Crossway’s ESV Single Column Journaling Bible

 

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Single column settings
Single column Bibles were a rarity until recently. The success of the Message Remix brought them into the mainstream, but a number of years passed before other translations got into the game. The first efforts, while promising, did not quite manage to pull off the difficult balancing act inherent in rendering the vast text of Scripture in readable novel-like page spreads. That’s when I started to worry. 
    Bible Design Blog, from the start, was about advocacy. While I try to take a live-and-let-live approach, the fact remains, the thing that motivated me to start writing about the Bible was how badly designed most Bibles are … assuming the Bible is meant to be read. If you’re read BDB, you know the mantra. Most Bibles are designed as reference works, resembling dictionaries more than they do novels. While layout isn’t the only factor that influences readability — and motivated individuals can adapt to even the worst layouts — it stands to reason that if the Bible is meant to be read, we ought to prioritize design decisions which enhance the reading (as opposed to the reference) experience. 
    Unfortunately, good design doesn’t end with single columns. If it did, then every novel would be well designed. Handing someone a flawed single column design with the promise that it will enhance readability is a recipe for disappointment. A well-designed two column setting will be more readable than a badly-designed single column setting. What we needed was a variety of well-designed single column settings.
    And then it happened. Crossway released the Legacy ESV and Cambridge started pumping out the Clarion. Both editions were elegantly proportioned and addictively readable. After using them for a bit, whenever I had to return to the old double-column settings, I felt like I was going back in time. If you were using OS X on a Mac circa 2002 then found yourself having to navigate a friend’s Windows 98 machine, you know what I’m talking about. The experience was so frustrating you’d want to hug your friend and say, “Don’t worry. The future won’t be like this.” So if you’re still using a double-column Bible, just imaging me hugging you now. Feel reassured? 

Enter the Single Column Journaling Bible
The Single Column Journaling Bible came along not when I was gasping for hope, but after I felt sated. I had the Legacy. I had the Clarion. The thing that got me pumped about the Single Column Journaling Bible wasn’t actually the single column … it was the red cover. I had no idea that my first experience with the SCJB would be so thrilling.
    What the Single Column Journaling Bible has that the Legacy and Clarion lack is this: it’s really, really inexpensive. For about $20, you can have a well-made hardcover with a sewn binding that opens perfectly flat right out of the box. The single column setting is text-only, printed beautifully in nice dark type on cream paper that reminds me of the Message Remix. Both the red and the black editions are styled to resemble the popular Moleskine notebooks. Spend a little more money and you can get one with a wrap-around natural leather cover similar to those Italian leather journals sold at Barnes and Noble. 
    The price point and styling make the Single Column Journaling Bible the perfect edition for introducing new readers to the single column experience. I’ve been recommending them like crazy to everyone who will listen. They represent a true attempt to create a reader-optimized Bible. The layout is reader-friendly, the distracting apparatus is kept to a minimum (chapter and verse numbers, section headings), and there is a reading plan in the back. 
    And did I mention that the SCJB opens flat? As in, turn to Genesis 1.1 and it opens flat. Every book should open flat like this, but most don’t. To me, this is one of the most desirable qualities in a finely made Bible. And make no mistake: this $20 edition is a finely made Bible. In terms of quality, it really delivers.

(Well) Made in China
The Single Column Journaling Bible is printed and bound in China, which gives me the opportunity to make a point. A lot of people dismiss Chinese-made books out of hand, as if their source alone disqualified them from the running. I don’t want to get into a debate about globalization. We all have our reasons for feeling as we do. But this edition proves that quality and affordability aren’t mutually exclusive. The real question, I suppose, is why aren’t all the current crop of Chinese-made Bibles this good, not to mention the ones made elsewhere?
    Not to belabor the point, but if you took the SCJB book block, bound it in goatskin, and gilding the edges, I think we’d be falling all over ourselves to praise the thing. Frankly, I’m falling all over myself just as it is. This edition includes just about everything I want in a Bible, and excludes everything I don’t. 
    The only change I would make is this: I want Crossway to delete the lined margins, move the headers and page numbers in line with the text, and issue the same edition without the note-taking function. (The upcoming Heritage edition, in other words.) The result would be a high quality single column edition the size of a thick trade paperback that would open flat in your lap and stow perfectly in a book bag. The perfect go-anywhere Bible.
    In fact, I like this idea so much that I took matters into my own hands and, with the help of a guillotine paper cutter, made the conversion myself. But that’s a story for a future post.

 

What I Like:

An affordable price.
A beautiful single column text setting.
An edition that opens flat from Genesis 1.1 forward. 

What I Don’t Like:

A lined margin for note-taking that makes the Bible an inch or so wider than I’d like. 
The fact that all Bibles don't open flat like this. 

The Photos:
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15 Comments on “Crossway’s ESV Single Column Journaling Bible

  1. That looks great; now they need to get rid of the section headings, as well as the chapter and verse numbers. Then we’d have something to work with. Especially if they’d make them Heb/Gk editions (not an interlinear) on facing pages…

  2. Great Bible for young people; but for older eyes…get out your thickest pair of reading glasses… or a magnifying glass.

  3. You can visit amityprinting.com for more information about the bible printing operation in China. Amity is the only printer authorized by the Communist government to print bibles. I believe the leather SCJB is the “Old Format Journaling Bible” listed in the Bible for Overseas section of the website. The paper is 40 gsm thincoat plus if that means anything to anyone.
    The Services section of the website gives you an idea of the equipment they use and includes some photos of their operations.

  4. very nice and easy to carry on.. I like the look..inspiry for reading

  5. I wonder when Crossway is going to learn how to make a readable Bible: Single-column, 11 point font, no cross-references, no bells and whistles whatsoever. I’ve never seen so many Bibles that are so reader unfriendly. Get a clue, Crossway, or sell your ESV rights to someone who cares.

  6. I got the leather cover SCJB, and have had it for about 6mths. I’m loving it! My only disappointment would be that the leathercover is just glued to the cardboard cover, so pulls away if you bend the cover back on itself too often. I’m trying to figure out how I can stitch them together in some way (?)

  7. Excellent find, Sean. They definitely have some interesting Bibles there (I love the illustrated zippered Chinese volume) and judging by the quality of a recent Chinese-printed Zondervan Bible I’ve purchased, they are still improving on methods and materials. I expect the Heritage to be a winner.

  8. Just an FYI for those of you who are considering an ESV Journaling Bible: Be aware that there is a single-column version and a double-column version of the ESV Journaling Bible. I picked one of these up from my local Bible bookstore this afternoon and when I got home, I discovered that it was a double-column setting. I will probably keep this one, since it’s not my “main” study Bible, but I wish that I would have gotten a single-column version.

  9. Nice review. The ESV Journaling Bible is one of my favorite editions of the ESV.

  10. Mark,
    I see you’ve got a Lamy Al-Star in the photo. Any chance you’ve been using it to jot notes in this edition? If so, is there any bleed through problems? I’m contemplating picking up a hard cover version, but I’ve got a Safari with a fine nib I’d like to use and am curious if that’s wise. I suppose it boils down to this: Does your Al-Star earn her pay or were you simply looking for a pretty face for the photo shoot?:)

  11. Dan, that was the pen I happened to have nearby, not one I would write in this Bible with. I’ve tested the paper with fountain pen ink — Diamine Ancient Copper using an Omas titanium F-nib — and the result was bleed through and some feathering. Different combinations of pen and ink might perform better, so it’s worth testing. However, I’ve been using a mechanical pencil to write in mine … I just didn’t have it with me at the photo shoot.

  12. I picked up a SCJB as an inexpensive way to add a single column ESV to my Bible line up, and I was pleasantly surprised. I got the black hardcover. It looks exactly like a Moleskine: same height, just wider and thicker. The text column is actually narrower than the page of the large Moleskine. So the margins could be brought in to equal the width of a Moleskine and still have a margin of about an inch. I, too, would like to see the marginal lines disappear.

    The font is small, but it’s readable; more readable than the Pitt Minion. I love the off-white paper as well. One of my main peeves about most Bibles is thin paper with heavy ghosting. The SCJB is not perfect, but it’s very good in comparison to some Bible that cost seven times more.

    I have now been converted to the single column format. I’ve had a single column wide margin NASB for a while, but the verse-by-verse format negates the benefits of the single column, so I wasn’t thrilled about the idea. But now I’m sold.

    I’ll eventually pick an ESV Legacy. But for now the SCJB might just fill the role of my primary Bible.

  13. I like the idea since I already write all over the blank spaces of my ESV leather study Bible. But, I am not a purest. I would like a readable font (11pt), cross references at chapter end, notes at page bottom, and graphics and maps included. Ya, that would be good :D

  14. Does anyone make something like this in NASB?!? What’s the closest thing out there to think Bible in NASB? I just bought this one and I love it so far. But I think I’d prefer the NASB.

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