIV, plus it gives customers more information about the Bible.”

Zondervan has released 20 editions of the new NIV including the Thinline Bible, Adventure Bible, Bloom Collection and several gift Bible editions.

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