For religion publishers who do academic publishing, the November 19–22 concurrent meetings this year in San Francisco of two major professional groups of religion scholars is a felicitous remarriage after an expensive three-year divorce.
Until 2008, the American Academy of Religion, for religious studies scholars, and the Society of Biblical Literature, for biblical studies scholars, met concurrently, drawing 10,000 to 12,000 attendees, a captive audience of academic religion specialists who love the handsome discounts publishers offer and who make the decisions about classroom adoption of books.
These annual meetings have become increasingly significant for those publishing to the academic market; 75 to 100 exhibitors, most of them publishers, enjoy brisk sales and the opportunity to promote their books to these key influencers. For many, AAR/SBL has become far more important than BEA; indeed, several key houses now skip that trade show in favor of this chance to reach their highly targeted customers and actually sell books (see "BEA Now a Low (or No) Priority for Many Religion Houses" in this issue).
Having to stock and staff two separate meetings three weeks apart for the past three years meant added expenses for publishers and having to make hard choices. This year, San Francisco strikes many as a nice choice for a honeymoon for the rejoined groups, and there will once again be the parties and events that used to characterize the gathering.
Time to Celebrate Again
"Reunited, and it feels so good," says Bobbi Jo Heyboer, senior director of marketing for Baker Academic and Brazos Press. Those two imprints of Baker Publishing Group, like many other houses, will have bigger booth space this year and will host a reception, which it hasn't done since 2008. Such social events allow publishers to fete and thank their authors and to scan the academic ranks for new authors while munching canapés.
HarperOne, on home ground in San Francisco, is doubling its booth space and planning a reception. It is also holding three special meetings, one oriented toward AAR, another toward SBL, and a third session on scholars and the media. "We have many important authors who are active in each organization," says Sam Barry, marketing and Bible promotions manager at the house.
In addition to new books, Oxford University Press will take advantage of the combined attendance to showcase its online academic research products, such as Oxford Bibliographies Online and Oxford Biblical Studies Online, as well as its extensive journals publishing program. Westminster John Knox also will do business in larger quarters as well as sponsor panels, host a reception, and celebrate the completion of the New Testament for Everyone commentary series by the popular and much published theologian N.T. Wright. "In some ways it will be business as usual, but we hope it will be the usual of the pre-split conferences and not the usual of the last three years," says David Dobson, executive director of publishing and editorial at Westminster John Knox.
Wm. B. Eerdmans has a special reason to party in San Francisco—it celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. The Grand Rapids, Mich., publisher is a Diamond Sponsor, giving it a number of promotional opportunities. Its fall list includes a book-length examination of a well-known American filmmaker: The Ethical Vision of Clint Eastwood by Sara Anson Vaux (Oct.).
Stars of the Show
InterVarsity Press plans to showcase its new Reformation Commentary on Scripture. The projected 28-volume biblical commentary kicks off with Galatians, Ephesians, edited by Gerald L. Bray; the series general editor is Timothy George, founding dean of Beeson Divinity School. IVP Academic has had success with a previous series, the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, which has sold 500,000 copies.
Baylor University Press will be showing off its hefty God of the Living: A Biblical Theology by Reinhard Feldmeier and Hermann Spieckermann (Nov.). The 500-page work will be the subject of a review panel at the meeting with Old and New Testament experts Walter Brueggemann, Paula Fredriksen, Larry Hurtado, Richard Hays, and Jack Miles. Press director Carey C. Newman offers a different metaphoric take on the reunion of the two groups' meetings. "It's more like joint custody of a child," he says. "Everyone keeps their own furniture and bank accounts, but one time a year we get together around the child."
Says Alx Block, online sales and marketing manager for JPS, "This is really our crowd. The JPS Tanakh translation is regarded as the gold standard" by biblical scholars. He notes, "We always sell out of our pocket edition Hebrew-English Tanakh." This year JPS will feature its new Commentators Bible volume on Numbers, as well as the JPS Tanakh iPhone app and the JPS Audio Bible.
While texts from Christianity and Judaism dominate the study of religion in America, world religions are of growing interest for scholars. AAR has a Buddhism section, and Wisdom Publications regularly attends the annual meeting, finding it an important venue for text adoption and for acquisitions. It launched its scholarly series Studies in Indian and Tibetan Buddhism at an AAR party in 1999. "Scholars are most appreciative," says Wisdom publisher/CEO Timothy McNeill, "and remember being feted with free food and drinks."
Titles at AAR/ SBL
A Public Faith: How Followers of Christ Should Serve the Common Good by Miroslav Volf (Aug.)
Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts by Craig S. Keener (Nov.)
Baylor University Press
God of the Living: A Biblical Theology by Reinhard Feldmeier and Hermann Spieckermann (Nov.)
Becoming American: The Forging of Arab and Muslim Identity in Pluralist America by Yvonne Haddad (Oct.)
Wm. B. Eerdmans
The Ethical Vision of Clint Eastwood by Sara Anson Vaux (Oct.)
The Eerdmans Companion to the Bible, edited by Gordon D. Fee and Robert L. Hubbard Jr. (Sept.)
Forged: Writing in the Name of God—Why the Bible's Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are by Bart D. Ehrman (Apr.)
Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived by Rob Bell (Mar.)
InterVarsity Press/IVP Academic
Paul Through Mediterranean Eyes: Cultural Studies in 1 Corinthians by Kenneth E. Bailey (Oct.)
Reading Scripture with the Reformers by Timothy George (Oct.)
Oxford University Press
The Jewish Annotated New Testament, edited by Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Brettler (Nov.)
The Next Christendom, third edition, by Philip Jenkins (Sept.)
Why Religion Is Natural and Science Is Not by Robert N. McCauley (Nov.)
Westminster John Knox
Law, Power, and Justice in Ancient Israel by Douglas Knight (Aug.)
Genesis by Miguel de la Torre (Oct.) and Hebrews by Stephen Long (Sept.), two new volumes in the series Belief: A Theological Commentary on the Bible