Top Ten Best-Selling Bible Translations Compared to Ten Years Ago (2021 Update)

If there is a single word that can capture the sales of Bible translations, it is “stability.” The most recent data I have is from the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association as of June 2021. The numbers in the parentheses represent the rankings in 2011. Obviously, some of these Bibles are paraphrases rather than translations.

Rankings as of June 2021 (numbers in parentheses are 2011 rankings).

  1. New International Version (NIV) (1)
  2. King James Version (KJV) (2)
  3. New Living Translation (NLT) (4)
  4. English Standard Version (ESV) (5)
  5. New King James Version (NKJV) (3)
  6. Christian Standard Bible (CSB) (6)
  7. Reina Valera (RV) (not ranked)
  8. New International Reader’s Version (NIrV) (9)
  9. The Message (Message) (8)
  10. Nueva Version International (NVI)(not ranked)

 Observations and Notes:

  • Two Spanish Bibles are now in the top ten. Neither was ranked ten years ago.
  • The New American Standard Bible (NASB) is no longer in the top ten. In 2011 it was ranked 7; in 2020 it was ranked 10.
  • The TNIV was discontinued in 2011. It was ranked 10 that year.
  • Technically the CSB was the HCSB (Lifeway) in 2011.
  • The biggest drop was the NASB, from 7 in 2011 to out of the top ten in 2021. The second biggest drop was the NKJV, from 3 to 5.
  • The biggest gain was the RV, from unranked to 7. The other translations that gained in the rankings were the NLT, the ESV, the NIrV, and the NVI.

Posted on July 19, 2021

With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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  • Bible lists like this are inaccurate because they all too often exclude Catholic Bibles from the statistics. No way some of these obscure and even strange editions outsell the NAB. I’d like to see some complete statistics.

  • Alexander Thomson says on

    Now, let us look at the results of in-depth investigation of the preferred Bible versions of serious students in the US.

    All figures are percentages; but the KJV and the NKJV figures should be viewed together, because respondents sometimes confuse KJV and NKJV or lump them together.

    There are 4 clear Top 4 Versions; and the order given below is : KJV, NKJV, NIV, ESV, Total Top 4.

    2017: 43,13,10,15, 81…..2018: 37,18,10,16,81……2019: 33,14,10,21,78……2020;35,16,9,17,77……2021:36,15,8,16,75.

    Mention should be made also of NLT. edging up to 2020-9 and 2020-10. Will it replace NIV?

    The same profile appears for the UK, except that NLT remains a little below NIV.

    It seems clear to me that, in both the US and also the UK, serious students and serious churches should have and use the Top 4 Preferred Versions – KJV NKJV. ESV. NIV.

  • Alexander Thomson says on


    Thanks for this information!

    The following table shows the EPCA published US unit Bible sales for the 5 years from 2017 to 2021.

    Rank. 2017. 2018. 2019. 2020. 2021.
    01. NIV. NIV. NIV. NIV. NIV.
    02. NLT. KJV. KJV. KJV. KJV.
    03. KJV. NLT. NLT. NLT. NLT.
    04. ESV. ESV. ESV. ESV. ESV.
    06. CSB. NKJV. CSB. CSB. CSB.
    07. RV (Spanish) ……………………………………
    08. NIrV. ………………………………………………….
    09. The Message…………………NASB. The Message
    10. NASB……………………… The Message. NVI (Spanish)

    It seems that the titles and ranks are becoming fixed; but, in terms of drawing conclusions from such tables, it should be borne in mind that : (1) the sales are only those registered in the US; (2) very many of the NIV’s are sent abroad; (3) many KJV’s are produced but not registered in the above figures; (4) marketing and other factors can result in temporary increases in sales of new(ish) editions.

    Nevertheless, we can see that 6 versions are clearly figure as the top US sellers;-

    version. 1st. 2nd. 3rd. 4th. 5th. 6th.

    NIV. 5.
    KJV. 4. 1.
    NLT. 1. 4.
    ESV. 5.
    NKJV. 4. 1.
    CSB. 1. 4.

  • Thanks for sharing this information. I think it’s encouraging to see the Spanish language versions moving up. God’s Word is so much bigger than the English language. I’ve been an ESV guy since way back at SBTS but lately have enjoyed the NLT, especially when listening to the audio version.

  • Interesting. Any idea where the Common English Bible (CEB) ranks? It was published in 2011.

    I read the CEB and the NLT, but love/appreciate many.


  • Ken Diercouff says on

    Joshua and Caleb weren’t in the top.10 either, and we see how that worked out. Slick marketing has nothing to do with God’s evaluation. Why do we rely on the flesh to judge spiritual things?

  • I was also surprised that the NASB has slipped in popularity. It’s probably my favorite for technical study, but I agree it’s writing style is rather flat. I’m not a KJV-only man, but I do love the poetic style of the KJV. Still, it has quite a few readability issues, too, especially with its use of archaic words. I was skeptical of the NKJV when it was first introduced, but I’ve developed an appreciation for it in the last few years. It’s more readable than the traditional KJV, but it preserves its style quite well.

    I’m currently using the HCSB for daily devotions, but I don’t like to read the same translation year after year, so I vary it. In the past I’ve used the NIV, the NASB, the KJV, and the NKJV.

  • Where does the NRSV fall?

  • Tony Smith says on

    I find it interesting that NASB is not in the top 10 anymore and it’s supposed to be the most accurate translation, very interesting. I don’t find myself going to my NASB very often either. Thanks for this post.

    • Thom Rainer says on

      Thanks, Tony. Readability is the challenge for the NASB, according to several people in the Church Answers’ community.

  • The New Living Translation is good for kids, but when doing my own word studies and consulting more literal translations, I occasionally find that the NLT adds or interprets things that are not in the scripture. For example, in the Luke 19 story of Zaccheus, the NLT say that Zaccheus climbed down “and took Jesus to his house.” The phrase “and took Jesus to his house” are not in the Greek. This “translation” has led some illustrators and teachers to depict the crowd muttering at Jesus’ house rather than at the tree. I understand that the NLT is what’s called a “dynamic” type of translation, but sometimes it strays into “interpretation.”

  • Bob Myers says on

    Fascinating findings. Thanks for posting them.

    We just purchased NLT Bibles for our pews. (Tyndale needs to get another large print edition for pew Bibles. Their pew edition is 9-point font that doesn’t work with older congregations. We ended up buying a fairly expensive extra large print edition for our Bibles.) Our people have readily embraced the translation because it is vibrant and faithful.

  • John Nixdorf says on

    The ESV is my “go to” translation. My ESV Study Bible is the best study Bible I have (and I have half a dozen at least). Therefore it really pains me to offer the following comment:

    Crossway, the ESV publisher, has shifted its ESV Bible printing to China. All of it apparently (although other titles continue to be printed in the USA). While this may have been a business decision that made sense several years ago when it was made, anyone considering buying an ESV Bible today may want to consider that doing so will support the despotic, atheistic Communist Chinese regime.

    Crossway claims their printer (RR Donnelly) assures them there’s no forced labor involved in printing the ESV. How they know that they don’t say. But even though there might not be a Uyghur handcuffed to the printing press, there is almost certainly forced labor somewhere in the supply chain.

    Contact Crossway management and let them know they need to unwind from China and get the ESV printed somewhere else. Look for a used ESV or make do with Kindle.

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