Small Bibles

Next to, perhaps, Soduku, the thing that I see people doing most frequently on the train is reading Bibles. I’ve observed this for quite some time now, without saying much about it, but it fascinates me in a number of ways.

Some of the same people seem to be reading the Bible constantly, year round. Now, I’ve read some books more than once, but it’s almost always something that lacks a plot and suspense and all of the accouterments of a story. I mean, once you’ve read the Bible once, you know how it ends. It’s like reading The Da Vinci Code more than once. Second time around it just doesn’t seem as good. Nevertheless, many people seem to read the Bible exclusively on the DC Metro.

There is something curious about these Bibles that I’ve noticed in my observations. Most of the Bibles that people read are rather small and compact, with very thin pages. The fact that these Bibles are small in and of itself is no big deal. But I did some research and discovered that the King James Bible is roughly 791,000 words long. By comparison, the Da Vinci Code is 206,000 words long, or roughly 1/4th the length of the Bible. Many of these Bibles, however, are the size of a paperback version of The Da Vinci Code. This means that the print in these things must be microscopic. (Roughly 1/4th the size of the print in the Da Vinci Code.)

This may explain why it takes people so long to read the Bible. With microscopic vision and less than perfect eyesight, it could take quite a while to see your way through the book.

On the other hand, it could be a chicken or egg problem. Do people who read the Bible tend to have poorer vision than those that don’t? Is Bible-reading causing vision problems? Is Lasix surgery somehow related to the church?

I have nothing against any of this, mind you. In fact, I’d encourage reading the Bible, just as I’d encourage reading the Iliad, the Odyssey, the Theseus and the Minotaur, the Norse myths, etc. And to show just how supportive I am, here’s my plaintive plea:

Attention Bible Printers: Are you really so cheap that you can’t print Bibles with bigger print, and on more pages? 800,000 words is the size of 15 or so Agatha Christie novels, and yet your packing all of that wordage, cramming it like sardines into a tiny, cramped space. Loosen up! Up that font size, increase the kerning. Enlarge the pages. This is the Bible we’re talking about, after all. It’s probably not the right place to skim on materials or costs.

Of course, the same could be said of printers of Shakespeare, but for some reason, I never see anyone reading Shakespeare on the train.

I wonder why that is?


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