Overproduction is a survival strategy among many animal and plant populations. Just consider the number of acorns under one oak tree, or “propellers” under a maple in the spring. Swarms of ants or the legendary multiplication of rabbits. It’s as if nature knows most won’t survive, so you’d better prepare plenty. The same applies in the publishing industry. Every book is a gamble, and you can’t know which one will sell out and which one will collect the dust of ages on a warehouse shelf—a shelf you have to pay dearly to lease. This applies to best-sellers as well, such as the Bible. By almost any standard the Bible is among the best selling books of all time. Literally more than a billion have been printed. It exists in multiple translations and in many languages. And many copies end up sitting on the shelf. So many, in fact, that eventually a kind of limit is reached and you either need to rent another warehouse or thin the stock a bit. In my position, knowing what other publishers are doing is vital, so buying their Bibles is important. Then someone else needs your shelf-space.
A genizah is a repository for “retired” sacred scripture featured in some synagogues. Texts that are too sacred to toss into the garbage when they’re worn out may be buried among others of their kind in a genizah. Well, a storage room at work isn’t exactly a genizah, but it is a room where hundreds of out of print Bibles lie forgotten. Salvation in dry storage. As the new kid in the department, I get to clean the closet. Our own Bibles we are able to sell, but the hundreds amassed from other publishers over the years, well, we aren’t running a genizah here.
My instructions are: “see that dumpster over there?” For a kid who grew up believing that it was an order of sin even to place another book on top of a Bible, the idea of filling a dumpster with the good book presents a crisis of a greater magnitude. The simply is no room in the inn. Besides, I’ve lost a job or two already. And I’ve seen the damage that Bibles can wreak in the wrong hands. Still, I followed the Bible through three degrees, and in some form or another my entire life has revolved around that book. But I’m talking like an idolator. Bibles are big business. Few Bible publishers can’t turn a profit. And profits, we all know, lead us to produce even more.
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