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Review: ESV Verse by Verse Reference Bible

August 16, 2012

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I have always been a fan of function taking precedence over form. Not that form is unimportant, merely that if something is not useful it does not matter how aesthetically pleasing it is. It is a rare and wonderful thing when these two meet. The question here is, does this happen with the new ESV Verse by Verse (VbV) Reference Bible?

History
This latest edition stands in the legacy of the original ESV Single Column Reference (SCR) Bible. It has the same format setting and is roughly the same size as the original. Unfortunately, the original SCR did not do well in the market. It was initially plagued with very thin and translucent paper which made for a difficult reading experience. Once they upgraded the paper the Bible became extremely thick (about 2″ or so) making it difficult to carry easily. It has been said the Crossways shot themselves in the foot with the problems in this edition and hurt the reception of what could have been their best reference Bible on the market. All that being said I had a copy of the original edition in trutone and found it fairly adequate despite the translucent paper.

Format
The VbV is very much like the original SCR with a few minor differences. It is a single column format with the references in the inside margin. The original had 10pt font and about 1.125″ outside margins. The new edition has about 9pt font and slightly less than 1″ outside margins. The overall size is roughly the same as the original SCR edition. Personally, I do not find this to be overly large but your mileage may vary.

Also, like its predecessor, it is printed in verse format which means that each verse starts a new line. There has been much dispute about this format. Some like it and others detest it. For my part, I like both. The verse format does have the advantage of making looking up verses very easy. It does take a little getting used to for a smooth reading experience you have to learn to ignore the line breaks and focus on the text. If all you are looking for is a reading Bible then this format is probably not for you. However, it is very nice for reference and study which is exactly what this Bible was made for. If your pastor likes to reference other passages during the sermon as mine does then this will make it easier to look up his references.

There have been some people who would claim that the verse format contributes to taking verses out of context and cherry-picking. To be honest, I flat out reject this assertion. People have been misusing the Bible long before thre was such a thing as verse of paragraph formats. Blaming the format as a contributor to this is not a valid criticism. Just because someone can misuse the format is no reason to blame the format.

Binding
One of the things that is not so great about this new edition is the binding options. It comes in two favors of trutone and genuine leather there is no premium leather option currently available. I purchased the genuine leather edition because I did not think that the trutone material would provide enough support for a Bible this size. Plus at only $50 I did not see a reason not to get the leather. While Crossway’s genuine leather is not as fine as some of the other options out there and it does, admittedly, feel a little like plastic, it seems to be very durable. From past experience with this kind of product, I expect it to soften and break in over time.

The binding is sewn and the Bible opens easily to any page you want. Unlike other products I have seen, the pages do not stick together. Whatever process Crossway’s used to place the gilding on this edition it did not cause this phenomenon. Overall I can say that this edition opens easily and lays flat for easy reading on a tabletop or lap.

Paper
Probably one of the most important features in a good Bible edition is the paper. It need to be thin enough to make for an edition that doe not cause a strained muscle when carrying but also thick or opaque enough that one cannot read the parable of the sower from Genesis. For the VbV Bible I must sa that they have done well. The paper is good without being too thick and opaque enough for normal use. There is some of the text on the opposite page visible as you would expect but it really is minimal and seems mostly limited to the text on the opposite page. Personally I find it more distracting when I can actually read the text as opposed to text that is backwards. I a single column Bible like this you need to expect some ghosting but I think this edition does a fine job. Not perfect but certainly an improvement over other editions.

Overall
When all the features are evaluated I am left with a simple question, would I recommend this edition to someone else? To that I have to give a resounding yes. It is a good Bible that is versatile without being overly cumbersome. I am quite pleased with this purchase and plan on using this as my primary Bible for the foreseeable future.

For those who like such things (like my wife) here is a brief list of pros and cons:

Pros:
– Layout: great for reading and study.
– Binding: strong and made of good material.
– Paper: good quality, white, and feels thick.
– Price: you can’t go wrong for $50.

Cons:
– Size: it is a little big if you are looking for something to carry around.
– Cover: no premium leather option. Candidate for a re-bind later.
– Ribbons: only comes with one. I wish publishers would figure out that we like at least two on Bibles like this.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. August 16, 2012 9:43 pm

    Excellent review Brian – thanks for the pictures as well!

  2. Anthony permalink
    March 3, 2014 9:38 pm

    hi may i know the actual thickness of VbV? thanks

    • Knight permalink*
      March 31, 2014 5:26 pm

      I am sorry for taking so long to respond to you. I measure mine as 1-1/4″ at the spine.

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