Earlier last week, Zondervan released its latest edition of the new NIV translation: the Single Column Reference Bible. As a long-time advocate of the single-column text format, I was naturally attracted to it, but somewhat cautious based on my prior experiences with the TNIV Reference Bible (see here, here, and here). Though largely based on that previous edition, this version has made some changes that earn it a stronger recommendation from this desk.
Here are some quick takes based on my first few days with it, also illustrated in the photo gallery below:
- For evaluation and economic purposes, I chose the hardcover edition, which is bound in the classic NIV brown. There are also editions in imitation leather and premium leather. The hardcover edition does not include bookmarks, where the other editions do. I do not know if there are paper quality differences or not.
- The groups of page registers appear to be intact at the spine, leading me to assume that the binding is sewn in some shape or fashion and, in fact, I believe that I can see threading if I open the pages wide enough beyond open flat, though I’m loath to do so for fear that the hardcover will break and crease.
- Zondervan has chosen the noble approach of placing the cross-reference notes on the inside margin. There is enough gutter space that the references are not swallowed up by the binding and the padding between the references and text block is generous and with a dividing line. The placement of references on the outside margin (in combination with their sheer number – see below) was one of my chief gripes about the TNIV edition and this change alone makes for an entirely different reading experience.
- My initial thought was that the references were set too small and that a point or two larger would have been optimal. In practice, however, I’m noticing that the balance is quite nice, with the references rarely distracting the eye as you read from line to line, especially on the right-hand pages where the references fall at the beginning of each line of text.
- That said, I do think that the primary text block could have been another point or two larger. The text dimensions and layout appear to be almost identical to the TNIV Reference Bible and the text size vs. the column width was the common complaint of that edition.
- The number of references has been reduced compared to the TNIV edition. An extreme example: the TNIV had 46(!) cross references for Genesis 1:1 alone; the new NIV edition has nine (9). The end result is that the column of references is rarely “full”, whereas the TNIV references regularly overflowed into the footer area. The extra white space on the inside margin makes for a much more pleasing reading experience.
- I wasn’t fond of the quasi-sans serif font choice for the TNIV edition; happily the NIV SCR appears to use different font selections that restore a classic contrast of serif and sans-serif typefaces among text, headers and references.
- There is visible ghosting of the lettering on the opposite side of the page and the page underneath, but I’ve found that lighting conditions can really make the difference. Natural lighting minimized the distraction, while florescent lighting was awful.
- I’ve not yet tried a highlighter. I am hoping that the glossy paper will keep my Zebra LiteRite DE from soaking through, but I’m considering using one of the crayon-style highlighters instead. I’ve also not yet tried writing notes, but expect that the ghosting would be an issue, especially for inked notes, as well as pen/pencil imprints through the pages. The pages are thin and feel like they could easily “crinkle” without care.
- For fans of the single-column text format, but not cross-references, it appears that Zondervan is scheduled to publish a text-only edition later this spring. I would also welcome a “large-print” edition set into the same paper size, even if it meant a thicker binding.