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Overpriced SBL Handbook of Style (2nd ed)

Overpriced SBL Handbook of Style (2nd ed)

In November of last year, the second edition of The SBL Handbook of Style (a style guide for biblical studies and related fields) was released, updating the previous edition that was published in 1999. Because I’m a member of the SBL, I was hoping to pick up a free pdf version (as I did the previous edition). Unfortunately, such a benefit is years away (which, I found, was how it was rolled out with the first edition), although there are plans to release an ebook “soon” (source).

For now, the book is only available as a $39.95 hardback which I feel is at least twice as much as it should be. I suspect the ebook will similarly be overpriced but I would love to be wrong about this.

Is not a handbook of style a great opportunity to use some controlled crowdsourcing and produce an open access pdf and print editions at cost?

On a more positive note, the new rules have been incorporated in the SBL style for Zotero (bibliography management software) and the rule changes can be gleaned from the list here:

Rule Changes in the Second Edition

  • Following The Chicago Manual of Style, all names form the possessive with an apostrophes. Jesus’s and Moses’s are not exceptions to this rule (4.1.6).
  • In the academic transliteration style for Hebrew, SBL now specifies upside-down e for a vocal shewa, to distinguish it from khatef segol (5.1.1).
  • For the stems/binyanim, SBL now uses a consistent general-purpose style of transliteration: qal, niphal, piel, pual, hiphil,hophal, hithpael. The previous version was a mix of academic for consonants and general-purpose for vowels (
  • Titles of unattributed ancient works are no longer italicized even when they represent a direct transliteration of the ancient language. This rule applies to nonbiblical ancient Near Eastern texts, Old Testament pseudepigraphical texts, Dead Sea Scrolls, apostolic fathers, New Testament apocrypha and pseudepigrapha, and Nag Hammadi codices (, 8.3).
  • In bibliographies and notes, the basic facts of publication (city, publisher, and date) are set within parentheses, while all secondary publication information is now placed outside of the parentheses (6.2–6.4).
  • Series and journal titles are now abbreviated in both bibliography and notes (6).
  • SBL now recommends using two-letter postal abbreviations rather than traditional state abbreviations (8.1.1).
  • SBL now uses all caps without periods for BCE and CE rather than B.C.E. and C.E. (8.1.2).
  • Small caps are no longer recommended for abbreviations of versions or texts of the Bible: NRSV, MT, etc. (8.2).


4 Responses to Overpriced SBL Handbook of Style (2nd ed)

  1. Thanks Josh. Yes, at that price it’s expensive—the deal they offered for ‘pre-ordering’ to pick up in San Diego last November was OK, charging $20. So I bought it. But I so agree that a pdf would make far more sense. Why not make the pdf available for free to anyone who has purchased the hardback?

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