A few years ago a Kickstarter project raised over a million dollars to produce a high-quality, multi-volume Bible without chapter or verse numbers. The idea was to create a distraction-free reading experience. I was taken in and ponied up $25 for the volume on the New Testament. Then I waited. And waited. And Crossway was able to get out a single-volume ESV Reader’s Bible, so I bought that and read through it a few times in a couple of years. (I did eventually get my New Testament and read that too).
I recently saw that both Zondervan and Broadman and Holman had released their own reader’s Bibles, so I obtained review copies of the new NIV and CSB Reader’s Bibles to compare the three for our readers. Below is the table I created:
|Cover options (bold for review copy)||
|Release (cloth over board)||June 2014||October 2017||September 2017|
|Dimensions||8.00 x 5.5 x 1.7 in.||8.75 x 5.5 x 2.0 in.||9.25 x 5.5 x 1.7 in.|
|Font||0.131 in.||0.145 in.||0.135 in.|
|Line spacing||0.09 in.||0.12 in.||0.09 in.|
|Margins||0.675 in.||0.50 in||0.75 in.|
|Slipcase?||Yes (cardboard)||No||Yes (cloth over board)|
|Ribbon marker||2 (brown)||1 (silver)||1 (white)|
ESV’s Best Features
- Multiple cover options
- Two ribbon markers
- Compact size (compared to the other two)
The ESV was the first of the three to market, but it still has a few bells and whistles not available in the NIV or CSB. Its spine is rounded with ribs, and the additional protection offered by a slip-case gives it a high-quality look. Two ribbon markers allow you to follow a reading plan with readings in the Old and New Testaments.
NIV’s Best Features
- Bigger font and wider line spacing
Textual notes retained as endnotes
The larger bigger font size and wider line spacing of the NIV reduce eye strain and make it easier to keep your place as you work your way down the page. Textual notes are nice when you want them (Isaac means “he laughs”), but they are pretty useless as endnotes unless you want to completely disrupt your reading experience.
CSB’s Best Features
- Cloth-over-board slipcase
- Wide margins
- 8 full-color maps
The CSB is probably the best designed of the three. Although it doesn’t have the largest font or widest line spacing, the wide margins mean fewer words per line, which
makes for the best reading experience. The margins also leave more room for handwritten notes. Add in the matching cloth-over-board slipcase, and you have a high-quality book to put on the shelf or end table. I expected the “poppy” color to be red, but it is definitely a pinkish hue. I also would have preferred keeping the Psalm numbers in the text since they are individual compositions.
To sum up…
All three make extended Scripture reading much easier. I’ve used each of these translations at various points and places in ministry. I’ve found them all pretty readable on their own, but the larger font and lack of verse numbers, chapter numbers, and footnotes in a reader’s edition make the reading experience much smoother. And quicker.
Reading the Bible through in a year used to be a challenge for me. With a reader’s Bible I can get it done by September, no problem. It’s not a race, but reading through the Bible at a quick pace it just one more way of growing your familiarity with all of Scripture. I also find it easier to see the narrative flow of each book.
Do you have a reader’s Bible? If so, what do you like about it and how much do you use it?