SBL: Day 4 and 4.5

The Annual Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature wraps up on Tuesday with one final session. In practice this means that people are mostly heading for the airports first thing Tuesday morning after a long three or four days of conferring.

The last day and a half have been a whirlwind of meetings of various sorts, many of which are more of the “personal connection” variety than “listen to papers” type.

Monday started with the Fuller Seminary breakfast. Dan Reid gave a nice talk there about some of the changes in the publishing industry over the past two or three years, giving us some indications about what it means for our own future publications. There were no surprises, but some helpful reminders. The most interesting suggestion that is going to lodge in my mind for some time was that ebooks will not replace ink and paper–but they will be the distribution means of choice for popular fiction. Ebooks, in other words, won’t be the new professional library but might be the new dime store paperback.

Meetings & Books

Twice yesterday I had the good pleasure of sitting down with folks from Wipf and Stock. I’ve drawn your attention to them before: they are innovating in how books come to market and developing an outstanding list of original works. Books I’ve gotten from them in the past several days or weeks include: Andrew Perriman, The Future of the People of God, Neil Williams, The Maleness of Jesus, Geoffrey Rees, The Romance of Innocent Sexuality, and Michael Gorman, Reading Revelation Responsibly.

In other publishing news, I met with my editor from Baker, and it looks like Jesus Have I Loved, But Paul? should be in the presses next year. I am a bit disappointed that it won’t be out until January of 2012 rather than in time for next year’s SBL, but I assure that it will be worth the wait!

Biblioblogger Session

After piling up meetings in the morning, I headed to sessions for the afternoon. First it was the Biblioblogger session. That was truly an exceptional meeting. Mark Goodacre tweeted that it might be the first time he’s ever heard five great papers in one session, and I think he’s absolutely correct. James Davila (paper here), Chris Brady (paper here), Michael Barber, James McGrath, and Bob Cargill gave engaging presentations that raised important issues about the present and future of online self-publication, and electronic publication in general, for our discipline.

A few things struck me from that session: (1) Brady’s suggestion that SBL put together a committee to provide external peer review for all electronic professional service is fantastic and important. (2) The recognition that scholars have a vested interest in getting their work out from behind financial walls sat in odd juxtaposition with the previous day’s advocacy of peer-reviewed monograph series that publish work in volumes that sell for $100-350. (3) Cargill made a fantastic case for not only the greater use to which technology can be put for better communicating our scholarly research now, but also the ability of computer technology to communicate things that cannot be done in either static or paper-and-ink environments.

In all, I think that the camaraderie among bibliobloggers and the ways that technology continue to change even the kinds of information we need to represent to one another both point toward an initial positive impact of blogging and other forms of electronic technology on the profession.

Synoptic Gospels Session
Jason Staples gave a paper that comes as close as anything I’ve heard to providing an intertextual reading of the Gospels so as to indicate that the Gospel writers thought of Jesus as YHWH, the God of the OT. In short: the vocative, “Lord, Lord,” addressed to Jesus is a representation of the OT’s Lord GOD, ‘adonai YHWH, that would have typically been read aloud as, “‘adonai, adonai,” (=Lord, Lord).

Mark D. Given then took an initial step into the Synoptics, and away from Paul, in a paper comparing the call narrative of Isaiah 6 with Jesus’ baptism. There were fascinating points of contact, and some vigorous conversation.

This morning I did what I had not had time for before: I hit the book room and worked through my list. OK, and if I’m honest, I may have picked up one or two impulse buys!

SBL was great. Next year in San Francisco. (insert ambivalence here…)

9 thoughts on “SBL: Day 4 and 4.5”

  1. Just to clarify with respect to my paper: I’m not arguing Matthew and Luke think Jesus is God himself, but they do identify him (or have him identify himself) with the Name. It’s a very fine distinction (and one hard to put in the presentation, though it came out in the discussion session after the papers), but it’s worth making, since I’m not so sure early Christians thought Jesus was “God” as much as “divine.”

  2. I too appreciate what Wipf and Stock is putting out there, but I’m agitated by their high prices. Do you know why there books list more than other publishers?

  3. Wes beat me to the question of the price of W&S titles. Occasionally I see a new or reprinted book I’m interested in only to find out it’s one of their pricey volumes.

  4. Wipf and Stock prices:

    I always smile when the issue of our prices is raised. The reason I smile is that our prices often surprise people but for opposite reasons. Some people go, “Wow! Those are high prices!” whilst others say, “Wow! How do you do books like that at such affordable prices!” To be honest, most academics rave about how reasonable the prices are but I can understand why some people would think them high.

    I’ll explain the pricing in a mo but first I should say that it all depends what you are comparing the price to. If you compare us to IVP or Zondervan or Baker than our prices are relatively high. If you compare us to publishers who specialize in academic monographs, etc. then our prices are amazingly low. So it is important to compare like with like.

    The reason that our prices are higher than IVP and lower than T&T Clark (say) is the same reason: we use a different print technology and work to a different publishing model.

    Conventional publishing works on mass printing and the more you print the economies of scale yield lower and lower costs per book. So if you print 5000 copies you get a cheaper book than if you print 2000. But if you print 200 you’d have a very expensive book. So IVP (say) only take on books that will sell lots of copies allowing for print-runs that yield relatively low prices. T&T Clark (say) will still take more specialized academic books but not print very many and will thus get high prices.

    We use digital print technology to (more or less) print-on-demand. Here there are no economies of scale worth speaking of. So if we print 2000 copies of a book our unit cost would be no cheaper than if we printed 1. So we cannot get the price IVP would get on a book.

    On the other hand, this technology allows for a much lower price on small runs than small runs on conventional printers. That’s one reason why our prices are low when compared to most academic publishers.

    So there are pros and cons to using our model but we believe the pros outweigh the cons. Advantages include:
    - we can take very specialized books that would not be financially viable for mainstream publishers.
    - we can keep books in print “forever”
    - we can keep lots of books in print (we currently have over 5,200 books in print if one includes all the classic reprints).
    - we can do all this at reasonable (if not cheap) prices.

    I hope that explains things a little

    1. Thanks, Robin. That’s very helpful. I especially appreciate the advantage of picking up very specialized books that would not be financially viable for mainstream publishers.

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