Adam Lewis Greene’s Bibliotheca project has certainly opened my eyes to the concept of a more reader-friendly, less reference-heavy Bible design experience, and I’m not the only one. Nearly 15,000 people pledged over $1.4 million toward his ingenious Kickstarter project that had an initial goal of $37,000. That project is now closed on Kickstarter, but for now you can still order a set through Greene’s own website: Bibliotheca.co.
I’m sure Bible publishers have taken note, and I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see more of this kind of Bible from them in the future. That said, some have already been thinking along those lines. When I expressed my fascination with Bibliotheca on Twitter a friend pointed out that Crossway already has a product on the market called the ESV Reader’s Bible. I was so thrilled that my wife and I ordered two copies. We’ve been reading them now for a couple of days, and I wanted to offer a few initial thoughts.
Design is about compromise. With Bibliotheca, Adam Greene wanted to provide more opaque paper than what’s typically found in a Bible. Thicker paper means a thicker Bible, so Greene chose to split his edition into four volumes. The ESV Reader’s Bible chose to keep the Bible in one volume, and therefore went with the more traditional thin “Bible paper”. That’s a definite downside, but it is convenient to have the Bible in one volume. The Reader’s Bible is available in different coverings. I chose the cloth-on-board hardcover style. It looks great, and it feels even better when you hold it in your hand. It comes in a nice slipcase and features two ribbon bookmarks. This is handy since my wife and I are starting in Genesis together but I also want to read the New Testament separately.
The text is presented sans verse numbers in a single-column, paragraph style similar to what you’d find in any novel. The text is a bit small, but the font is very readable. Chapter numbers are included, but they’re pushed off into the margin, so they provide as little distraction as possible given the choice to include them. The top of the page provides a verse range for the material covered on that page, so you do still have some sense of where you are in the traditional format if you choose to look up there. The red header color is very attractive. There is no reference material and no footnotes. Like Bibliotheca this is all about the reading experience.
Part of me does wish they had excluded the chapter numbers to really provide that immersive experience, or had substituted breaks that match the content better than our traditional chapter breaks do, but that’s a minor quibble, if I can even call it that.
This doesn’t take the concept as far as Bibliotheca does, but for around $20 on Amazon, it’s a great place to start if you’re not ready to spend $75 on Adam Greene’s project. I’ve only been reading it for two days, but my initial impression is that it is indeed an easier and more pleasant way to read the Bible.
Now that you’ve read my review, you really owe it to yourself to check out J. Mark Bertrand’s review over at bibledesignblog.com. Again, it was through Bibliotheca that I discovered Mark’s work, but he’s been championing the concept of a reader’s Bible for quite some time, and has written thousands of words on the topic of Bible design over the years. Really good stuff.