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Review: NASB Ultrathin Reference Bible

November 12, 2012

As English speaking Christians we have an abundance of choices when it comes to the choice of a Bible. There are many translations and formats for almost every style and taste, not to mention there are also Bibles for specific purposes (study, devotional, reading, etc.) If, however, you are a fan of the NASB, your choices narrow somewhat as most Christian bookstores will carry this translation but will only have one or two editions available at any given time. There are plenty available but in comparison with the ESV or NIV, the pickings are somewhat slim.

About ten years ago I discovered the NASB. Though I grew up in a Christian home, the subject of a Bible translation was not one that we discussed or even concerned ourselves with. I knew about the NIV and the KJV but that was about it. When I discovered the NASB I found I liked it for its accuracy compared to the NIV and readability compared to the KJV. I immediately purchased a copy of the Zondervan Classic Reference NASB but there were two problems with this edition. 1) It was verse format. Not bad but not necessarily easy to read from. 2) It was a glued binding. I had two Bibles fall apart on me when I was younger and both were glued. I didn’t want a repeat of that performance. Then I discovered the NASB Ultrathin Reference from Foundation Publications…

ImageI purchased this edition in 2006 and have been using and carrying it on and off since then. It has become my go to Bible whenever I go to church, travel, or just sit and read. I have underlined and marked in it and it has become something unique to me.


The NASB Ultrathin Reference is a double column, paragraph format Bible with red letter and references in the center column. It is significant that this is a paragraph format since there are not many NASB’s formatted in this way. The translation tends to be printed in verse format so finding one in paragraph, while not rare, is uncommon. The font is about 9pt so it is good for reading as long as your eyes are not too bad. Someone with weaker eyes would likely prefer a larger font but then you would not have an “ultrathin.” As with everything, there is a tradeoff. The margins are not large at about 3/8” but they are sufficient for minimal notes.

This is a classic look for a Bible and should not be ignored just because it is so “regular.” If you want a basic reference Bible without study notes or commentary then this is the kind of format you go for. This also has the benefit of packaging into a relatively small format so it can be carried easily. Don’t miss the significance of this. I have found that a bible that is too large or cumbersome to carry around tends to get left on the shelf. There is something to be said for simple and this edition does it well.

Overall the format is good but it does have some areas where it is lacking. First of all, the lines are a little close together. This can make reading difficult and makes a relatively small font feel even smaller. Any highlighting or underlining needs to be done with care. Also, the red lettering tends to be more on the pink side of red in my edition. I should note that in recent printings (China as opposed to my Korean edition) the red lettering is much better. Note the comparison between my older edition and my wife’s newer one. The print is much darker in the newer printings. (Newer edition on the left.)



The binding on this edition is genuine leather, which is, I think, a form of pigskin. Foundation also has this in bonded leather and a couple options in synthetic material. If genuine leather is not your speed I recommend one of the synthetic materials. It is durable, attractive, and economical. (You can always have it rebound later.) I have been using my edition for almost seven years and, while it is beginning to show age, it still feels durable and supple. It is not a premium calfskin or goatskin by any measure but it manages to be tough with a rugged appearance to it.

This Bible also possesses a sewn binding and it has proven to be one of the most durable in any edition I have ever seen. Pages have not fallen out in almost seven years and the Bible opens very flat from Genesis to Revelation. The only wear I have seen is a small separation of one of the signatures in the maps section in the back of the Bible. The binding in that area is fine but the maps have been folded a few too many times and are beginning to tear at the fold. This is disappointing but not surprising since I have not exactly been gentle with it and used to fold the cover behind the Bible (I know, my bad.) I am hopeful that if I ever decide to have the edition rebound this can be repaired.

In the newer editions the binding is not as good in my opinion. My wife’s edition has the typical “puckering” in the center that seems common to bibles that are bound a little too tight or not bound with the right grain direction on the paper. This does not detract from the use of the Bible but some may find it concerning. Another area of concern is the ribbon. There is only one and it is rather thin. I do not really expect an ultrathin to have more than one ribbon but it would have been nice to have a nicer one than this.


As you may expect, the paper in any ultrathin Bible will be, well, thin. This simply cannot be helped, as a thick paper will defeat the purpose of producing an ultrathin Bible. However, thinner paper does not mean it has to be translucent to the point of reading Matthew from Ruth. This has been a sore point with me as I have looked at Bible editions. I personally find ghosting to be annoying and distracting when reading. I also find it rather annoying that many high end and expensive editions have this issue (call me picky.) Some have attempted to go with thicker and thicker paper thus reducing the problem while others have attempted to use line matching to mask the thin, translucent paper.

The good news is that the NASB Ultrathin Reference has, what I believe to be, an acceptable level of ghosting. As with many things it partially hinges on your expectations. As an inexpensive (<$40) ultrathin Bible, we don’t really expect that this edition will have perfect paper. However, I find that it is even better than that. My edition has been abundantly marked in and I can only see a faint image from the other side of the page. Also the double column, tight format fills most of the page and hides what does show through from the pages behind. All things considered, I would say this is very good for a Bible this size and at this price point.


Looking at the big picture I would have to say that I would recommend this edition to anyone looking for an everyday use NASB. It is portable without being compact, durable without being expensive, and readable without being a brick. If you are not a person who has to have premium leather and can live with a smaller font then this may be a good choice for you. I would call this a working Bible. Not one you leave on the shelf all day and not one you put in a museum. It is one you put to work.

God bless.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. tylercutts permalink
    August 7, 2014 11:05 pm

    I have the large print version of this Bible. Same 1995 NASB translation, in Lockman’s Leathertex. Have you taken a look at that Bible? I can’t seem to be able to mark in it without pretty significant ghosting. Other than that, my Lockman Bible is the best I have ever had.

    • Knight permalink*
      August 8, 2014 6:40 am

      I have the large print as well. Mine has the best paper I have ever seen in a Bible. Fortunately, I have one of the earlier published copies. The later ones went for a slightly thinner look and sacrificed the paper so now it has bad bleed through. An unfortunate decision on the publisher’s part

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