It's hard to find a decent copy of Today's New International Version. When I received my preview edition of the New Testament a few years ago, I was duly impressed. It featured an attractive single-column setting. It employed a classic, readable font. The preview copy was printed on cheap paper and had a glued spine -- but then it was free, so what you do expect? The same format with better quality materials would have been superb. Sadly, it was not to be. Instead, most editions of the TNIV have been targeted at the youth market, and they've adopted an eccentric typeface that doesn't bother some people but rubs me the wrong way. Everybody who has a "favorite" translation inevitably complains that it doesn't get enough market support from the publisher, but in this case I think TNIV readers have a point. There aren't any "nice" editions available. (The recently released TNIV Reference Bible is a step in the right direction, but it's still only offered in a bonded leather binding -- and that font is back again.)
Finally, though, there is an edition of the TNIV I can recommend wholeheartedly -- and not surprisingly it comes from R. L. Allan's. The Allan's TNIV is a 4.5 x 6.5 inch hardback, about .875 inches thick, featuring a small print, double-column text. The cover is available in four styles: black highland goatskin, imperial purple highland goatskin, cardinal red goatskin, and British tan calfskin. These sell for £50. There's also a French morocco edition for £40. A tabbed closure keeps the silk-lined cover secure. According to the description at Bibles-Direct.com, these editions have two ribbon markers; mine only came with one.
I'll admit that a small leather-clad hardback didn't sound too appealing at first. The reason I'm a fanatical Allan's enthusiast is that their bindings are so luxurious, so flexible. A hardback defeats the purpose, doesn't it? Well, here's the thing. Flexibility isn't everything. As sacrilegious as it sounds coming from me, I've become quite a fan of hardback editions, especially the smaller ones.
Why? They're perfect for carrying in a briefcase or book bag, since rigid cover helps protect the pages, and they tend to open flatter than comparably sized leather-bound editions. The Allan's TNIV offers these benefits while transforming them into something truly elegant. It isn't as trend-conscious as so many of the youth-oriented editions from Zondervan, but it's not a Big Black Attack Bible, either. In the cardinal red goatskin I chose, it looks like an upscale notebook or diary.
As nice as it is, I wouldn't think twice about sliding it into my satchel as a go-anywhere edition. The Allan's TNIV is perfect for that assignment.
Above: The Allan's TNIV fits perfectly into the front pocket of the Stanley Compact Briefbag from Levenger.
The text block is from Hodder & Stoughton in the UK, and while the type is definitely small, the font is a conventional serif. If your eyes can handle the tiny print characteristic of Bibles this size, you won't have anything to complain about where the design is concerned. I find it perfectly readable. Of course, my relief that it isn't the same font used in the Zondervan editions amps up my satisfaction a couple of notches.
When it comes to things like tabs, zippers and snaps securing a Bible cover, I tend to be wary. As a young boy, I had a zippered Bible, and I still remember what a disadvantage it was when we did "sword drills" in Sunday School. I could never race to the passage as quickly as the kids without zippers in the way -- and those little brass teeth sure could chafe. Later, I used a small Cambridge with a snap closure and preferred it to the zipper, but the flap of leather still got in the way. Before the Allan's TNIV, I'd only used one Bible with a tab closure and found that it didn't like to stay closed. So I was curious to know how this one would perform.
As tabs go, the one on the Allan's TNIV is well designed. It's wide and flat. Since the loop is also tight, there's enough friction to keep the tab from working loose. If you don't pull it free, it stays closed. This keeps the covers tight and helps protect the pages. The only drawback is that when the Bible is open, that little free-flying tab can sometimes get in the way. It wasn't long before I got used to it, though -- and compared to zippers and snap-flaps, it is much less intrusive.
The interesting thing about the Allan's TNIV is that, in spite of the goatskin cover and the watered silk lining, this isn't a very "formal" edition. It's accessible -- almost casual -- in a way that its opulently flexible kindred really aren't. Maybe it's the hardback cover and the tab closure. Maybe it's the leather grain or the fact that I opted for the cardinal red. Whatever the reason, this edition seems . . . fun. I find myself showing it off. My wife, who by this time has developed a certain tolerance for long, one-sided conversations about the merits of this or that Bible, was actually impressed for once.
As you would expect, the Allan's TNIV opens flat. Since it's so small and thin, it lacks the weight of, say, the Allan's ESV, so when I set it down on the table, it doesn't lapse into repose quite so freely. Where it shines is in the hand. I find myself holding it one-handed, with three fingers on one side supporting the spine while my thumb and pinkie on the other anchor the pages. This is how I'd hold a novel, but of course it doesn't always work with a big, floppy Bible.
Perhaps the coolest feature of the Allan's TNIV is the inside pocket. It's located inside the front cover, and measures 2 inches deep. For the photo, I folded over a church brochure and slipped it inside, but you know what this pocket would be perfect for? Carrying a Bible reading plan.
The silk lining really works in this format. I expressed some skepticism about in reviewing the rebinding project Paul Sawyer did for Matt Morales, and it may be that silk linings and floppy leather covers don't go together. But they certain add some class to this little hardback. They make a slight swishing sound when you flex the closed Bible in your hand, too.
Having said all this, the question is: would I recommend the Allan's TNIV? I would. If you're using the TNIV extensively, then you'll probably want the TNIV Reference Bible as a main edition (you can always have that bonded leather cover replaced, and the font isn't as ghastly as I make out once you're used to it). But for everyday use -- especially carry -- the Allan's TNIV is the best available. If you don't use the TNIV but would like to check it out, perhaps the thought of an Allan's edition is such an usual yet practical format will sway you.
All I know is, the next time I get an e-mail complaining there are no "nice" editions of the TNIV available, I will have to disagree. The Allan's TNIV is superb. I'll be reading a lot of more of the TNIV, I suspect -- assuming my wife doesn't confiscate this edition first!