Personal Size Reference Edition (ESV)

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My reviews don’t often come with a preface, but in this case I think it’s necessary. The Personal Reference ESV needs to be judged in a particular context. There are only a handful of single-column text settings on the market, and I’m at a loss to think of any other single-column reference versions. I suspect that, in spite of the success of The Message, publishers still view the format as risky. They might sympathize with the rationale behind giving the Bible an updated, more readable format, but that doesn’t allay fears that the market isn’t ready for it.

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Above: The Personal Reference ESV with black TruTone cover.

In our little slice of the market, though, the change is long overdue. I doubt any of us think that a single-column, paragraphed setting is a panacea, or that the traditional double-column settings should disappear, but there seems to be a consensus that if the Bible is meant to be read, it should be formatted for reading rather than reference. It should look more like a novel, in other words, something meant to be read cover-to-cover and less like a dictionary, where you just look things up.

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Above: A typical page spread.

The problem is, when you do something new, it’s difficult to get all the details right. The Personal Reference ESV does many things well, but it also suffers from several drawbacks, some negligible and others more serious. To me, the campaign for good single-column, paragraphed text settings is just as important as the need for quality bindings. As a result, I’ve given the subject a lot of thought, and I have some fairly particular ideas about what makes single-column settings work. I’m going to share some of them during the course of the review, in the hope that they’ll benefit future editions of the Personal Reference ESV as well as helping the designers of future single-column settings.

But the last thing I want to do is smother this new edition in criticism. Yes, there are things I would have changed, given the choice. On the whole, though, I’m extraordinarily pleased with the Personal Reference ESV and would like nothing more than to see it available in a quality binding. This is a milestone, and I don’t want its significance to be obscured by the edition’s admitted imperfections.

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Above: Book openings feature short introductions with grayscale backgrounds, and the text on each page is bracketed on three sides by a thin line. I call this superfluous design “studybiblitis” for obvious reasons, but it doesn’t distract as much as I thought it would.

A COUPLE OF FIRSTS
I’m going to go out on a limb and declare that the Personal Reference ESV is now the best edition of that translation published by Crossway. Some will object, so let me briefly state my case. This edition represents two important firsts:

1. This is the first single-column, paragraphed setting of the ESV text. Sure, there’s the Single Column Reference, but that setting devolved to the archaic verse-per-line format that visually emphasizes isolated phrases above complete sentences and paragraphs. In a single column setting, it also results in awkward breaks and plenty of unintentional white space. The Personal Reference ESV is a different animal entirely.

2. This is the first truly “hand-sized” edition of the ESV. At 5.5” x 7.5” x 1”, the proportions approximate those of a trade paperback book. The Personal Reference ESV is small enough to carry around but still sufficiently large to use comfortably. It’s a bit bigger than the Cambridge Pitt Minion, but in the same territory. It feels more natural in the hand than either the Classic Reference or the Classic Thinline. In terms of size, it is very close to the R. L. Allan’s Oxford Blackface Brevier (seeing them side-by-side conjures all sorts of fantasies about an Allan’s Personal Reference ESV).

Obviously, the Personal Reference isn’t the best ESV in terms of quality. The best edition Crossway publishes, in terms of materials and aesthetics, is the Classic Reference in cordovan calfskin. The best edition available is the R. L. Allan’s version in highland goatskin. But in terms of size and layout, the Personal Reference — while not perfect — strikes me as the current leader.

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Above: Size comparisons. The Personal Reference in genuine leather (on top) is close in size to the R. L. Allan’s Brevier Blackface KJV (middle), and a good bit smaller than the Allan’s Classic Reference (bottom, shown here in its first edition). Imagine a Personal Reference kitted out in highland goatskin!

WHAT THE PERSONAL REFERENCE GETS RIGHT
That shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who reads this blog. I’m a champion of single-column, paragraphed settings, so I’m naturally going to prefer them to anything else. But if the initial reaction is anything to judge by, not everyone who likes single-column settings is happy with the Personal Reference ESV, so let me take a moment and explain why I am.

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Above: Another comparison. The TruTone cover (top) versus the genuine leather (bottom). The TruTone is much nicer — if only it had a sewn binding like the genuine leather edition!

I admit up front that the execution of the single column layout isn’t quite right here. You can see that as soon as you open up the book. (In a moment, I’ll explain just what’s wrong and how it could be fixed.) But there’s a difference between “not quite right” and utterly wrong. The Personal Reference is close to what it ought to be. The Single Column Reference wasn’t, and I made no bones about pointing it out. In this case, though, I’m not going to let the failure to achieve the ideal stand in the way of appreciating the Personal Reference’s significant gains.

The first thing I did when I received mine was pull the pages apart. The spray-on gilt sticks them together, which prevents the text block from flowing naturally. If you want to experience this edition at its best, you have to separate the pages first. Once I was done, I curled up in my favorite chair and started reading. I flipped through familiar passages, then settled in and started to read Ephesians aloud.

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Above: Pulling the pages apart. On the left, you see the properly separated pages. On the right, they’re still stuck together. It’s a pain to pull them apart one by one, but it makes a big difference.

The more time I spent with the Personal Reference, the more I liked it. There’s no question that, when reading, a paragraphed text flows better than a verse-per-line text. And reading a single-column paragraph is more natural that a narrow double-column setting.

You can find experts to say almost anything, but here’s a maxim I think is true: the ideal number of words in a column averages at twelve. If you don’t believe me, pull down a few well-designed books from your shelf and start counting. The Classic Reference columns accommodate an average of six or seven words — I suspect this is why they look so narrow on the page — while the Personal Reference seems to average around sixteen. What this suggests is that the double-column Classic Reference columns are about half as wide as they should be for optimum comfort, while the Personal Reference column is a bit wider than it ought to be. (Actually, the width is probably right; it’s the text size that needs to increase. More about that in a moment.)

Your results my vary, but I find the Personal Reference ESV much easier to sit and read for long periods. And that, my friends, is what a single-column setting is all about.

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Above: The TruTone is quite flexible, and as you can see in the photo, the poetry has plenty of room on the page — no more awkward forced line-breaks!

But if you want to know where this edition really shines, take a look at the poetry. In the Personal Reference, the poetry of the ESV looks better than ever before. The narrow columns of the Classic Reference (and to a lesser extent the Thinline) absolutely mangle the verse, forcing countless unintended line breaks. Here, they’re all gone. I decided to read one of my favorite passages in Scripture, Job 25-37, out loud from the Personal Reference. The result was pure delight. For the first time, you can see what those lines were meant to look like, where they were intended to break. This factor alone makes the Personal Reference worth owning, if you ask me.

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Above: Bible yoga with the TruTone.
Below: Bible yoga with the genuine leather cover.

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Above: Unfortunately, the genuine leather pulled a muscle doing exercise. I had to give it a chiropractic adjustment to restore alignment. Also, when coiled up, the genuine leather was the first Bible I’ve twisted up that untwisted itself. That cover wants to stay stiff!

A STROKE OF GENIUS
Single-column settings are relatively rare, but hardly unknown. A single-column with references, though, is quite unique. After all, when you only have one block of text on the page, there is no center column to stash the references in. Where do you put them? The outside margin would be the obvious place, but Crossway chose the other option. They moved the references to the inside margin. This is a stroke of genius.

To understand why, you have to remember that one of the drawbacks of so many inexpensive Bibles (and more than a few expensive ones, too) is the designer’s urge to cram as many words as possible onto the page. This results in text columns being too wide, which means that the inside edge of the biblical text sometimes curves down into the spine, where it is obscured and in some cases nearly unreadable. By putting the references on the inside margin, Crossway created a buffer between the spine and the biblical text. This means that when you open the Personal Reference, the entire text column is fully visible. The references curve into the spine, not Scripture.

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Above: In The Message Remix (left), the biblical text creeps into the spine, but the Personal Reference layout results in the text column being fully visible.

If you use the references constantly, you might find yourself wishing a great allowance had been made on the inner margin. But this is first and foremost a Bible for reading, and the inner column placement serves to de-emphasize the references. If you need them, they’re always there — but they don’t detract from the text.

QUALITY IMPROVEMENTS
Crossway has chosen not to make a quality binding of the Personal Reference ESV available at this point, which means the top end of the spectrum is the genuine leather edition. I can only speculate about the reasoning behind the decision. Maybe they’re worried that the Personal Reference won’t catch on, and they don’t want to end up with a crate of single-column ESVs in cordovan calfskin sitting in the warehouse. That makes sense, if you think about it. The average consumer probably doesn’t notice whether the text is single- or double-column. They might think certain translations are hard to read and others easy, without ever making a connection between readability and design. And those who do notice tend to be very particular, so there’s always a chance that even a single-column, paragraphed text won’t please demanding people like me. Why take a chance on wasting all that calfskin?

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Above: The genuine leather edition is has a stitched binding, as you can see above. Note the way the pages are gathered into signatures at the spine, and the dimpled paper in the crease where the stitches are.

Fortunately, though, there are some improvements evident in the existing editions. The most obvious one, of course, is the fact that the genuine leather edition features a sewn binding. This means that the pages are folded over into little booklets called signatures and then the signatures are stitched together. The individual page — say page 993 — is actually one of four pages that are printed together on a single sheet, then folded. What’s the advantage of this? For one thing, the pages don’t fall out with heavy use the way adhesive bindings do. For another, a sewn binding has the potential to be more flexible in the hand.

If you’re going to have a Personal Reference ESV rebound with quality leather, you have to start with the sewn edition. Rebinding a glued one, though possible, will result in a much stiffer binding because of the way it will have to be stitched.

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Above: In contrast, the TruTone has a glued binding. No visible signatures, no dimpled pages. So the stiff binding is mated to a flexible cover, the flexible binding to a stiff cover. I begin to feel like the Tantalus of Bibles — perfection always just out of reach.

Another improvement in these editions is the paper quality. It appears to be more opaque than in the past. Though there is still bleed-through — imprinting from other pages visible through the paper — it doesn’t seem to be as pronounced. I’m happy with the change, though it isn’t so dramatic that I would have noticed had it not been pointed out. My guess is that people sensitive to bleed-through will still find it a problem.

A WORM IN THE APPLE?
Of course, all is not perfect. In some respects, the early feedback on the Personal Reference ESV reminds me of the reception of the Journaling Bible. People like the concept but aren’t happy with the execution. In both cases, the culprit is the same: the type size is simply too small.

The Personal Reference ESV is set in 7.4 pt type, larger than the Journaling Bible but still pretty small. Alongside other editions with similar proportions, the type size is comparable — but most small editions of Scripture are double-columned, which means they can accommodate smaller type. When you use small type in a single-column setting, you have to shrink the page size accordingly. In this case, the type is just too small for the page’s other proportions.

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Above: Compared to the larger Numbered Edition of The Message, the Personal Reference has small, less readable type. The ratio of type size to line width in The Message is right, but the Personal Reference has too many words on the line for its 7.4 pt type.

Remember that maxim I invoked earlier about the optimum column width being about twelve words, give or take? The Personal Reference exceeds this limit by enough margin to be noticeable, and as a result the column looks too wide and the type looks too small. Most of the early criticism I’ve heard centers on this problem of proportion. The easiest solution would be to increase the type size — but there’s a right way and wrong way to go about it. If you simply enlarged the layout the way you can enlarge a photograph, the type would be bigger, but the proportions would still be wrong. Ideally, the type size should be increased without changing the width of the column itself. Right now it measures about 3.6 inches, and that shouldn’t change. Instead, the font size should bump up from 7.4 to somewhere in the region of 9 or 10 pt.

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To illustrate this, I created a not-quite-perfect example. My mock-up shows a column of 7.4 pt type set 3.6 inches wide, compared to a column of 10 pt type at the same width. Since I don’t have the font the Personal Reference ESV is set in, this is far from exact, but I think you can see the principle I’m trying to illustrate. Given the width of the column, and assuming the font proportions are similar, increasing the size from 7.4 pt to 10 pt results in averages much closer to the twelve-word ideal width. The lower column is more readable because of the increased type size, but also because the line widths are better suited to the size of the text.

If you’re wondering what the ideal width for a column of 7.4 pt text might be, I did a little experimenting and came up with 2.75 inches, give or take. This can only be an approximate guess, though, since typefaces vary significantly. The point is, there ought to be a balance between the size of the type and the width of the column. The font used in the Personal Reference ESV needs to be at about 9 or 10 pt to balance the 3.6 inch column width. (The larger type would also address the perception some have that the imprinting is too light.)

Of course, my example demonstrates the problem with that: larger type takes up more space, and that means a thicker book. Personally, I would have made the trade-off. Even if the Personal Reference ended up at 1.5 or 1.75 inches thick, it would remain quite handy. But I can understand the reluctance to take the chance.

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Above: The Message Remix hardback has larger type and a more readable ratio of type size to line width.
Below: But there’s a trade-off. The Message Remix is almost twice the width of the Personal Reference ESV.

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The result, though, is that the Personal Reference reads well, but not as well as it could, and for readers who don’t want to adapt to the small type, it just won’t be an appealing option.

Still, I don’t want to exaggerate the issue. Compared to two popular single-column settings — The Message Remix hardback and The Message Numbered Edition — I think the Personal Reference holds its own. I prefer the font choice for the ESV and like the white paper better than the cream. The Message features larger type, and therefore edges out the Personal Reference on ease of reading, but the form factor of the Personal Reference is more compact.

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OTHER DRUTHERS
Right-sizing the type is the main thing I’d do, but there are a few other things I’d like to see offered with the Personal Reference ESV. Now that I’m hooked on Crossway’s excellent Daily Reading Bible plan, I would appreciate this hand-sized edition coming with three ribbons to mark the readings. Now that there’s a single-column ESV, I’m making it my daily reading edition, but it’s a pain to have to use other bookmarks to follow the plan.

While I’m at it, I’d love to see the Daily Reading Bible notations, which indicate which sections to read on which days, added to the margins of the Personal Reference. That would make this the ultimate reader’s edition.

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Above: The Personal Reference offers a good compromise between size and usability. It’s a good Bible to take with you on the go.

Apart from those changes, the only thing I’d like to change is the binding options. The Personal Reference is just crying out for a cordovan calfskin cover. And who wouldn’t want an Allan’s edition of this thing? For everyday use and abuse, the TruTone cover feels better than the genuine leather, but it’s hard to recommend a glued binding over a sewn one. I wonder if I could pull off a genuine leather cover and affix a TruTone in its place? Not a bad idea, until something better comes along.

THE SHOCK OF THE NEW
No question, the Personal Reference ESV is going to take some getting used to. If you’re accustomed to the traditional two-column layout, this will be a bit of a shock. My advice is to immerse yourself into the text. Just start reading. You might be surprised how much you like the single-column approach once the novelty fades.

If you have trouble with small type, though, I’m not sure what to tell you. This is a relatively compact Bible with very compact type — a deal-breaker for many, I know.

Hopefully, though, the challenge of the small type won’t be blamed on single-column settings in general. My fear is that, because the Personal Reference isn’t perfect, it won’t gain the acceptance it should, and as a result people will assume there just isn’t enough demand for this kind of layout. 7.4 pt type is too small for some eyes, no matter how it is formatted.

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Above: The genuine leather edition.

SUMMING UP
I love the Personal Reference ESV, but I understand if not everyone does. For me it delivers most of the goods — a readable, single-column setting with a clever approach to references and a relatively compact form factor. I’ve never enjoyed reading the poetry of the ESV more, and it’s never looked so good on the page before. All in all, I’m satisfied. Having said that, what I’m waiting on is a quality binding for the Personal Reference. It’s hard to commit fully until then.

My advice is to pick up a copy and see for yourself. Don’t just flip through it and make a decision. Spend some time reading. If you don’t like it after that, so be it. But like me, you might find that after a few hours reading, you don’t want to part with it.

99 Comments on “Personal Size Reference Edition (ESV)

  1. Mark,
    Next review, take a little time and try to cover things in a little more in detail.
    As I stated in an earlier post, I pre-purchased one of these on Amazon and received it earlier. The size of the font is not, to me, as problematic as the boldness of the font. It is easier for me to read the much smaller print of the Pitt Minion than this Bible.
    I do, however, agree with you that this is an important Bible to support. I was glad I purchased mine based upon principal alone. A great binding, readable type, paragraphed, and a good translation are, for me, of the utmost importance. And as Meatloaf would probably sing today (since it is an even greater percentage), three out of four ain’t bad. I truly hope sales prove the need for an excellent single paragraph Bible. Buying one sends a great message to publisher I believe.
    Speaking of sending a great message, I am hopeful that all of us who take advantage of your hard work on this blog take the time to both purchase and read Rethinking Worldview. As a note to anyone who may read this post, I purchased and read the book strictly as a “thank you” to Mark for all of his hard work on his blogs. I looked forward to reading it about like I look forward to pulling my Breathe Right strip off each morning. But the book was simply outstanding. I highly recommend it! Section II on Wisdom is only AMAZING. Anyway, for those of you who have not purchased AND read the book yet, let me suggest that, as a great way to thank Mark, you click on the icon, go to Amazon, purchase one, and then come back and post your thanks to him. If someone has posted this request previously in a more appropriate thread, my apologies for the duplication.

  2. Mark,
    FYI, the TNIV was just released in a single-column reference edition in a similar page layout to this ESV version (although the references are on the outside edge). There have also been a few different NLT (and now NLTse) single-column reference editions, but they are different in that the references are at the end of each paragraph.

  3. Mark – well covered. Thanks for the review. Can’t wait for mine to arrive. One thing I also noticed about this edition after looking over one at a local store was the line spacing. I believe this is also critical for a single column edition with so much text together on a page. What I like about my hard back Message Remix (like your photo above) is that the publisher has done a good job of leaving plenty of space between lines to make for easier reading on the eyes. I would add this along with larger text to a hopeful next edition.

  4. Mark,
    You make good points about purchasing this version so as to show Crossway that they are largely on the right track. As a result, I just ordered a Tru-Tone copy from Monergism, which gave me a good excuse to also order a copy of your book. I look forward to both.
    Thanks for the amount of thought that you put into these reviews.

  5. Thanks for all your great reviews. I just examined this edition at a local bookstore, and feel this is getting closer to my ideal bible for daily reading. However, my own preference is to have a single column edition without cross references or any other such distractions. I would drop the line around the text, and the cross references – as well as the book headings. For me, this would make for a clean look with more white space (possibly allowing for a slightly larger font). If I’m in study mode rather than reading mode, I have several other editions I can pull off the shelf. I want a single column mainly for reading.

  6. I just received my copy today and have noticed that there is definitely some variability in the density of the ink. Certain pages are much lighter than others and this contributes to the readability problems with the small font size. I would love to see a version of this bible using a larger font and more pages.

  7. Thanks for the analysis. I had ordered a genuine leather PR but got impatient and picked up the chestnut at a local bookstore. Spent time reading several epistles and had hoped to preach/teach from it on Sunday. I really had a problem with the font and lightness. It really made my eyes tired. And as I mentioned before, trying to teach from it proved tough as it was easy to look up and then lose your place. But, I will keep the genuine leather I ordered. (Returned the other.) Got to keep the collection going. There was an NIV single column with inside references published in the 90s by Zondervan (it was a modification of the current single column you can purchase at Cambridge.) I gave mine away to one searching, but I’d love to find another used one.

  8. Great review – thanks for posting on this. FWIW, the TNIV Reference Bible suffers from the same problem as this edition: the body text is too small for its single column layout. Zondervan needed to bump it up to 10 or 11pt size text to balance it to the page size and reference column. To my eyes, Foundation’s layout with their single-column NASB Reference Bible is close to ideal, though it is the verse-by-verse format, not paragraph.

  9. Jerry,
    Thanks for the purchase of both books. My father always told me that such purchases were like casting votes in favor of the product or service you favored. These great Bible reviews, not to mention the countless contacts he has with publishers, provides us with countless hours of fun. and therefore all the reason in the world to be an owner of Marks’s outstanding book Rethinking Worldview. You will benefit by this experience.

  10. Thanks for the review, J. Mark.
    Actually, paragraphed single-columned Bibles with the references in the inside margin have been continually mass-produced since 1988 in Tyndale’s Life Application Study Bible. It is unfortunate that it has taken other publishers so long to catch up, but hopefully this means the floodgates have been opened and we’ll see this format a lot more often.
    The Life Application Study Bible has the same problem with the column measure and averages the same amount of words per line. It does have wider margins on either side though, the references have a lot more breathing room and don’t hide in the inside margin. Funnily enough, this study Bible doesn’t separate the references from the text with a line (though it does make up for it with two lines at the bottom to separate the translators’ notes from the study notes, hehe!).

  11. Not sure if this is breaking rules, but I did want to share with everyone that likes this edition of the ESV. I’ve found a great price on the calfskin edition over at http://www.superbookdeals.com. I’ve bought from them before with no problems. After shipping the cost is under $119.
    Again…sorry! I hate coming across as advertising some website!!!!

  12. Two comments:
    First, one of my prefered single-column reference Bibles is the Harper Study Bible (not to be confused with the HarprCollins one). Originally in the RSV with notes from Harold Lindsell, but now available in NRSV (hardback only) with updated notes. In the UK, it was called the Eyre and Spottiswoode Study Bible (RSV), and can still be found secondhand (try abebooks). Cambridge did a lovely leather edition (Fr. Morocco)which I have got, as well as a older s/hand hardback. The word count averages 12 words per line. References are in the outer margin. References are the same as the Cambridge two-column RSV Brevier reference edition (of which I have three copies!)
    Second, I gather there are some other bindings of the ESV Personal Edition in the pipeline for the end of June (though Crossway are often late on delivery). These include two stripey tru-tones and one portfolio trutone, already available in other editions.

  13. thanks for the very interesting review. i also generally prefer small and thick to large and thin so wouldn’t mind a larger font/smaller pages.
    was wondering if anyone knows anything about Anglicized versions of this edition, and whether Allan might be pursuaded to produce an edition of this setting?

  14. The Allan’s editions all employ the anglicised text (currently the same text block as the Collins anglicised hardback editions though they plan to change that). There is an anglicised compact edition but that is all. I would not expect to see an anglicised personal edition, but I am not sure if the upcoming Cambridge Pitt Minion editions will be the US or the UK text. Anybody know?
    Also, do be aware there is a deluxe compact edition in the pipeline (end of April?) that should be an improvement of the current compact editions. Slightly larger (and different) font. (6.55 pt Lexicon vv 6.2 pt Berkley); black letter (v. red); 12,000-entry concordance; no cross-refs; 3.875″ x 6″ (vs. 3.75″ x 5.75″); ribbon.

  15. Oh, and the new deluxe compact editions will be sown. Details of ESV February blog

  16. I agree with kyle’s comments, I’m going to buy a copy of and read Rethinking Worldview as a thank you to Mark for all the work he puts into this website. I greatly appreciate it. I’ve heard its an excellent book.

  17. According to the latest Cambridge catalog the upcoming Pitt-Minion ESV will have Americanized text.

  18. According to the latest Cambridge catalog the upcoming Pitt-Minion ESV will have Americanized text.

  19. I wish I could be more enthusiastic about this ESV Bible.
    The print is not bold enough and is way too small. Why
    do publishers continue to publish Bibles with such small
    print? It is possible to print a nice Bible with good
    a good readable font. The NIV Bold Ref. is an example.
    I have an NRSV that is no longer in print, I’m sad to
    say, and it has the best font in a Bible its size I’ve
    ever seen. I just wish publishers did not market their
    Bibles to fill so many perceived needs among readers.
    This is a great review though. Mark, when it ocmes to
    Bibles you are the man!

  20. For those who are interested in an Allan’s version of this edition are gonna’ wait quite a while! Allan’s uses text blocks form Collins, in the UK. Collins is not intending on publishing this edition therefore you will not see R.L. Allan making this. Sad, I know. There are licensing and copyright issues that go along with this as well. Besides, I doubt many publishers want to be upstaged by a small custom binder like R.L. Allan. As Much as I like the calfskin editions from Crossway, my Allan’s Bibles are still tip top!

  21. I thought the ESV Literary Study Bible was the ‘first single-column, paragraphed setting of the ESV text’. Does it not count because it removed the headings? Just curious.

  22. Ted — You’re right. I should have made it clear in the review that I’m talking about “regular” editions, as opposed to study Bibles. Single column settings are more common in study editions than they are in regular Bibles, but I’ve never really found it practical to carry around a study Bible — for me, they reside on the shelf, not in the hand. So yes, the Literary Study Bible was the first paragraphed, single-column text of the ESV, but it’s only available with the LSB apparatus. This is the first “general-use” paragraphed, single-column edition.

  23. Has anyone ever tried any type of leather conditioner to soften the “genuine” leather bible a bit? I know that it’s not truly leather but would it help any? I’m tempted to put some of my baseball glove oil on it and break it in a bit by putting it under a mattress (baseball joke, don’t ever do that with your glove or bible). I’ve read that your hand oils break in the leather a bit but why not go for with the stuff made for it? Just thought I’d throw that out there.

  24. Fantastic review as always!
    I have been thinking of getting the TruTone, but now I am not sure since it does not come in sewn binding. The leather looks so glossy, I own a HCSB double column reference bible ultra thin, love the size, but I do not like the high gloss leather that it came in. This ESV leather almost looks just as glossy – ugh.
    I also own the HCSB single column, but for me it is just a bit to big, pages are too thing, it is a wide margin, so that is nice. I am afraid the ESV single column might be to small. We are picky people aren’t we? I have gone to several book stores and none of them carry this edition, that is really frustrating.

  25. Mark, thank you for your thoughtful and thorough review. I ordered my leather edition today. I couldn’t agree with you more concerning the readability of the single-column, paragraph format and had been blissfully unaware of the rarity of such until I went shopping recently.
    I especially appreciate your comments about the poetry sections of scripture; I had wondered if they ‘rightly divided’ the word there, because presentation greatly enhances enjoyment of poetry. After reading some of your reviews, and browsing online and in stores, it seems that my dream bible would be an ESV reader’s version, single-column paragraph in calfskin with premium sewn binding, hand-size with the font as large as possible. I already have plenty of reference bibles, works, and concordances.
    At least now I am better informed about what I want in a bible; thank you for helping me figure that out. If only someone made one….

  26. Someone pinch me if I’m dreaming, but I just ordered a genuine leather PR for $17.99!
    I went to Buy.com, used “Google Checkout” and received a $10 Sign-up bonus, plus FREE shipping (7 to 9 business days), plus tax (no sales tax here in OR).
    And to think people would actually drive to the mall and pay $44.99 at non-Christian Supply…

  27. Wow, thanks for this review. Mine is on its way and I’m excited to get it.

  28. Concerning the darkness of the print, I think it is partially an optical illusion that it is not dark enough. Examining the chapter numbers with a jewelers’ magnifying lens, the chapter numbers are composed of black dots, which also leaves white areas within those numbers. The actual text is a very solid black, but the dot-matrixy chapter numbers catch the eye, and it causes an overall impression of the print not being dark enough. With that said, the dots composing the chapter numbers do vary in their density, at least to the best of my ability to judge. Overall I am happy with my TruTone edition, and I am looking forward to getting my genuine leather edition returned from Mechling in hopefully glorious chocolate goatskin.

  29. I just realized that i posted this earlier on the wrong article. Duh. I hope that Mark doesn’t mind me re-posting here, in the right place:
    My Personal Reference ESV (Tru-Tone) arrived today (3/20) (along with Mark’s book) from Monergism.
    I am fairly well impressed. Here are the positives:
    1) The Tru-Tone is very flexible.
    2) The gray end papers are a nice touch.
    3) After separating all of the pages I find that the text is consistently dark.
    4) The font is pleasantly readable, at least to these 50+ eyes.
    5) The single column layout is better than I thought it would be. The line around the text and the book introductions are not as annoying as I anticipated.
    6) No red-letter text.
    7) A very handy size, length, width, and thickness all seem OK.
    Here are the negatives:
    1) Glued. Yuck.
    2) The headbands, in addition to being superfluous on a glued binding, are not well executed. They are wavy and glued on crooked.
    3) While I generally like the Tru-tone, I have doubts about the corners. The way that they are folded over and glued does not appear to be robust enough to hold up to regular use. Time will tell.
    4) The font size of the concordance is tiny. A change to a readable font for this section would not have added considerably to the size of the Bible.
    Here are my suggestions:
    1) If Crossway would produce a smyth sewn edition in a premium calfskin, black or cordovan (or, after seeing the nice end papers, maybe a nice gray calfskin or goatskin), I would be all over it. I would cheerfully pay $100-$120 for a nicely executed version.
    2) This is a nice size for a briefcase or travel Bible. As such, it would lend itself well to an edition having a tabbed closure like the Allan’s TNIV that Mark recently reviewed.
    3) The ribbon is nice, both in style ind length, but can we have two, please?
    4) While not absolutely necessary, what happened to the nice maps that Crossway has included with other versions of the ESV?
    If i had to give this Bible a letter grade, it would be a solid B+. This one is going to replace my NASB Pitt-Minion in the briefcase for a couple of weeks.

  30. Well, I’ve had some time now to read from my copy that I ordered through Amazon and I really like it. (The price on Amazon was great for the genuine leather.) Not for a study edition, but as a handy carry around in my bag to read anywhere bible. Sure, I would prefer at least 8.5 type size or more bold type with a little more space between lines. I also find that I really like the paper color of the Journaling and Literary Bibles better.
    But this new single-column paragraphed edition is a great improvement over other compact style bibles in my opinion. Most compacts are too small for my taste due to small type, and that they don’t tend to lay open when set down. This one actually does lay open very well. I also discovered that the Personal Size Reference edition is the same size as my Collins KJV Bible that I received as a young boy in 1970, and still have. I loved that size!
    If Crossway’s purpose was to produce a more portable sized (due to the label, “Personal Size”) single-column in a paragraphed setting, then it looks like they hit the target. I think the size is just right and the type is ok. The type size is more of an issue for me if I’m in lower lighting now that I’m up at 46 yrs. This will be a great travel size and to carry around for appointments when visiting folks in my ministry. Thanks Crossway!

  31. I received my copy, and I really, really like it. I had ordered the TruTone originally, but after reading this review, I ordered the genuine leather and was prepared to return the TruTone. Once I received both, I was glad I had made that choice. The leather will last longer, I think. However, my friend decided to keep the TruTone. It is her first ESV. So it worked out for the best. :) Thank you for this excellent review.

  32. I think this is a great little Bible to carry, especially for evangelism. It would almost fit in a pocket on a big pair of cargo pants! I love the single column. Would like more spacing between lines or less words or a little larger type. I can not make this my everyday reading Bible unless I get reading glasses. I take mine to work or leave it in the car. I have also been spoiled or “ruined” to holding any other Bible now that I have R.L Allen’s ESV. I may consider getting this single column ESV rebound just so I can touch it. I love this site, my wife may not as it just shows me more Bible’s that I “need.” Nice to find a group of people that have my same disease. Thanks

  33. Intrigued by the review (thanks!) and comments, I bought one of these last week in its “genuine leather” binding and have been living with it more or less 24/7 since. Though no one asked, since this is the web, I thought I’d share a few reactions, mostly very positive.
    I love the handbook size – to me, it’s the classic “manual” (as in _manus_) size. I have spent a lot of time flexing, curling and otherwise exercising the binding, and it is holding up perfectly – it appears to be well-sewed and securely attached to the cover. The leather is becoming fairly limp, which is nice. Having said that, whatever the leather is lined with could be more flexible, but that is a trait shared with almost every leather binding until you get to three-digit prices. The paper opacity is adequate.
    Moving from things I like to things that might be different but aren’t really faults, I agree with Mark’s comments about the number of words in the text column, but that’s a common attribute of single-column editions. If I had my ‘druthers, I would change the font to a slightly bolder and/or larger font, more like that which is used in Crossway’s Thinline editions. Either would probably add pages – it’s a trade-off that’s hard to call.
    There is one thing that is really driving me crazy about this bible, though, and I don’t think I’ve seen anyone else comment on this. I may be the only one who feels this way, but when I read the text I feel as if I’m reading two lines of text at once: first, the text itself, and second, the line of superscript references. I know that this is the whole point of a reference bible, so it’s very hard to criticize this point, but – to me – this is (or should be) more of a reader’s bible than a study bible, so I’d happily eliminate the various references. I’ll bet that if that were done, you could increase the font size without any increase in the page count, too!
    Overall, very high marks – but for this reader, one possibly fatal flaw. I have no regrets about the purchase, though – I look at it as casting a vote for single column editions, which are too rare.

  34. I’d like to amend my comments above about the density of the references. After further use, my point about the references crowding the text seems to be somewhat limited to certain texts. My comments were based on spending time reading Galatians, Ephesians, Philipians and Colossians. Some pages in these epistles have so many references that they fill the side margin and continue in the bottom margin, where the footnotes are also located. This problem is not, however, present in most other parts of this edition, which for the most part reads very well and easily.
    My next request, which I think is unlikely to find a publisher: I’d love a parallel NASB/ESV. Any takers?

  35. Mark, thank you for providing excellent information about some of the best bibles available.
    It seems that this bible is called the “Single Column Reference Bible” on the Crossway website, or am I looking at a different product? I also noticed that a “Premium Calfskin Leather, Black Letter” edition on that website:
    http://www.crossway.org/product/1581348215
    Has anyone seen this bible first hand? Is it a significant improvement over the Genuine Leather version that is reviewed here? I suspect it is, since it costs more than twice as much!

  36. Hi Mark,
    Thanks for an outstanding review- I read this and it tipped me into buying it. I’ve now had a PSR ESV for a couple of months, and I’d have to agree that it’s probably one of the best editions out there. I bought it primarily as a bible for on the go, and in this regard I cannot fault it. The Tru-tone is nice to touch, yet robust enough to take the hammerings of my briefcase and when I spill coffee on it etc, and it has just enough features to support my studies when I’m away from my desk.
    The text is a little small, although this is not really a massive issue for me (I’m 21), and there is a little bleed-through, which is frustrating. Yet, I feel these are relatively minor faults, and this bible is a brilliant half-way house for those who find a Compact just too small, and a regular edition that little to large for travelling. Definite thumbs-up for Crossway, and an additional thanks to evangelicalbible.com for some excellent service, and outstanding pricing (always a bonus for a university student!!)
    Blessings
    Will

  37. I have just taken delivery of one of the latest ESV PSR Bibles. It has TruTone
    Forest/Tan cover(Trail Design)(ISBN: 9781433502361), and was oublished June 30. The cover has a wonderful feel and is very soft. The colours (a deep khaki with a tan stripe across the middle)are attractive but subtle. The Bible almost lays flat when open (i.e. it does if you are in the middle, but not if you are in Genesis, Exodus, or the latter half of the NT: perhaps this will come with time.
    I like the single column, but as Mark says, the line length is a little too long. And I would have put the x-refs on the outer margin, not the inner. And I would have done away with the book introductions and the lines across the top and bottom of each page (those on the side of the page marking off the x-refs are OK). The concordance, at 5,900 entries (same as the compact deluxe), is too small to be useful. (I reckon 20k – 22k is the minimum for a useful built-in concordance; the NIV SB has 35k).
    All that said, this is the most desirable Crossway ESV to date. The small, but not compact, size is delightful. Measurements are 7.25 x 5 inches (add a little for the overlapping cover) by 1.1 inch thick. The forthcoming Cambridge Pitt Minion will be a tad smaller, but a little thinner. It will be two column and with a larger concordance. But for every one Pitt Minion, you can buy three PSRs!

  38. Splendid review. Thanks. My PSR Bible TruTone Edition just arrived in the mail. I’m in the (slow) process of separating the pages right now… The poetry is just beautifully set! This Bible is going to be a great pleasure to read; it’s very well suited for that. Until the Cambridge ESV Pitt MInion comes out, this will be my main-use Bible.

  39. Hi Mark,
    I completely agree with all of your suggestions, and I think that if Crossway were to take your advice, this would probably end up being my perfect Bible.
    I’ve been looking for a new Bible. Before this I have only owned pooly made, glued, bonded-leather Bibles so this will be my first and hopefully only quality purchase. Initially I really loved the idea of a personal size, single collumn reference edition of the ESV. I still do love the idea, but in my searching I came to the sad realization that I COULDN’T have a personal size, single collumn reference, esv, with large easy-to-read type, with a binding that is smyth-sewn AND made of a great leather. So I decided on the tan Allan ESV1.
    This is a strictly personal question asked only for my own benefit so I understand if you don’t find the time to answer, but…
    How does the ESV1 compare with this personal size SCR ESV in terms of the actual size of the Bible, and the size and readability of the type? Will I be disappointed with the ESV1?
    Thanks,
    Cacey

  40. Is it just me, or does the Navy/Khaki/White have a sewn binding? I believe I see signatures, and am convinced those are stitchings inside the crease. Anyone else concur?
    This may be why there where two editions that came out in June…
    I agree, the lines are a tad long, with smallish font. I love the size though.
    @Lachlan–The bible you are asking about is a much larger, and very different bible. I have one, and the cover is amazing, with a beautiful flexible binding. It is also single column, with references inside the page… but that’s where the similarities end (besides it being an ESV!)
    @Cacey–btw, I submit you will love the quality of the ESV1. It is a bit bigger than the PSR–probably by 30 percent–and the font is much easier to read, but the quality (paper, binding, cover, etc.) is in another realm entirely. For the price of 6-7 PSR’s, you could have one ESV1 your grandkids will cherish. You will not be disappointed at all… I personally have never read of anyone being disappointed with an Allan bible. Anyone?
    The Crossway here is not the Single Column Reference (SCR-verse by verse format), but the Personal Size Reference (paragraphed format). Like is noted commonly on the net, the perfect bible is an elusive species, and the Allan’s, w/o single column offerings, is no exception.
    Neither has room for many notes, however.

  41. Why don’t you start a company (like Build a Bear) that allows people to build their own Bibles?! I am like you- never fully satisfied. None of the Bibles are ever quite right. So then I find myself compromising and feeling like I don’t want to fully commit (notes and all) to the current Bible that I have- whatever it is. I LOVE the single-column paragraph style, but I want red letter and a bit larger print. A tad larger margin would be appreciated, and I want a GOOD sized concordance. I would take ESV or NASB. Well, and I like the cross-references in the center also. You know, I could go on about the binding and whatnot, but the other features are the most important to me. Does this exist?!!!
    Then I wonder why I am so persnickety when plenty of people don’t even get to have one!
    God bless your quest and your passion,
    Arielle

  42. mashmouth,
    No, it isn’t just you. Back in May, the ESV Blog specified stated that several upcoming editions (including the new TruTone PSRs) would have sewn bindings:
    http://www.esv.org/blog/2008/05/summer.2008.esvs
    So, unless someone simply must have black, it’s no longer necessary to choose between a glued binding with a flexible cover, and a sewn binding with a cover that “pulls a muscle.” ;-)

  43. I have one of these that I bought in “genuine leather” and re-bound it in real leather. It is VERY soft black calfskin. I’ve been using it for several months now, but never got used to the small font. If interested in purchasing please let me know and I will send photos and details. I’m trying to collect enough to buy a Cambridge ESV, that is, if it has a more readable font.

  44. @ Steve, I’d be interested in at least some photo’s; I had the same idea as a gift for the wife who really wants her ESV PRS rebound. You can email me at: smazz@optusnet.com.au
    I’ll talk to you via email.
    ————————————————–
    @ Mark – I thought it might be fun & particularly germane to the readers of this blog to set up a “FOR SALE” page where readers can post items for sale such as Bible paraphernalia, photographs & details etc.
    Readers would be able to work out the transaction independently & Sellers could easily post a “SOLD” comment to inform Readers that their item(s) are no longer available, or until you had a chance to delete old entries??? ;)
    I imagine that most of us would have a number of items that we’d be happy to say goodbye to especially if it earned us a little extra cash to reinvest in one of your featured Bibles, mission work, mortgages – whatever!
    Anybody else think that a “Bible-ebay” might be a good way to ‘hit gold’?
    Thanks!

  45. Stuart, I think that’s a great idea! And how about going one further and setting a 10% Biblebay fee to go to missions and mercy work? Who knows, maybe we could afford to support a Compassion International child with the amount generated! I know I get tired of trolling eBay for Bibles, and the editions that are sold by readers of this site would certainly be targeted for a more discerning audience.

  46. I’m looking for an affordable ESV Bible that will be portable and durable. I really like the size of the Thinline edition, as well as the Personal Size Reference edition, but I’m not sure which binding I should choose. Feel and appearance are less important to me (though I don’t want paper or hardback), but durability, longevity, and affordability are most important. I’m hoping to spend less than $40.
    Would a glue-bound TruTone hold up well enough? Or do I need to pay more (and get the stiff, less desirable genuine leather cover) to get the stitch binding of the Personal Size Reference discussed above?
    Basically, I’m asking how drastic the difference of longevity is with Crossway’s glue bound Thinline and PSR Bibles, when compared to similar Bibles with sewn bindings. I’d like it to last at least several years of frequent use.
    Thanks in advance,
    Reed

  47. Reed,
    You no longer need to choose between a less expensive TruTone ESV PSR with glued binding, and a more expensive genuine leather one with sewn binding, unless you insist on black. Some of the newer TruTone editions now have sewn bindings.

  48. After months of owning this little gem, and letting it’s soft silk-like cover to grace the pallets of my fingertips while allowing my daily reading to wear upon its thin pages, let me tell you how daily use effects this edition.
    The paper lining that sleeps under the TruTone cover has now begin to crack at the edges, promoting the corners of the cover to curl upward when left closed sitting on a desk. (This is to be expected when you use cheap paper to attach the block to a cover – especially a TruTone!)
    The binding, though glued, has remained intact and has exceeded my expectations.
    It has become exceedingly supple as the pages get more use. My wife held it a few days ago and mentioned that it drove her crazy that when she held the bible, it would wrap around her hand in amazing limpness. But don’t worry, I quickly told her she was a heathen for calling the limpness of a bible bad names… it’s a quality to be sought after in a bible, no less than we search for love with one another.
    I’m 25 years old and my eyes are average for my age, but the longer I use this bible for daily reading the more I wonder if it’d be more pleasurable to jam a fork into my eyeballs. I can’t read this font size for more than two hours, and deeply suggest using a different bible with a larger font for your daily reading.
    The spine has become a bit odd. It’s now a bit wrinkly and dented, not by anything I’ve done, but due to the cover now used enough to sit comfortably on the binding. That wouldn’t be a problem, if its “comfortable sitting” wasn’t comparable to a 102 year old retarded man dying of cancer.
    So overall, in brief, the Personal Size Reverence ESV is an adorable rendition of a little Troll’s journal whose passion is bible making; and yet, because he’s a Troll who lives under the bridge, just can’t get it right because of the dim lighting of his work space coupled with the fact that he’s using a TruTone with a glued binding!

  49. Mark, thank you once again for an amazing review. I had never considered this variation of the text before,shocking i know. Now a single column in leather is ordered up and on its way. It was a hard choice between sewn binding or glue. I opted for the sewn one in the end. I will let you know how i get on! God bless and please keep up this work…… it is the best site on this topic in the world!!! truly!

  50. Mark,
    Any indication that a better binding for this is coming down the pipe?
    I, too, have a tough time with the glued bindings, as I like to fold over my bible as I hold it, which I can do no problem with a sewn binding (and I do quite frequently with my beat-up 1950’s leather RSV that I got for a dollar). I’d like to see an imitation leather sewn binding – I think you’re right to have noted here and elsewhere that the imitation leather bindings are pretty good for the price – I think the better of the “modern” designs for the ESV personal reference edition is the Forest/Tan “Trail Design”. It’s simple, not too “hip” (at least for me), and I think the imitation leather looks great. I’ve been thinking of purchasing it but wanted to wanted to wait and see if a sewn imitation binding was coming.
    Here’s the “Trail Design” mentioned above: http://www.amazon.com/Personal-Reference-TruTone-Forest-Design/dp/1433502364/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1222893535&sr=1-2

  51. Thanks for the review J. Mark. I bought one of these in TruTone just over six months ago- excellent concept, great size, but abysmal binding; the text block has effectively separated from the main cover with regular daily use! If only Allan’s would produce one…

  52. I just purchased my new ESV Personal Size Reference Bible TruTone,Forest/Tan, Trail Design on 10-25-08.
    A few people commenting on this post have mentioned that the soft cover PSRB’s are glued. I looked on the binding and it looked like it might have been sewn (?), however that wasn’t really what made me think this. What makes me think that it was sewn or have at least a “hybrid” glue binding is the fact that there are threads every 64 pages following page 17 (Genesis 19 & 20). I contacted a 30 year professional book binder here in Portland, Oregon this morning and he said that if there is thread within the pages then it is in fact sewn.
    Maybe I’m just wishful thinking, but I think this ESV Personal Size Reference Bible just might be at least a mixture of both sewn and glued. Let me know what you think about this. Keep posting such fantastic reviews!
    Thanks,
    – Erik

  53. I just checked the ESV Blog and two of the TruTone Personal Size Reference Bibles are in fact, SEWN. Here it the link:
    http://www.esv.org/blog/2008/05/summer.2008.esvs
    Yes, yes, and yes!!!!!!!!! :-)
    It feels so good to know that in the future I can put cowhide, calfskin or the granddaddy of them all, highland goatskin on my Bible because of it being sewn and NOT glued.

  54. Erik,
    I’ve posted that same information at least two times on this thread. Sorry that you missed it.

  55. threegirldad,
    Ooops. I just noticed your comments above. ;) Anyhow, I’m a happy camper with this new (sewn) ESV Bible.

  56. A query sent to Crossway with regards to TruTone and sewn bindings, produced this answer:
    Thank you for your inquiry and for your interest in the ESV Personal Size Reference Bible.
    In regard to copies that we’re offering right now, the first three Bibles listed at http://www.crossway.org/catalog/bibles#personal-size-reference are adhesive bound, and the last three feature sewn bindings.
    I hope you find this information helpful.

  57. Hey all
    Further to my comments above, I just thought I’d let you know how my black TruTone PSR is holding up six months in. Probably the saddest fact is that it isn’t really!! After six months of pretty intensive use, the binding is separating from the cover, and the gilt has rubbed off quite significantly from the edging. Whilst the TruTone is durable enough, the spine etching has disappeared, and as the text block is coming off the cover, durability ceases to be important.
    I guess to some extent you get what you pay for, but I’m surprised that only six months I’m having to seriously consider a new bible. I’ve honestly had considerably better wear from a paperback ESV that I covered in some sticky back plastic, thinking it would be a cheap stop gap. My PSR may be a rogue, but judging by other comments Crossway don’t have a great track record on durability. Perhaps a sewn binding would be more successful.
    PSR- great idea, disappointing execution

  58. You know, I really enjoyed reading this article because quality binding and typesetting is an interesting and important topic whenever dealing with literature. How much more important is it when we are discussing the scriptures?
    However, I see a lot of emphasis lately on bibles that are ever more compact with ever less reference material. This is furthered by the interest in new translations that focus on readability and paraphrase/thought-for-though translations.
    I’m a bit saddened that we are moving away from scholarly thinking and indeed, bibles that use complex language are not all that popular. (I’m an NASB fan) The more “wordy” and literal translations cause laypeople to think and up their vocabulary a notch…the world needs people that are more articulate because they speak highly for the truth found in scriptures.
    I’m further saddened that we aren’t supporting bible publishers en masse like AMG, who prints the KEY Hebrew / Greek Study Bible with Strong’s Dictionarys bound into the tome. In this age of reason, intellect and false doctrines we really aren’t afforded the time to focus on “the flowery prose” of scripture because we have to open that very bible and defend the faith against those preaching false gospels.
    I’d like to point out to contrasts between us as mainstream Christians today (desiring smaller / easier reading bibles) and those that are outside of orthodoxy like Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons. I recently purchased a mormon quad bible that has a KJV+ their three other holy scriptures complete with cross references. I recently acquired a Jehovah’s Witness New World Translation with their Book of Reasoning bound into the same binding. The message in all of this? As Christians are arming themselves with less defenses, the unorthodox are arming up with more defenses of their faith within their scriptures. Let that be a warning to us to prepare ourselves with truth and wisdom.

  59. I purchased a TruTone copy a few weeks ago and have been very pleased with it. The font is much easier to read than I expected. It’s now my go to Bible.

  60. I just purchased the Personal Reference, and I am very pleased with it. First of all, I got the TruTone and it looks like it is in fact sewn, which is great. The small font doesn’t bother me too much, and the paragraph format is exactly what I was looking for. In fact, my only beef is that the reference marks (the little letters superscripted throughout the text to indicate references) are a little bit distracting. I guess it’s the price you pay for references, but honestly I wish the marks were smaller or lighter or something. Other than that I am extremely happy with the edition and would recommend it to anyone. Already I have noticed familiar verses standing out to me in new ways thanks to the single-column paragraph format.

  61. Just noticed this quote on evangelicalbible’s facebook page:
    “R.L. Allan has secured permission to publish Crossway’s Personal Size Reference Bible: Possible colors for the first run: Black and Scarlet Red. # 7.4-point type # 5,900-entry concordance # Words of Christ in black # Size: 5″ x 7.25″ x 3/4″ # Over 80,000 cross-references on the inside margin # Single-column, paragraph format This Bible would be in the same class as the Cambridge PM. Ideas-comments?”

  62. David,
    This is exactly what I’ve been waiting for. I’ve thought about buying an Allan’s ESV, but just can’t bring myself to spend that much money if it isn’t some sort of single-column format.
    I’d rather see chocolate brown as a color choice, but what I care about most is that it have 3 ribbons and leather linings, just like the ESV1 series.

  63. Good news! Evangelicalbible.com just announced that Allen’s will be releasing their version of this edition in September! First editions will be in black and red. Can’t wait.

  64. Reed,
    I don’t have either the thinline or PSR but I have the Genuine Leather Classic Reference and the TruTone Single Column Reference from Crossway. Both are glued binding.
    I have had the CL for five years of fairly decent usage (I keep going back and forth between ESV and NASB…) The SCR I have had for a year. Both have stood up well to being carried around, read, and underlined.
    Hope this helps.

  65. This is great news! I love the Personal Size Reference edition and would *love* to see it in an Allan’s binding with high quality paper, and 3 ribbons, of course. I would also be a fan of the chocolate brown or a tan and am hoping that for the second and third runs, they will offer it.
    Now, is there any chance that Allan would do the Deluxe Compact ESV? I’d love a super tiny version that is bound with top quality paper, also with multiple ribbons…

  66. Yes, high quality paper would be nice, but I fear the plan is to take the present text block and bind that. I really would imagine that the brown would be a better seller for a first run than a red would be, but I’m sure Mark will be grabbing a red one.

  67. I have bought the Forest/Tan edition from Amazon in May. What surprised me is that when I compare this edition with the Navy/Khaki/Pearl edition, it is about 3-4 mm thicker. I try to find other difference and I find that the Forest/Tan edition is printed in China and the Navy in Belgium. Is it the reason for the difference in thickness?

  68. I have both as well and my Navy/Khaki/Pearl edition has a darker font, which is a little easier on the eyes.

  69. Mark,
    You have a fantastic & informative website!
    I have learned a lot since I started visiting your site. Oh, and I have also ordered an R.L. Allan Bible and this evening I ordered TWO SCR ESV Bibles.
    I appreciate your site and will continue to visit often. I just hope I can quit ordering new Bibles!
    Allen

  70. Allen,
    Are you aware that R.L.Allan are bringing out the Personal Reference Edition in Highland Goatskin in Sepember? It might be worth holding off until then…not to mention the upcoming Readers Edition!

  71. Alan – Can you give more details??? This is the first that I have heard of Allans binding the personal reference!!!

  72. This is the information I had from R.L.Allan’s,
    “You may like to know that we will be introducing Crossway’s single column Personal Reference ESV
    in September in black, brown and red goatskin editions, to fill the gap in the ESV1 availability.
    The Personal Reference editions will be the Highland goatskin style with all the Allan trimmings. They should look really good.”
    Needless to say I am rather excited!
    Alan

  73. I’ve noticed that study bibles seem to be going towards the single column layout. I have four fairly popular study Bibles on my shelf next to me right now–the Archaological Study Bible the New Geneva Study Bible, and the New Oxford Annotated Bible. The two former Bibles both have single column text, and the latter two have the traditional double column format. The single column is much more attractice, imo. Perhaps the study Bible market will help to make the single column paragraph format mainstream.

  74. i just ordered this from christianbook.com
    Thank you for this post. This Bible seems
    to be what I’m looking for.
    When I was a teenager I would read (and enjoy)
    my Bible for hours. At age 20 I bought a big
    study Bible along with another Bible. For
    some reason I could never get in the flow
    of reading like I did when I was a teen.
    Now, 5 years after using the bulky study Bible..
    I dug out my old Teen Study Bible
    and realized that it was single column with
    NO study notes at the bottom. It at an occasional
    “life scenario” explanation every few pages,
    but that was it. For the most part it read
    like a book!
    I think this new Bible is going to be much
    easier for me to read through. I hope the
    font size isn’t a problem for me.
    It would be really nice if they came out with
    one that looks like the Message (i wouldn’t
    mind the extra thickness).
    Anyway, thank you. This is a very interesting blog!

  75. I just bought the PSR in Truetone – the “trail design:
    http://www.wtsbooks.com/product-exec/product_id/5730/nm/ESV_Personal_Size_Reference_TruTone_Bible_Forest_Tan_Trail_Design_/parent_id/21
    According to what I’ve read here and around the web, it has a sewn binding (the signatures confirm it). However, out of the box, and even after a day of use, the binding is still really stiff. In Genesis and Revelation, it doesn’t want to stay open. It has a pretty steep gutter – i really need to push down on the pages to see the references.
    And the liner is just plain paper. Like, construction paper almost. This is one thing that Mark doesn’t discuss frequently, as it normally isn’t a problem in higher quality editions, but a paper liner like this is going to either: a) come unglued from the cover; b) crack; or c) tear somewhere in the middle.
    Now, why did I buy the Crossway, when Mark has already reviewed the beautiful Allan’s PSR? Quite frankly, as a graduate student, if I have $150US to drop on a book, it’s going to be on neuroanatomy or voice disorders (I’m studying to be a speech-language pathologist). So I went with the cheaper option ($20.99US after shipping at Westminster Theological Seminary’s bookstore).
    Overall, though, the PSR is a pleasure to read. It’s size is great for church and home use. I know that it will be my primary ESV (my Pitt Minion is always in my school bag, but the double-column with small text is not for me), and my secondary overall bible (my main bible is my Allan’s Longprimer AV). If I still love it in 5 years, I’ll pay $80-100US to have it rebound instead. With raised bands. And a leather liner.

  76. Hi Scott,
    Re. your August 19 post, can you give us more details (full title, dimensions, pub & printing date, ISBN or similar, etc?) of your old Teen Study Bible?
    I see a Zondervan product still in print of that title edited by Larry Richards…was this it:
    http://www.christianbook.com/Christian/Books/product?isbn=9780310935193 ?
    It appears all the “revised” and “compact” newer editions of this Zondervan title are double-column. (Boo, hiss.) But there’s still that one single column edition available in a silver-blue TruTone cover. Looks interesting…2 full inches thick…if this is the one, can you comment on paper opacity and bleed-through as well?
    Thanks!

  77. Devin,
    Be brave, my son. It’s just a nice, new, tight binding. Break it in like your anatomy textbooks. Place the spine flat on the table with the pages up. Flatten down the covers gently, one at a time. Then take the front ~50 pages and fold them down, followed by the last ~50 pages. Repeat with the next 50 pages until you get to the middle. Then repeat the entire procedure, flattening it down a little more this time. After 3 of these cycles, it should be opening pretty wide and the binding getting fairly pliable.
    The same procedure is good to do with modern glued bindings too but I think you’ll soon see the inside threads of the sewn signatures in this Crossway product as you break it in.
    I think you made a great choice, regardless of price!

  78. I just ordered it, I’m stoked for it to come in the mail tomorrow! Dah! I got it in Black Trutone before I found the genuine leather for $29.99 on CBD.com Oh well, we shall see how I like it. I have been using the ESV Bonded Leather Thinline for the last 2 years, and the pocket size ESV trutone before that for 1.5 years. I’ve been looking for an ESV version that is portable with cross references, so I’m hoping this is the ticket.
    Great review, extremely helpful. Thanks.

  79. Love the Blog….So Awesome great work!
    My question is that I recently bought a PSR with a sewn binding, and the “cockling” or dimple effect at the margins is so bad that it really makes the product unreadable and defective. I have been talking with Crossway and they are working with me to get a replacement out so that’s all good, yet the Rep at Crossway seems to think they are all like that and she recommended I get just a glued binding. Have you ever come across this problem were the dimpling was so bad or severe? I own other sewn bibles and they are fine, was just wondering if you have come across any other crossway bibles were the dimpling was very severe.

  80. Harvestjd, I assume you’re just talking about the inner margin (the so-called gutter) where the volume is bound?
    I agree, there exists plenty of other Smyth-sewn Bibles with thin paper that don’t have that issue. And accepting an all-glued or side-stitched binding in exchange is not a fair exchange!
    I wonder if there wasn’t a bunch of these PSR print blocks that got overheated in a storehouse someplace? Has anyone else seen this? What you’re describing is more like what happens when a Bible is left out in a hot car.

  81. I’d like to make a few quick observations on this edition. I have been looking at the new R. L. Allan PSR and considering buying one. Before I spent $150 on a new setting of a translation that I don’t have a lot of experience with I wanted to give it a “dry run” so I went out and purchased a Tru-Tone PSR (the tan one with the little crest on it).
    After about a week I have decided that there are aspects of this Bible that I really like and other that I hate. I know that the perfect Bible doesn’t exist, I gave up looking some years ago, but I don’t think it is unfair for the reader to hope to get most aspects right.
    First of all I was able to satisfy my curiosity about Tru-Tone. My wife says that I am a “leather snob” and in some ways she may be right, I do like nice leather products. I have been very critical of Tru-Tone in the past, given the choice between something created in a lab and an animal’s hide I’ll take the hide every time. Having said that, Tru-Tone is a lot better material that I had expected it to be, it is much more limp and supple that almost any genuine leather Bible you will find in a bookstore. The real test will come with seeing how it holds up over time.
    However, what I was really interested in was on the pages inside. I have been interested in reading an ESV cover to cover and I have been wanting to try out a paragraph setting for a while. I think the folks at Crossway have done a superb job with the page layout of this Bible. Placing the cross references on the inside was a stroke of genius and an innovation that I hope we will see more of. I am also pleasantly suprised by the ESV translation, while I don’t see myself ever replacing the AV as my translation of choice, I could see myself using the ESV quite a bit.
    The one glaring problem I see with the PSR is the text itself. I own four other Bibles that are about the same overall size as the PSR (a Cambridge Cameo, an R. L. Allan and Sons Oxford Brevier Blackface, a Trinitarian Bible Society Windsor Bible and an old Nelson’s reference Bible). Of the five, the text in the PSR is far and away the hardest on my eyes. The letters and words appear faint and crowded on the page much like the warnings that come with a bottle of meds. While the layout of the Blackface has a busy look about it, it is slightly larger and much bolder than what is found in the PSR and does not cause the eye strain. The Windsor has still bigger type and a very uncluttered look that I find fresh and pleasant, but of course it lacks cross references. For my money the Cameo and Blackface are still the settings of choice.
    I have decided to pass on buying one of the R. L. Allan PSRs (as appealing as the red one looks). I’ll use the PSR that I have along with the Cameo and the Blackface and wait to see what Crossway comes out with in the future.

  82. I just purchased one of these in the Truetone (mahogany with trellis design, 2009) from the local store. The box doesn’t say it, but online, (at cbd.com) the features list “Smyth-sewn binding”. So it looks like this is another one… Thanks for the review Mark.

  83. Yes, I believe all the Personal Size Ref ESVs have the superior Smyth-sewn binding EXCEPT this black TruTone one Mark reviews and the Cool Mint colored one. So if one wants black, consider the genuine leather, not the TruTone for about $10 more. (The Chestnut Crest design was also one of these early-published Trutones, so one should possibly check into its binding before ordering that edition.)
    There’s a new black Trutone one ( ISBN-13: 978-1433514333 ) being released later this month with a crown of thorns design on the cover. Can anyone report if this is Smyth-sewn?
    And I note the Trail Design in forest green and tan (ISBN-13: 9781433502361) has exhausted its first printing and will ship again at the end of February…unless someone can confirm otherwise, the buyer might want to beware in ordering one of these very popular editions as well.

  84. You know, I’ve had this in TruTone for almost two years and never noticed the line running around three sides of the text …
    This is the first single-column Bible I’ve actually read, and while it took some getting used to, I absolutely love it now. I’m not even bothered by the tiny type; my other everyday reading Bible is a compact ESV, so the PR font seems positively huge by comparison.

  85. Great review, I have just ordered the genuine leather version for just £18.00 (GBP) cant believe I can get a single column reference bible for less than 20 quid!!!

  86. Fantastic review, have just taken the plunge and ordered an Allan’s PSR in black. Quite the price but comes highly reccommended I see. Have to say I’m quite looking forward to receiving it! Have been used to single paragraph settings in study bibles for a while and seems a very sensible layout to me.

  87. Nice review. I wish I could be as happy as so many others who have purchased the PSR. I ordered the Forest Tan TruTone edition a few weeks ago. It arrived and I was very excited. I love the size and the single column reference. As I began to read it I noticed problems with the type. Pieces of letters were missing here and there. After a few hundred pages of reading in both OT and NT it was simply too distracting. I called Crossway and they sent me a replacement. It arrived and I compared some of the pages I remember having significant issues. Seems like the problems were corrected.
    Now, after spending another week reading from it I’m finding the same copy issues throughout this Bible too. Uhg, it is bad enough that it distracts me from reading the text. I called Crossway again and they are going to pull a few Bibles off the shelf and have a look. I offered to take photos of some of the pages to show them how awful it it. I hope to get a PSR that has clean text one of these days.

  88. Thanks for the review. I’ve already bought one copy of this edition in TruTone as a present, but I’m excited by the pending release a Lambskin version: http://www.crossway.org/product/9781433521768 (expected to be available in the next couple of days). I think it might be my next long-term everyday reading Bible.

  89. I would love to have a small zipper ESV or NASB. If you put the Bible in your coat pocket or in your luggage the pages won’t get bent, and too it just makes a more compact, neat looking Bible.

  90. you must hold this psr esv in lamb, it is the softest cover i have ever held. the thickness with this lamb cover is comparable to my cambridge clarion esv in black goatskin. i don’t know if the extra thickness is due only to the lamb cover, or if some other change has been made since this review, but the thickness is definitely greater than your photo’s. of course the clarion is much more readable, and now that i have had both for a while i am used to seeing the clarion’s references on the outside, and actually like them better that way when using them. Mark, it would be great to see some recent reviews or articles on this blog, i have read everything at least three times now ;}

  91. At the end of June Crossway are releasing an updated PSR. Called simply the Personal Reference Bible, type size goes up from 7.5 to 8.0 and the number of pages goes up too, though the overall size remains almost identical. Initially, there will be 8 tru-tone editions. Allan’s, who are no longer selling the PSR, say they might consider offering their own binding of the new edition, but not before 2014. They say the PSR is one of the favourite and most popular ESVs.

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