Bleeding Through: The Sorry State of Bible Paper

Back in June, Iyov posted an excellent photo essay titled "Bible paper bleedthrough," using photos from my review of Cambridge's Pitt Minion NKJV to illustrate just how bad the problem of thin, translucent Bible paper really is. In my review, I described the paper as "relatively opaque," saying the ghosted print image from the reverse of the page was "faint, and not pronounced enough to be distracting." Iyov then used the photos illustrating the review to argue that my assessment shows just how far we've sunk:

"…we have become so accustomed to bleedthrough that four layers of text can quality as 'relatively opaque.'"

Fair enough. Far from bucking the verdict, I feel the need to confess. Not just on the paper issue, but across the board. My frame of reference when writing about today's Bibles has increasingly become . . . today's Bibles. Increasingly, I find myself saying, "It's not perfect, but compared to a lot of what's out there, it isn't bad." This represents a shift in perspective. Originally, I judged everything in comparison to my Platonic ideal of a Bible, whereas now I probably indulge too much in the art of the possible. Old Mark believed every Bible should be printed on luscious, entirely opaque paper, with sewn signatures and a quality leather binding. New Mark is pretty happy if just one of those things is achieved. Two sends him over the moon. It's a study, my friends, in declining standards.

The photo above illustrates a phenomenon that goes by a couple of names — some call it bleed-through, others ghosting. This is a fragment of Psalm 81, but you can't help but notice Psalm 82 on the reverse of the page. The print image from the reverse side of the page is showing through. In the picture at right, you observe a similar phenomenon, only this time it's handwriting on one side of the page visible on the other. Technically, this is not bleed-through, because the ink hasn't actually bled through the paper. But the ghostly image is visible, and it can interfere with readability.

I have a stack of vintage Bibles at my elbow. Flipping through them, I'd say some level of ghosting is the rule. With thin, translucent paper, I suppose that's to be expected. So the problem today isn't the presence of ghosting per se. It's the amount. The vintage editions might reveal a hint of the reverse page, but the paper looks white to the eye, and in the right light, the ghosting isn't noticeable. With modern Bibles — and not just the cheap ones — the ghosting is sometimes hard to ignore. Some Bibles appear to have been printed on gray paper, that's how bad the problem is. 

Readability ought to be the highest goal of any Bible edition. Factors detracting from readability should be eliminated, or at least minimized. It is tragic when an excellent, readable page layout (like the NRSV Standard Edition) is marred by the quality of paper it's printed on. As Iyov writes:

"There are many problems with Bibles being produced today: poor bindings, poor editing, overly small margins, and poor typesetting. But the biggest problem by far is Bible paper bleedthrough."

But when it comes to recommending Bibles that don't have this problem, I'm at a loss. What's acceptable to me may not work for you — and "acceptable" as a standard is far from ideal. 

So what's happened? In my far from expert opinion, there are a couple of factors contributing to the problem. Quality paper has become more expensive to source. Inside publishing, there's also a received wisdom about what consumers are willing to pay. Remember that LA Times glimpse inside the Zondervan marketing meeting quoted in my Bible Reader's Manifesto? The VP of production "wonders if customers will pay so much more for the anniversary edition" of the NIV Study Bible. The price is $120. Better paper means increased cost, so either the publisher cuts his margin, or the consumer pays more. And there's another dynamic to consider, one that we see here at Bible Design Blog often enough: the more the consumer pays, the higher his expectation that every detail will be uniform, regular, perfect. Boosting quality above the "acceptable" level might be a hard sell in a for-profit enterprise. Most consumers don't demand it, and the ones who do are notoriously hard to please.

Another factor is the current rage for thin Bibles. My brown goatskin Pitt Minion (pictured at left) is only slightly thicker than the 256 page trade paperback book underneath, but it includes the entire Bible, reference notes, a concordance, and even maps. It isn't as tall as Rethinking Worldview, and isn't as wide, either. The average hardback novel pretty much dwarfs even a full-size reference Bible, and certain works of fantasy and science fiction give Study Bibles a run for their money. But let's face it, there are a lot more words in the Bible than in your average novel or work of nonfiction. How do they get Bibles to be so small? The equation is pretty simple: tiny type, thin paper. And the smaller you want your Bible to be, the tinier the type and the thinner the paper (within reason). So if your dream Bible is a large print thinline on perfectly opaque paper . . . get used to disappointment.

Still, I think it's important that we let publishers know we want better paper. The more demand we express, the easier it becomes for designers and production people to make the case for quality in-house. Thanks to fountain pen enthusiasts, notebook publishers know that when they put out a new product, a bunch of bloggers are going to write on the pages and post photos of the reverse side. This knowledge doesn't always result in better paper being used, but it doesn't hurt. I haven't always done a good job on this; I'll try to do better in the future. In the meantime, I encourage those of you with an eye for paper to post your feedback to my reviews. The commentary is often more enlightening than the post itself!

Having said all this, what happens when you're stuck with grayish, see-through paper? One thing I've learned from photography is that lighting makes a difference. Depending on the angle, bright light seems either to increase the whiteness of the page or magnify its translucence. If you have trouble with bleed-through, sit near a window or a reading lamp, or go read outside. If you're really desperate, slide a piece of white copy paper under the page you're reading. This will keep underlying pages from showing through, and might also make the one you're reading appear whiter. I admit, though, it's a frustrating workaround. Nelson used to include magnifying cards with their super-small print Bibles; I hate to think publishers now need to supply white cards, but there it is.

To make a long story short, Bible paper is a problem, one I don't see going away anytime soon. As Iyov illustrates, whether I rave about something or not, the photos don't lie, so take a close look at the enlarged versions (by clicking on them) to make sure something will work for you. And when you're dissatisfied, as always, get in touch with the publisher and politely let them know. 

67 Comments on “Bleeding Through: The Sorry State of Bible Paper

  1. Amen! I love fountain pens, and I made the mistake (ONCE) of using one in a Bible. You would have thought it was a permanent marker with all of the bleedthrough. I’ve been forced to use gel pens (because you can’t see underlinings from a ballpoint). Enough of my rant… Again, amen!

  2. It’s my belief that this whole “bleedthrough” controversy is a non-issue. Here’s why I think this way. I have a dozen or so bibles and every one of them, without exception, has some degree of this phenomenon. Even a 1927 Dickson New Indexed Bible has some bleedthrough. I never noticed this or considered it a dilemma until I started reading this blog! If when you are reading your bible, you concentrate on the text on the page, you likely won’t notice anything. I know that I don’t regardless of amount or severity of this “problem”. It’s only when we “look” at our bibles and not read and study them that we see problems. Bible paper is by nature very thin but very strong. If we want the advantages of thin bibles with strong, lasting paper, we have to get past this petty habit we have of picking them apart. If they’re well constructed of the highest quality materials, we should be satisfied.

    • I agree with the study vs reading. That has been a recent burden for me. My preferred bible translation is KJV even though it is hard to read in cases. I use a commentary to help understand what is being said when reading. I use various method of “study” then began to look at the words. I used a method called the Bible Infinity Code. The first word I looked up was “took” where Enoch was “took.” According to the code I found the numerical value of the word then looked at that chapter which was Psalms 52 then looked up the first instance of the word or concept. I found “take” in verse 5. Baring the context of the chapter itself and sticking to the context of Rapture as related to the word took. The verse said and this is God talking he will destroy you then take, pluck and root you out of the land of the living.
      I consider the verse exactly what would happen at the instant of being taken in the rapture.
      Than being said. As you pointed out in study it is the it isn’t the binding, paper or type that is important but the word. I would suggest if you want to read get a clean clear single column, good paper and type face and just read. To study use a bible you have put plenty of work into marks and underlines only mean something to you they wouldn’t get in your way. Other peoples marks; What were they thinking?
      I know this is a design blog. I drool looking at some of the bible presented but it is the work you put in that is important. Just study.

    • Completely true. We should consider how many people in the world do not or cannot have Bibles and what a treasure the scriptures are. Some people have much of the Bible memorized, rather than highlighted, or have hand copied it.

    • Completely true. We should consider how many people in the world do not or cannot have Bibles and what a treasure the scriptures are. Some people have much of the Bible memorized, rather than highlighted, or have hand copied it.

    • I don’t think u read much bc if u did …it Would bother u.

  3. I agree and feel your angst Mark.
    When I purchased my calfskin ESV Thinline, the first thing I noticed was how I could read Genesis while the book was opened to Revelation. 🙂
    ….for the extra $, I’d rather have a thicker book and less opaque pages.

  4. Mark,
    I remember growing up that the mark of a “fine leather Bible,” one that we paid a lot of money for, was the bleedthrough. If it had thin paper and you could see text from another page, then it must be worth having. Only high quality Bibles had “Bible Paper” (and we pronounced it like it was to be capitalized!)

  5. I’m sorry Jeff but bleed-through is definitely NOT a “non-issue”. When the paper is so thin that when you underline a word on one side of the page you simultaneously make it look like you just crossed out a word on the other side, you have a problem. The same can be said of highlighting. I noticed too late while highlighting a passage that I was tinting the other side of the page. It’s so bad that a couple of times, while reading my Bible, I have stopped and wondered why I highlighted something mid-sentence/verse only to turn the page and discover the verse that I actually meant to highlight.
    Yes sir, there are issues with paper quality. It does affect the reading, studying & enjoyment of God’s Word when you’re trying to figure out what a word is on the printed page.

  6. John, If your highlighting is bleeding through, you’re maybe using the wrong markers. Special ones are made just for bible marking, and they do a very good job. I personally don’t mark my bibles because I use many translations and find that notebooks do a great job. If I have my notes in a notebook, it doesn’t matter what bible I have. I do have little notations in all of my bibles, but not extensive notes. It’s just what works for me, and bleedthrough is a non-issue with me. Buy the best bibles and you get the best paper. If you buy a $20 bible, don’t complain about the paper or ghosting.

  7. Jeff, I disagree, mate.
    I’m not concerned with bleed through from marking my Bible, but just the ‘ghosting’, or whatever you want to call it, from the text on the other side of the page (and the facing page, and the other side of the facing page, in some cases).
    I bought an RL Allan ESV1, the new one that came out recently, and I had to return it after using it for a couple of days, because the ghosting was so bad. I compared several portions of the text with the ‘old’ ESV2 (with the first edition of ESV text), and a Cambridge NIV I own, and they were worlds apart.
    It’s not an aesthetic thing. If your eyes have difficulty tracking, or your brain has to work harder to identify words (even though you don’t notice this is happening), reading speed drops, you encounter reading fatique sooner, and comprehension suffers.
    To say that all Bibles suffer from bleed through or ghosting is stating the obvious. The issue is how severe it is, which I think is caused by a number of factors, including the thickness of the paper (obviously), the density of the print ink, and the colour of the paper (bright white to very off white or grey).

  8. I GIVE UP! I obviously am not seeing what the rest of you are. Yes, there is ghosting in every single bible that I own, but I must have an extremely high tolerance level for it. As I stated before, I have every manner of bible and this was never even an issue with me(and still isn’t), until I read this blog. Ben, I have a new Allan ESV1 in black goatskin that I ordered in June and recieved in October. I compared it with my Crossway Classic Reference and other than maybe a tad darker font in the Crossway, they both have about the same ghosting. I never considered this something that I would return a bible for. In fact, I recall having returned only one bible in my life. It was an NASB published by Moody Press(pre-Ryrie)in 1982. It had whole gobs of text missing in the O.T. as if someone had laid something on the page as it was being printed. I guess Ihave been lucky, but I have never bought inexpensive bibles except the Crossway in genuine? leather. It, at least, is Smythe-sewn.

  9. One of my biggest problems/setbacks in buying Bibles is the paper quality. I really dislike the thin and translucent papers that Bibles nowadays offer. I currently own an NIV gift Bible which has the best quality paper I’ve ever seen in Bibles. Now I want to switch to an ESV but alas, I can’t find the same kind of paper and so I am still waiting for a variation of the ESV with better paper… I really hope that the publishers will print Bibles on better quality paper in the future…

  10. NASB Large Print Ultrathin Reference Bible has the cleanest non-bleeding paper i’ve ever seen. anybody have any other suggestions?

  11. I agree;today’s Bible paper seems to be of lower quality. But, I wonder about the ink publishers are using, as well. I bought a New Living Translation – the Premium Slimline Reference Edition, in calfskin. Tyndale only published the edition with red letter. The print/ink is so bad, in the Gospel According to Mark, that the pages have a pink tint!! I sent it back to Tyndale, they examined it – agreed that it had a pink tint – and then, sent it back to me. They could not find one to replace it with that did not have the same tint!! It sits on the shelf.

  12. I have had some Bibles with “too much” ghosting, but they were still readable. My bigger pet peeve is bibles with smooth shiny paper that reflects overhead light and can make the text impossible to read unless you shift the book. The biggest offender I own is the Reformation Study Bible. It has a special gift for catching the glare of florescent overhead lights.
    I assume it is the paper, but as someone above said, it could also be the ink that creates the reflection.

  13. I have to agree with Chris that the NASB Large Print Ultrathin Reference Bible is one of the best examples of quality printing. Highly legible and the paper is substantial. Ultrathin doesn’t really apply, as there is some thickness to the book, but I just think of it as a full size, normal thickness Bible that is an excellent read. I wish other translations were available in an identical format.

  14. Foundation Publications uses some of the nicest paper I have seen. I have the NASB Side Column Reference (the older one printed in the USA) and the paper is beautiful; smooth, white and very opaque. The print is bold too, and yet there is almost no ghosting. I have heard, however, that these are now printed in China and the paper is not as nice.
    The In Touch Ministries NASB comes in a close second; I have not seen the Ultra Thin NASB.

  15. I own the NASB Side Column Reference and the NASB Large Print Ultrathin Reference Bible and I agree that the paper and ink are excellent. I wish all Bibles could be so easy to read. Unlike Brian, I find the Reformation Study Bible very readable. Perhaps it’s the lighting.

  16. Great site to pose my question. I even worked in a bible book store three years and have never resolved this. I need a giant print bible that is DARK ink. I have searched online again and again to no avail. I have two very old very worn NASB bibles that has perfect size and darkness of type and would so like to have it in the KJV. Does anyone know a particular bible that has dark ink and large or giant print type? Email me if you would.

  17. Jan, I have a beautiful KJV bible from LEWIS BIBLE BINDERY. Giant print, text only, dark print, black text, beautiful calfskin leather, very well made. It is not cheap at about 150 bucks. (Actually mine is thumb indexed and cost even a little more). But it was worth every penny. You can get see it direct at lewis bibles website here$7
    Or from KJV Store
    I only wish I could get a bible like this in the NASB. I have tried several differant giant print editions of the NASB and they all suffer from either faint and inconsistant print, cheap paper, poor binding, or all of the above.
    This Lewis bible hits it out of the park in every way.

  18. Great commits everyone, there is one issue that the binder of my first rebinding in 1981 always insisted on and that was the not using ribbons in the Bibles for the following reasons:
    1. the older ribbins bleed their dye on to the paper after a time because of the use of acid in thre dye. I am not sure if the newer ribbons along with the paper quality is changed that, since upto my Allan’s Bible purchases I always removed the ribbons from any New Bible.
    2. Sometime the ribbon tear the paper if the pages are not moved carefully.
    I developed a tear in my Allan’s calfskin NIV ref Bible but was easy to repair ( see info on this blog) so I am not going to move the pages the way I did using the Bible @ the last funeral!

  19. The best paper I have seen is on a Bible I bought 42 years ago. It was an Oxford Bible in genuine morrocco (looks like goatskin) that has only a little cracking at the corners even today–the middle of the cover is flexible as new! But the paper was 100% rag and is still white, white. It is heavy enough that there is no seethrough, but ink pens will sure bleed through. It even has a little “new smell” in Ecclesiastes and others little visited places (shame, I know). I cannot find this kind of paper these days, but it sure has lasted well.

  20. Bleedthrough or ghosting has never been an issue or problem for me. I can see that it’s there, but it doesn’t jump out at me or affect my ability to read the Bible.
    My pet peeve about almost all Bibles, even the most expensive ones, is that some pages are printed more faintly than others. I don’t notice this much in other books, but just Bibles.
    My R.L. Allan Clarendon probably comes closest to my ideal in terms of quality in a Bible both for binding and print quality (it is by far the ultimate for the binding, it’s Highland goatskin, full yapp). Two other ones I bought there (Blackface and Clarendon) have some pages printed more faintly than others. The Clarendon does have the bleedthrough as shown in the top of your article, but I never even noticed it before I read your article.

  21. A sheet of white paper will block ghosting from the page(s) behind it, but won’t do anything about ghosts from the text on the back side of the page you’re reading. Try black paper instead – it swallows up the text on the back side, but plenty of contrast still remains for easy reading of the front side.
    Black paper backing also prevents ghosts in photocopies and scans.

  22. The quality of Bible paper went away in the 1970’s. During that time, laws changed affecting paper formulas due to health and safety concerns. Thus, the components that once made Bible paper non-transparent with no see-through were changed, including removing Rag, and we now have a see-through (Allan term for what many call ghosting) epidemic.
    Over the 20 or so, years I have collected and gave away Bibles, I noticed the change and in looking at some Bibles with actual print dates, the timing. This was confirmed by Allan via email. They also said they are constantly searching for good paper and have a very hard time finding a nice balance for all the criteria they impose on paper selection. They are very diligent about this and I believe they will find one. Their new paper has considerable see-through as do most now. The last Bible I bought with nice paper was a 1988 Nelson Signature Reference, USA print version. MY import one has typical see-through.
    Oxford used a very high quality “True” India Paper back in the day and I imagine the Bible Steve refers to has this paper. Also, that paper will not degrade over the years. India Paper is not the smooth stuff, but it is the best to me. I have some vintage bibles that will “stack” over 1,000 sheets of it into less than 5/8 inch. It has minimal see-through, is not glossy, actually a flat appearance, and is completely non-reflective. When putting a page of this under light at various angles, only the print will reflect light. There is also no wave to it. Neat stuff. Maybe toxic? eek!
    A Bible can be so personal, that one may become enamoured with “their special copy”. I am, sadly. Yet, I must remember that, if we get “closer” to our Maker, it matters not what style we read as long as we read and listen and know our Savior! It is nothing more than a luxury, a vanity perhaps, obviously not humble and certainly no exercise of temperance.

  23. @John,
    I think the Health and Safety issues relate to paper pulp products. The beauty of rag is that it’s used in place of wood pulp. High rag content paper should be “greener” than all-pulp paper. I’d love to be corrected on this, but I think it all comes down to price. From what I can tell from limited research, no one but a handful of hobbyists make rag paper any more. Even the “watermark” paper used for typical letterhead is now all-pulp and just run through textured rollers to make it feel like “parchment paper”.
    I’d love to hear from an expert in the industry as to the economics and H&S aspects of all this. But I suspect they know all too well the size of this market and due to the economies of scale, producing old-fashioned “India paper” could add as much as $1000 per Bible to the price. At that point, even many of us enthusiasts would evaporate out of the market.
    This may be analogous to making screws with a lathe instead of rolling them. Any perceived benefit just can’t justify the cost.

  24. I highly recommend visiting 1) used book stores, 2) flea markets, 3) yard sales, 4)estate sales, and 5) church sales to purchase a Bible.
    I have bought better quality Bibles at my local used book store for a fraction of a fraction of the cost that I have paid online for a newer and poorer print. The paper, print, and illustration quality of older Bibles exceeds what’s on the market now; it’s worth your effort to make some inquiries the next time you’re at a yard sale or walking around downtown. Granted, you most likely won’t find the newer ESV translation second-hand, but you’d be surprised what turns up at your local garage sale or antique show if you are paying attention. eBay and Craigslist are fine, but I think you can strike gold closer to home.
    The best piece of advice I could offer the Bible hunter is this: if you don’t see it, don’t be afraid to ask for it. A Bible isn’t one of the first things that come to mind when people are trying to clean out grandma’s house, organizing a spring yard sale, or planning to move some “big ticket” items at a flea market. Unfortunately, many people think you’re crazy just to read the Bible let alone pay money for one so don’t expect to see a Bible sitting on the sale table. Ask them if they have any Bibles for sale. You’ll be happy you did.

  25. Local Church Bible publishers ( have good quality Bibles in very affordable prices. Probably the highest price is at $55.00 with the quality of Bibles that would normally be bought for $150.00.

    • Local Church publishers make the very best bibles out there for the money. Period. 55.00 bibles with the quality of 200.00 bibles. They sale them at cost with the option to give extra as a love offering to help with overhead. Awesome ministry and exellent bibles. Not to mention exellent paper.

  26. I am very happy to see your blog. I t is very well. Thank you you post it. If you have time please post more.

  27. I am considering buying a Crossway Pew Bible, which is supposed to have 27 lb paper, and doing a custom rebind. The only problem is that it is probably not a sewn binding, which may result in a rebound bible that does not open totally flat.

  28. This web page really hit a nerve – RIGHT ON, Mark!
    I bought a Cambridge blue hardcover, black letter, standard text KJV about 8 years a go and loved its simple, very readable and dignified font, 8 pt Antique Old Style No. 3.
    I wore this Bible out, then scoured the web to purchase another – I finally found it [], but when it arrived, what a disappointment! – the same Bible is now published on onion skin paper with tons of bleed through.
    I once read, Scripture without comment is the sun whence all teachers receive their light., and thought this simple black-letter standard text edition would fill that need precisely.
    I’m on a mission to find this Bible on better paper like my original.
    Thank you, Mark, for your in depth understanding of an important, vital and neglected issue!

  29. I was reading in Matthew today in a “newer” study Bible wondering if I needed new glasses. There is a difference in Bible papers. My Old Scofield has little “bleed through” and pages don’t wrinkle up as easily as newer papers seem to. The old papers seem to be more user friendly. Rounded page corners also don’t fold over as quickly. Maybe this is a bigger problem than we realize, if modern Bible printing and paper have become a handicap to Bible reading. Ken in Chicago

  30. You nailed it, Ken. Search this blog for “paper” and you’ll find lots of comments like yours. The day of rag content paper appears gone (well, except for currency). And I believe they’re using cheap substitutes for TiO2 making the paper even more transparent. They could make up for this sorry state of affairs by using thicker paper, but the market seems to want “thinline” more than they want a readable product. I’m afraid the blame lies more with us for buying this junk, not the publishers out to maximize their profits.
    There’s a lot to be said for buying old product (watch local booksales and the ‘net) and hope the leather can be rejuvenated with Lexol or equivalent. So much of what’s sold today, even at high prices, has just awful paper compared to that of a couple decades ago.
    But most leather Bibles still have rounded page corners. I would hope only a entry-level hardback or “giveaway” paperback would have square edges.

  31. Sounds like I’m the only one on the planet who lo0oves really thin Bible paper. The thinner the better- I just love the feel and sound of it when I turn the pages! And ghosting isn’t an issue for me at all. You guys are weird! lol

  32. This “ghosting” is a real issue for someone with poor eyesight. I’ve been searching through a lot of bibles with extra-large print for a friend of mine with eye problems…and it seems like the bleed on the pages of the bigger print bibles (which are supposed to be MORE readable) is even worse than in the normal bibles! What a mess this is! I have good vision and can put up with the thin paper if I must…but what are the older folks among us and people with poor eyesight to do? This is hurting the accessibility of God’s word.

  33. I have tried a variety of pens for making notations and underlinings in Bibles I use, and done so over several decades. My all-time favorite is a Woodcraft kit fountain pen with an extra-fine nib and red ink. Contrary to many fountain pens with fine or medium nibs, this one puts very little ink onto the paper. Unfortunately, that pen nib seems no longer to be available. My kids recently gave me a Kindle Touch as an early Christmas gift. Devices like it could circumvent the whole problem of thin Bible paper and how best to make notations without bleed-through. But, some Bible readers will always eschew an electronic device with its learning curve in favor of a nice printed volume one can hold in the hand. Still the Kindle allows users to highlight and make personal notes that can be recalled later. Kindle users can even share their notes with others who download that Bible later. And, some nice Bible translations are available at the price of zero dollars and zero cents (free).

  34. Sarah K, get your friend a piece of black construction paper and cut it to the page size of her Bible. If you place it right in back of the page you’re reading, it helps readability. Yes, it’s a pain to re-insert it each time you turn a page, but it does help.

  35. I just discovered this problem this week when I went on a serious Bible hunt for the first time in about 9 years. I don’t have this problem with any of my old Bibles, but every new Bible I looked at in four different stores had terrible bleed-through that made it difficult for me, as a 27 year old guy with better than 20/20 vision, to make out the words on the page without straining my eyes and getting a headache almost instantly. The only exception I found (I was looking mostly at ESVs, but a few other translations as well) was a pew Bible one of the stores carried, but, of course, it was hardcover and had no cross-references or red-lettering.
    At one point a woman came into one of the stores I was in and asked the sales associate about this exact problem with a NKJV she had just bought, and which her eye-doctor had actually told her was the cause of her headaches due to the bleed-through.
    I am surprised and very disappointed to discover that, based on this blog entry, this has been a problem now with Bibles for at least over 3 years… I emailed Crossway Bible publishers about this and am waiting for a response, and otherwise am stuck reading my disintegrating NLT while I continue to search for an ESV Bible that I can actually read without getting a headache…
    This is a serious problem that is legitimately hurting many people’s access to God’s Word…

  36. Andrew, check out the ESV Legacy or the ESV Cambridge wide-margin.

  37. Andrew, if you want cross-references and red-lettering then you’ll probably like the ESV Cambridge wide margin better.

  38. Andrew, part of the problem is Bible publishers are convinced the market wants thin editions. The notable exception to that trend is in “family”, “pulpit”, or in other editions meant to be less portable. I think you’ll find they use substantially thicker paper so the bleed-through is significantly reduced.
    Maybe one worth looking into is the Barnes and Noble Leatherbound Classics KJV Bible. It’s a bonded leather hardback, with thick, off-white paper and gilded page edges, all for under-$25. The layout is 2-column verse-by-verse, no references. With dimensions of 6x9x2-3/4 inches, it’s thick by today’s standards but still feels good in the hand. ISBN-13 = 9781435125391

  39. Any suggestions for an NIV Giant print Bible that has little ghosting or bleed through?

  40. Well, Jason, do you think you’d like this?
    I can’t quite bring myself to get one. Part of me just screams “art!” and the other part screams “good stewardship”! I will eventually break down.
    Now do you have a preference of NIV84 or NIV11 ?
    They are a bit different and the NIV84’s appear to be getting discontinued. Probably the best thing for Zondervan to do at this point business-wise.
    Do you really want Giant Print (~14pt or more) or is merely Large Print (11-12pt) OK?

  41. You guys might like the new “waterproof” Bibles that are out now. They are made entirely of plastic, and the best part is that you can’t see through the pages! I have a New Testament with Psalms and Proverbs and I like it. I think the entire Bible version is probably alot heavier though. Oh, it’s also great for kids cause you don’t have to worry about them tearing the tissue-paper thin pages!

    • I whole heartedly agree with Amanda. The only Bibles that I have found to be perfectly free of bleed thru are the waterproof ones. They are quickly becoming my favorite kind of Bible. After investing in plastic pages and experiencing how bold the print is you become kind of spoiled. The trade off is that they make the book block heavier and larger because of the added thickness from the synthetic pages. However recently the Bardin Marsee Publishers have found a way to make this years editions using a 20% lighter synthetic plastic. The ESV edition I have is awesome and it comes in NIV,KJV,NLT,NKJV etc. Check out the Kickstarter solution here

      • The plastics bibles’ covers are all using imitation leather ? Imitation leather just cannot last. Poss should consider genuine leather binding.

  42. The real problem is that most book publishers are so excessively profit motivated that they really don’t care about producing the best quality bibles they can produce. I think Local Church Bible Publishers may be the one exception.

  43. A few years ago I bought a Kenneth Copeland bible and I used the Zebrite bible highlighter
    (fluorescent pigment ink – yellow) and I have never had any bleed-through whatsoever. I have no clue what grade paper this bible uses but it stands up to the above mentioned highlighter.

    The only problem I’ve noticed with the Zebrite highlighter is that it fades with time, but the great thing is that you can use any other highlighter and freshen it up. I imagine the paper is already protected from bleed-through.

    Here is a weird tip for anyone that is crazy as I am. With my very expensive bibles I usually take the area of the text that I want to highlight and rub it in my hair until the natural grease covers the area. Once I do that, I can then use the Zebrite highlighter and I get zero bleed-through, and no, the page is not smeared in grease. I first discovered this with one of my bibles that got ruined with coffee.

    Hope this helps someone.

  44. Obviously and older post, but I came upon it through a google search for this very issue. Bought an economy ESV and for me it’s barely legible because of the ghosting – I can’t even use it.

    I’ve been doing some research trying to find a nicer ESV to study and preach from, but I’m scared to pull the trigger on one due to this very issue. I don’t like using my iPad for reading and preaching all the time, but at least it’s legible. I don’t want to drop $50 on a Bible and have it just as bad as my $14 econo version.

    • The ESV legacy bible and the ESV wide margin reference bible both have great paper and print. The Legacy is an single column while the wide margin has double columns. Both of those bibles have line marching and also 9 point fonts. You can get both for under $50. IMO those two are the best ESV bibles. I have Allan, Cambridge and Schuyler bibles and the text block on those two crossways are as good as any bible that I personally have ever seen.

  45. I am from Singapore and our bookrooms carry very limited edition of good quality genuine leather bibles. I bought a pitt minion ref bible online and i love the paper n type-setting except that the font is little too small. I have been checking out genuine leather bibles but the bleed through effect of the bibles are unbearable for me – eg cambridge clarion esv,large print thinline reference bible. I am looking for esv bible that hopefully can last for 35 years. Preferraby little references within text for easy reading. Wonder if any can recommend bibles which are using paper 36gsm thincoat plus or paper similar to pitt minion esv?

      • Thank you Ron for your reply. I would like to have a compact esv bible without references like the heirloom thinline bibe but with paper of at least 36gsm. I have yet to find such a bible. However in my search i have purchased the ideal bible for my son – the cambridge wide margin bible. I love the design and the paper! Hope that we could be updated here when publisher published my dream bible. Tks!! 🙂

      • Thank you!! My issue is neither with ghosting nor bleeding, I just can’t stand the noise of the thin crispy pages. My current bible (for worship) is 115 yrs old but it is what I call real paper!

  46. Sadly it is now 2016 and paper has not improved. The bleed-thru creates visual noise that I have not been able to get past. I will try using a sheet of black paper and hit second hand sales for a good NLT version.

  47. I have a KJV Blue Flexisoft Thinline Reference Bible published by Hendrickson. pages aren’t the thickest, but I have no ghosting and no bleed through at all!

    I don’t use felt tips, fountain pens or gel rollers ( I don’t understand why anyone would use gel rollers on a Bible, they smear, leak and, in my opinion, are just garbage!)

    I use a med point ball point pen and it works just fine!

  48. I am looking for blank “Bible Paper.” Does it exist in journal form or loose leaf and boxed.
    If you know of a carrier I would like the information.

  49. Recently I browsed through heirloom thinline esv bible and was dismayed at the paper quality. There seems to be more bleed through than the value thinline bible that I bought many years back. I am suspecting that the later edition of the heirloom thinline is more inferior than the earlier edition. Appealing to bible bloggers to check this up. Thank you!

  50. Check out the Kickstarter solution here

    The only Bibles that I have found to be perfectly free of bleed thru are the waterproof ones. They are quickly becoming my favorite kind of Bible. After investing in plastic pages and experiencing how bold the print is you become kind of spoiled. The trade off is that they make the book block heavier and larger because of the added thickness from the synthetic pages. However recently the Bardin Marsee Publishers have found a way to make this years editions using a 20% lighter synthetic plastic. The ESV edition I have is awesome and it comes in NIV,KJV,NLT,NKJV etc.

    I whole heartedly agree with Amanda who said:
    “You guys might like the new “waterproof” Bibles that are out now. They are made entirely of plastic, and the best part is that you can’t see through the pages! I have a New Testament with Psalms and Proverbs and I like it. I think the entire Bible version is probably alot heavier though. Oh, it’s also great for kids cause you don’t have to worry about them tearing the tissue-paper thin pages!”

  51. I am excited about the plastics bibles! However just wondering are the covers all made of imitation leather? Imitation leather just cannot last possibly more than 5 years if used regularly.

    • The imitation leather covers that we make for our Waterproof Bibles are actually slip covers. So at the point that the imitation leather cover begins to look a bit to worn for your taste, you can simple purchase another one to give your Waterproof Bible that new look once again.

  52. I am also tired of thin paper bibles. I am excited about the 4 volume bible bibliotheca project by Adam Greene. So following Greene’s lead, I am working on my own 4 volume set of the NET bible. I removed all the great notes of the NET, along with chapter and verse. The text is arranged in paragraph form, single column, 12 pt font. No ghosting, just the text, in a pure reading setting. My dream bible only takes about a months worth of work for each volume.

  53. I was glad to see your article so that I can consider paper quality when buying a Bible.

    I want to replace my NIV with a NKJV with identical features–paper with minimal shadowing, 10 pt. with good line spacing (white space helps the readability), red letter edition, concordance, maps, lays open nicely, leather–but I can’t find one. Bibles come in a wide array of colors and styles, include indexes and helps and are gender or use specific. The added features make them quite heavy and, as mentioned, if they are thin the paper is even worse.

    I wish publishers would invest in quality paper (minimal shadowing, white background), clear print (type and spacing), good binding (lays open and stays together) and a durable cover.

  54. I agree that it is an issue but i think it’s because we are now reading, thus comparing, paper bleedthrough to digital devices that have ZERO bleedthrough.

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