It used to be thatprisoners would roll an inexpensive cigarettefrom a pageout of theBible, but no longer.According to a report fromCrosswalk.com, smokers half a world away are driving up the cost of the special paper used to print Bibles.
What goes around comes around.
Religion Today Summaries, April 26, 2007—There are at least two good reasons to stop smoking. Number one: It may damage your health. Number two: It raises the production costs for Bibles, ASSIST News Service reports. The Chinese craving for cigarettes is responsible for rising paper costs in bible printing, according to the business manager of the German Bible Society, Felix Breidenstein. Because of the rising demand for cigarette paper in China the special thin paper used in bible printing is getting more expensive, as Breidenstein told the German news magazine Der Spiegel. The German Bible Society sells approximately 400,000 bibles per year.
I’ve always been intrigued by how our experience of the Bible is affected by the medium, which in turn is constrained by logistical factors such as the cost of paper.
The Bible has a lot of pages and yet it’s a book we carry around with us more than most other books. That means we want it to be thin and light, not big and bulky.Hence special, super-thin paper, small print, two- or three-column layout, and relatively narrow margins. All of these factors impact our interaction with the Bible in subtle or not-so subtle ways. Example: Thin pages => special no-bleed marking pens =>crocheted Bible cover with pockets to hold pens. It’s a slippery slope.
Of course, the experience of using an electronic Bible is similarly influenced by the library software used to read and search it. How cross-references or footnotes are handled, how poetry is formatted, options for notes and highlighting—all these and more contribute to the user experience, and all are subject to various constraints.
The difference is, electronic Bible publishers fret about CPU, RAM, and screen size while print Bible publishers lie awake at night worrying about how many Chinese are taking up smoking.
Update 4/27 – Smoking Bible pages actually does happen, as attested by a Bible Network News audio report about a prisoner whose chaplain asked him not to smoke the book of John. Click here to open the BNN page, then scroll down to “Texan smoked Bible passages”.