International Christian Retail Show – Day 3: All About Leather


For the last day of the show I had a detailed discussion with Cromwell Leather. They produce cowhide, pigskin leather, a very high quality bonded leather, and various other types of leathers for books and Bibles. I walked by them several times thinking they wouldn’t be interested in talking to a blogger. Boy was I wrong! As it turns out they’re readers of BBG and were hoping to meet me. I got lucky with my timing and caught them between meetings.

Thomas Fleisch (the president) and his son Evan (international sales) gave me some awesome training on the various types of leathers used for books and how they are chosen and treated for Bibles. This conversation alone was worth the trip from Tennessee. I saw lots of amazing samples of their leather and got a look at what’s coming next. I like what I see.

They’re very conscious about the environment and they use processes that have the least or no impact. They use green production systems. This is something I can get behind and appreciate.

They went into a lot of detail about the various types of bonded leathers. I have avoided bonded leather because of my past experience with it. I’m used to the old bonded leather that’s badly made. That’s not Cromwell bonded leather. Cromwell’s bonded leather is made with more leather fibers and far better construction. I have seen some bonded leather books that I thought looked amazing. One book in particular was a rich red/brown with a beautiful texture. That’s Cromwell bonded leather. I now have a sample sheet of that very same bonded leather. They also gave me a leather sampler that includes bonded leather, cowhide, etc., in different colors and textures. I’d buy a Bible made with Cromwell bonded leather any day. It won’t last as long as genuine leather but it will outlast polyurethane by a long-shot and it looks and feels amazing.

Like most publishers at this year’s ICRS, the future of printed Bibles is on their mind. And they share the same view as the Bible publishers: Bibles will always be in print but we’ve got to give readers a reason to pick up and hold a printed Bible when they have easy access to digital editions. Leather is definitely a big part of that. As Thomas pointed out, the first thing people do is see it, then they touch it, then they smell it. That’s your first chance to hook them. I’m sure you’ve all noticed that the first element of a Bible that I discuss is the cover.

They told me a great quote from the United Bible Society. I apologize if I got it wrong, but it was something like this:

Digital is about access. Print is about ownership. – United Bible Society

Cromwell Leather Group has a passion for Bible and book leather and that passion shows in their work. They do what they love and the love what they do. I hope to see them again next year.

I also got to talk to Andrew Teebe from Crossway. He gave me the rundown on what’s to come from Crossway. I love the direction they’re going. They’re filling in all the gaps. Even gaps I didn’t know existed. They’re not afraid to try something new even if it’s just for a smaller audience. The need is there and they’re not afraid to lead the way. They respond to what readers ask for. I just hope other publishers follow their lead. (and yes, I’m being cryptic on purpose).

One thing I learned is I either need to drink less coffee when taking photos with my phone, or I need to use a better camera. Maybe I should just hand the camera to my daughter. I would just walk around pointing at things and she would do all the work. I could drink even more coffee that way. No. She wouldn’t be able to tell what I’m pointing at.

I picked up a few review copies, so you’ll be seeing those soon. Two that I will be using for a long time are the TBS Family Bible (thanks Darci and Marnie – this one means a lot to me), and the Whitaker KJVER.

There were several groups that I missed. I’ll make sure I catch them next year in Cincinnati. This includes Jongbloed (I did get some information about their paper making process from Darci at the TBS booth). I met several reps that were passionate about producing God’s Word. They don’t think about being in business. They think of it as a ministry. I found that this is true even if the publisher themselves think of it as a business first. And there are several publishers with the ministry mindset. This is the kind of people I want making Bibles. 

I really enjoyed my first ICRS. I look forward to doing this again next year. Here’s another round of random out of focus photos of the show floor.












About The Author

Randy A Brown

WordPress writer by day, Bible reviewer by night, pastor all the time. And there's also that author thing.


  1. Kurt

    I would only consider Crossway as “filling in all the gaps” when they start publishing other translations such as the KJV.

    And I’ll be impressed when TBS drops their prejudice against people who like red-letter bibles.

    Other than that, nice reporting.

    • Randy Brown

      Thanks Kurt. I would LOVE to have Crossway’s layouts in KJV (especially the ‘gaps’ I’m referring to). I do like a good quality red letter. It would be nice to see the Westminster and Windsor in red letter.

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