CLAIMS THAT Bible sales in the U.S. have fallen markedly this year have prompted questions as to whether the proliferation of so many different, specialized versions is causing confusion among would-be buyers. A recent survey of commercial publishers undertaken by the New York Times suggests a decline in sales. But two leading organizations - the National Council of Churches and the American Bible Society - say their figures are more encouraging.
"We don't see any numbers that give us concern," said David Lull, a United Methodist minister who recently became the NCC's director of Bible translation and utilization. The NCC sponsored the Revised Standard Version, published in 1952, and a 1989 revision, the New Revised Standard Version. Lull noted that though he had seen royalty figures only for the first quarter of this year, he found them "at least holding even or ahead of the prior year."
Michael Maus, communications officer for the ABS, said its sales of a new translation issued last year, the Contemporary English Version, were up by 42 percent this year-partly the result of a special promotional effort. "In our most recent fiscal year, ending June 30, 1996, ABS's overall scripture sales were up 15 percent," he said.
However, in an October 28 New York Times article titled "A strangely sluggish season for marketing God's word," figures quoted from the Association of American Publishers showed Bibles sales down 9 percent so far this year compared with the same period in 1995. Sales were down 42 percent for the month of June, a month in which many Americans traditionally give Bibles as graduation and wedding gifts. …