During the past two weeks I purchased two more editions of the HCSB translation (both were on sale!). This review is only on the layout, design, workmanship, etc. In a later post I will cover the specifics of the notes and articles as well as references.
UltraThin Reference HCSB
I found this one on sale and thought I would check out the difference between this edition and the UltraThin Bible I had been using. I have had it about two weeks now. And actually prefer to read it to the UltraThin Bible (which I have given to someone else for now).
Typesetting was very different, using a sans serif font, with extremely tight line spacing. I have never been a fan of sans serif fonts for extended reading (even a paragraph). So I was disappointed, thinking that this would never work for me. But I tried it for 3 days (reading about five chapters a day) and found it much more comfortable and usable that I imagined. I am still a fan of serif fonts, but this font worked.
Bleed-through was more noticeable with this Bible as well. But again, not enough to be distracting.
The size of the Bible is good for reading in a chair, but I used it last Sunday for worship and Bible study and found it better than the smaller Thinline Bible.
The cover is Mantova Black Leathertouch. It has a nice feel in the hands. The binding seems weaker than the UltraThin Bible, that is, it feels more like a paperback binding. I have the sense that the binding will break sooner rather than later. The UltraThin never has given that feel (nor the Apologetics Bible, see below).
Page Numbers and Book Titles
The UltraThin Reference Bible has a double problem here. The page numbers are at the bottom—inside edge of the page. And the Book title is on also at the bottom on the outside edge of the page. I have never seen a Bible with the Bible book titles at the bottom.
It has been distracting and frustrating. I have used it for two weeks and I still look to the top of the page, as I do with every other Bible I own (about 30 of them). I would like to know the reasoning behind such placement. As it is it seems like it was designed by someone not used to using Bibles in study, devotion and worship.
A far better solution would have been to have the Book title at the top on the outside edge, and the page number at the bottom of the page on the outside edge.
As with all HCSB Bibles the maps do not use the entire page. It seems like extending the margins of the maps would allow the maps to be larger and especially place names more readable. Aside from that, the maps are serviceable.
Despite my frustrations with the page layout, I am now using this as my daily reading Bible, hospital/visitation, and teaching Bible. I gave away my copy of HCSB Chronological Bible—it was too cumbersome for my daily use.
The Apologetics Study Bible HCSB
I have looked at this Bible in the bookstore since it first came out. But I didn’t really see much need for it (for a variety of reason). However, when it came on sale three weeks ago, I decided to purchase it. I will not be addressing the Apologetics notes in this review.
Of all the HCSB Bibles I have owned, this one finally has the right font in the right size. Although I still prefer single column Bibles, this one combines the font, spacing, and kerning to be an excellent reading Bible.
There are two sets of footnotes. Immediately under the text are the text notes. They are very limited, and I’m not sure that the few that are included are necessary. These footnotes have a sans serif font and much smaller size.
The apologetic footnotes have the same font as the Biblical text but smaller, with appropriate line spacing. These are very readable.
The Apologetics articles are readable, but the background color (blue-gray) can make reading it more difficult.
While this is a larger Bible it is not cumbersome like other larger Bibles I have and have used.
The cover is Brown Duotone Simulated Leather. It has a nice feel in the hands. The binding is much more solid similar to the UltraThin Bible rather than the UltraThin Reference Bible. Even at its size and weight, it is still a workable Bible for most of my uses (home devotion and study); in the right circumstances I could even use it for teaching. However, this does not refer to the content. It is not helpful for a teaching/preaching environment. An extended reference Bible with the same design would be ideal.
Finally a Bible that gets it right regarding page numbers and Book titles. The page numbers are placed at the top in the center. The Book titles are placed at the top on the outside margin. This is ideal for every user. All editions of HCSB should follow this pattern!
Maps and Timelines
As with all HCSB Bibles the maps do not use the entire page. It seems like extending the margins of the maps would allow the maps to be larger and especially place names more readable. Aside from that, the maps are servicable.
Since this is an apologetics study Bible, the publisher has included 11 color charts and tables of important topics. These are well done except the last two. The color combinations are bright, distracting and make the print barely legible.
Both of these Bibles are excellent and generally very usable. For longer term reading of the text, the Apologetics Study Bible is easier. But I am surprised at the UltraThin Reference Bible and its readability. I think if some of the features noted above could be combined from the two editions, the HCSB result would be close to ideal.