A New Old Standby: The ESV (Deluxe) Compact

This is the Granite "Quotation" Design Edition; I really like the feel of the faux leather on this edition.

Over the past few years, whether sitting in a Coffee shop on Baylor University‘s campus or teaching the college/career Sunday School class at Maywood EFCA Church, I’ve noticed that one of the best represented Bibles among the early-20s crowd is the ESV Deluxe Compact.  Since I primarily use the ESV and this Bible seems to be well on its way to becoming a mainstay among those with healthy, young eyes, it seemed fitting that I include a review of this edition in my series on pocket Bibles.  Also, R.L. Allan’s is planning to release a goatskin b0und version of this little jewel, so there’s been a minor buzz among some high-end Bible owners, whose eyes may not be so young, who are considering picking up one of these but are a bit nervous about the small font.  So, for those of you who are thinking of picking up one of these Bibles, here are my thoughts, mostly positive:

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What Crossway Got Right

The tru-tone leather is quite pliable, and can assume all sorts of contortions, yet return to its original shape.

Overall, I am quite pleased with the construction of this little Bible.  I am especially impressed with the feel of the trutone (polyurethane) imitation leather on this edition.  Well done true-tone leather is always nice (“the blue collar calfskin,” it’s been called), but the feel of the faux-grain on this particular granite edition is remarkable; it is quite pliable, and it almost feels just like the real thing.  I could do without the quotation marks on the cover, but they are subtle enough that you can forget they’re there, and the spine is tastefully done.  Also, while I’ve only had this Bible for a couple of days, I’ve put it through the “leave it in my pocket all day” crucible–and it’s held up pretty well.

The ESV Compact does a nice job of laying flat--better than, say, the KJV Pocket Concod or the NKJV Pocket Companion. It seems it's harder to get a pocket Bible to lay flat than is the case with larger Bibles.

Turning to the inside,  the binding is sewn, and the volume does a really good job of laying flat, considering the dimensions of the Bible.  Since I’ve been “nit-picking” over several pocket Bibles lately, I’ve noticed that it’s really easy for publishers to forget (?) to provide appropriate room in the gutter; I’m pleased to report that the inner margins are fine on this edition.  Also, the font size and readability is substantially improved over that of its predecessor the “classic” compact (a compact version of the classic thinline), yet its only marginally larger than the “classic” compact; this truly is a pocket Bible.  Finally, since this is my first review of a Crossway Bible, it is worth mentioning that I find the overall presentation on most of Crossway’s Bibles (presentation page layout, Title page/ESV logo, spine decoration, etc.) to be done in a way that communicates class and elegance in a unique way especially fitting for the English Standard Version.  Overall, kudos to Crossway.  I can see why various editions of this Deluxe Compact have been well received by the “young-eyed” crowd.

And Yet  .  .  .  Some Nit-Picks/Things I’d do Differently

Cambridge KJV Pocket Concord (left) and Crossway Compact ESV (right); while the Crossway Compact doesn't have the gutter problems that the Concord has, the Pocket Concord has much nicer paper, and less bleed-through than the Crossway Compact.

While the readability of this Bible is quite good for its size, I would not put it in the “exceptional” category.  When I put it alongside the smaller Cambridge KJV Compact Concord and the similarly sized NVI from Vida/Zondervan, I find that the Crossway Compact’s font is a bit more trying on the eyes.  The readability of the Crossway Compact is pretty good, mind you–but the readability of both the NVI and the Concord is exceptional.  Once again, the two key elements for compact readability are opaque paper and a bold, crisp font.  In this case, I don’t think the font is a problem; it could be a bit more bold, I suppose, but it’s the hazy grey that is bleeding through on some pages that makes this one a bit harder to read.

Left to right: Cambridge ESV Pitt Minion; Crossway ESV Compact; Cambridge KJV Transetto. Since the ESV Compact can fit nicely into my back pocket yet is still readable, I think I'll use it instead of my PM as my "carry anywhere" Bible for a while.

Is the readability so bad that you should avoid this volume?  No, not if you have young healthy eyes (and people who don’t have good eyesight tend  to avoid pocket Bibles anyways).  This really is a nice pocket Bible, and there are plenty of Bibles out there of lesser quality for about the same price.  But comparing it to the Concord and NVI helps me to get a little closer to understanding what it is that goes into making the ideal pocket Bible.  Cambridge’s paper is by far the best, but their Bibles are also more expensive than Crossway’s–for many people, prohibitively so.  Zondervan’s paper seems to have less bleed through, but I wonder if it’s as durable as Crossway’s, and there are other areas where the Crossway Compact outshines the Vida/Zondervan Bible.  There’s always a trade-off to be made, and there’s always a “nit-pick” to be found.

So, what are your thoughts on this Bible?  Are there any readers out there who have lived with a copy of this edition for several years and can speak to how well it has held up?  Any “high-end” folk who are planning on buying the forthcoming R.L. Allan’s edition?  Please feel free to share your thoughts below!


About hjimkeener

Education: B.A.: Moody Bible Institute GCTS: Knox Theological Seminary M.Div.: Pittsburgh Theological Seminary Ph.D.: Baylor University Ministry Experience: I have served as a Youth Minister, Associate Pastor of English Ministry, and a pulpit supply preacher. Teaching Experience: In addition to teaching in various volunteer and professional ministry settings, I have taught as a University Professor (Teaching Fellow; Baylor University) and as a Seminary Professor (El Seminario de la Iglesia Presbiteriana de Bolivia). I have also given lectures and sermons in Spanish.
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8 Responses to A New Old Standby: The ESV (Deluxe) Compact

  1. Chris Bloom says:

    Great review, and pretty much in line with my own thoughts on this Bible. I’ve owned two — an original Compact and a Deluxe — and both were fantastic little Bibles. (I’m still hoping to find my Deluxe model wherever I left it!) The original, which was glued, not sewn, rode in my back pocket for nearly five years and never lost a page.

    The print could be darker, and of course larger, but overall these are the best pocket Bibles I’ve ever owned. I’m actually considering getting the Allan version when it comes out, though my propensity for losing these little gems makes me leery of spending Allan money on one. 😉

    • hjimkeener says:

      Chris–thanks for your input. Yeah, one advantage to having an affordable Bible is that you don’t feel quite as upset if you misplace it–I think I’d be pretty mad at myself if I left a $100 goatskin Bible on a bench at a train station! A $17 true tone edition? Not so much. Also, you’re more likely to give the true-tone away to someone you meet on the street!

  2. Sherry Firestone says:

    I found the original Compact print too small for my “old” eyes. But the slightly larger print in the Deluxe Compact is readable for me. So, if you couldn’t use the first one, don’t rule out the later edition without checking.

    • hjimkeener says:

      Thanks for the input, Sherry! I’ve been reading from this since posting my review, and I’m finding that it is readable. I had one of the super-tiny-print “limited edition” ESV compacts for a while (gave it away to someone about a week ago) which is even smaller than the “classic,” and I’m finding this “deluxe” compact to be much easier on the eyes.

  3. Steve says:

    I own the sienna design cover of the Deluxe. I agree the print is much better than the original. It’s just about as nice as the Pitt and has the advance of being more portable (carried in actual pocket). What I wish Crossway would improve is more consistency in the bold print. It’s great when it is dark, yet there are section where it is too light. This could probably be resolved by better printing company. Also I wish they used the same brighter paper that they are using in their new ESV Thinline line up. That paper is very white. I’m on the fence with the Allan edition due to the inconsistency of the print quality which Allan doesn’t control. Otherwise it’s a great little compact.

    • hjimkeener says:

      Steve–all that I have to say in reply is “ditto.” I’ve not seen the ESV Thinline, but if it’s more opaque and brighter, I think that would be a good paper choice for this Bible.

  4. Gary says:

    Great review!

    One thing I’ve noticed with the Trutone on the Deluxe Compact is that it tends to vary in how it feels based on which design you choose. The granite quotation design like you reviewed and the slate birds design tend to have a very soft feel as you described. On the other hand, however, most other design options that I have handled have a bit of a stiffer, more “plastic-y” feel.

    Just thought I’d mention this for anybody who is thinking of ordering one of these gems through Amazon!

    • hjimkeener says:

      Thanks for the input. Recently I’ve come to own an olive green celtic cross edition of this deluxe compact, and the cover handles in a completely different manner than the granite cover. It is, as you say, “plastic-y” and relatively stiff. It might sound silly to those who poo-poo imitation leather, but not all tru-tone is the same, and the granite tru-tone is truly exceptional. If you were to pick it up in the dark, you would likely confuse it for real, quality leather–at least, I have (several times).
      I’d also add–for the benefit of potential purchasers–that I’ve become less positive about the print and paper in the months since I’ve first acquired this compact edition. I’m disappointed to say that, with the exception of the Pitt Minion (which is a tad too big to be called a pocket Bible), the ESV doesn’t currently have a pocket/compact Bible that scores really well in the readability department; I think there are KJVs, NIVs, NASBs, and NKJVs that have a better paper/bold-font combination than anything Crossway offers. They are slated to print a large print compact soon, which may address this, though.

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