Crossway ESV Reader's Bible with Slipcase

Crossway ESV Reader’s Bible with Slipcase

The ESV Reader’s Bible is a unique Bible designed to immerse the reader in Scripture “precisely as it was originally written–namely, as an unbroken narrative.” To achieve this, Crossway has removed chapter headings, verse numbers, cross-references, and footnotes. They did, however, keep chapter numbers but moved them to the margin. They also provide guide passages at the top of each page .

This is not your typical Bible. Typical Bibles look more like reference books than reading books, and unfortunately, as a result, many people use them as such. What undoubtedly started as an effort to ease navigation through a library of books has led us  to practice cherry picking and considering, as Gordon Fee describes it, “every verse a paragraph.” People look up verses now the way they look up definitions. The context of verses within passages, within books, within the whole of Scripture is often lost.

So here is a book that reads like a book. And I have to admit that even after falling in love with premium leather bindings, the hardcover binding of the ESV Reader’s Bible adds to the “this book is meant to be read like a book” effect. Its handy size is also very comfortable to hold.

28 CoverLet’s take a look at the details. The ESV Reader’s Bible comes with:

  • Cardboard slipcase (hardcover edition only)
  • Sewn binding
  • Trim size: 5-1/4″ x 7-3/4″
  • Presentation page
  • Single column paragraph format
  • 9 pt. font
  • Line matching
  • Words of Christ in black
  • Red accents for page numbers, guide passages, and chapter numbers
  • No verse numbers
  • 3 maps
  • 2 ribbons

Let’s start with those ribbons. Nobody ever starts with ribbons, right? Crossway takes a lot of hits on their ribbons, but these are quite nice. Long enough to swing out through the page edges, smooth satin, and well cut. Not very wide at 6 mm, but proportionally a good fit for the size of this Bible.

23 Ribbons


Crossway seems to be married to 9 point font these days. I tend to prefer a larger font, but the Reader’s Bible is typeset well, and I found the font size to be comfortably readable.

24 Open

31 Open


The Crossway Legacy is similar in format to the Reader’s Bible, but with a few more characters per line, and of course, chapter and verse numbers, notes and section headings:

Left, Legacy; right, Reader's

Left, Legacy (original, not Heirloom); right, Reader’s


The ESV Reader’s Bible is printed on Apple Thin Opaque 20lb, 30 gsm paper. J. Mark Bertrand tells us in his first review of the Reader’s Bible that this paper has 84% opacity. This surprised me as it seems to have significantly more ghosting than the Schuyler Quentel NASB, which has different paper but the same opacity. Upon closer inspection, I discovered that my ESV Reader’s Bible suffers not only from ghosting but also from bleed through. The ink literally bleeds through from the back of the page, leaving speckles on the front. Take a look:

Close up of bleed through.

Close up of bleed through.


The bleed through is particularly bad in this section of Matthew, but it does appear throughout the Bible in varying degrees. In my review of the Schuyler NKJV, I demonstrated how the black paper trick mitigates ghosting. Unfortunately, black paper doesn’t do much for bleed through. It’s better, but the ink is still visible.

16 Bleed Through

Black paper behind the page.


Mark told me that a flip through his Reader’s Bible did not reveal the same issue, so my copy may not be representative of the whole. If you have an ESV Reader’s Bible, please let me know in the comments if you have this type of bleed through. It is rather unfortunate. The ESV Reader’s Bible is meant to offer a smooth reading experience, and the speckled paper is a distraction to me. Otherwise, the format is wonderful for reading.

The 45 gsm paper in the Schuyler Quentel NASB also has 84% opacity, and here is how these Bibles compare:

Left, Quentel NASB; right, Reader's

Left, Quentel NASB; right, Reader’s


I took photos in 3 different settings while preparing this review. During one of those sessions, a little something odd occurred.

Page curling.

Page curling.

Page curling.

Page curling.

Page curling? In an ESV Reader’s Bible?! First I’d heard about it. These photos were taken in my church’s fellowship hall. I’ve used this Bible in our worship hall and read it at home. The fellowship hall is the only location that produced page curling. My pastor witnessed it and suggested that the radiant floor heat in the fellowship hall contributed to it. Something to add to the Great Page Curling debate.

Bottom line? Even with the bleed through and occasional page curling, I recommend the ESV Reader’s Bible for anyone who is interested in reading Scripture in an uninterrupted flow without the distractions of verse numbers, footnotes, and cross-references. The format really does make a difference here. Academically, I knew that it would. The experience was more than I’d expected. A book entitled Book that reads like a book. Imagine that!

34 Open


The Hardcover can be had for less than $20 at Amazon and CBD. It’s also available in TruTone for under $30. And if Crossway ever releases the ESV Reader’s Bible in a Genuine Leather or better cover, will carry it, too. (I work there. You know I had to link it. 😉 ) Leather over board would be lovely.