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:
What Crossway Got Right
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.
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
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.
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!