Wednesday, December 10, 2008

ESV BattleZone (weathered metal cover)

Crossway Bible Publishers, $29.99

If you look this particular Bible version up on, they provide the following description:

"Edgy metal-covered ESV Bible is slim, sleek and stylish, with concordance, in-text notes, subject headings and additional Bible resources. 3.75" x 5.75" silvertone matte finish metal with red cross ESV insignia, snap closure."

What they don't talk about is the quality of the product itself, which is quite poor. I ran across this particular Bible version in my local Big Box Bookstore, and it was out of its protective shrink wrapping and thus had probably been handled by many hands before mine (one of the many reasons I go nowhere without my little bottle of hand sanitizer).

The sticker affixed to the back of the armor plated cover reads, "In these pages are the very words of God. Guard them, and they will protect you." And "guard" is an apt word choice here. Despite its ultra-compact size, this Bible weighs in at close a pound, and gives one the impression that it could easily stop a small-caliber bullet if put to the test. Whatever else might be said of the ESV BattleZone, it has gravitas.

The same, sadly, cannot be said for the inside of this version. I was shocked, to say the least, upon opening the book, to find the binding in complete disarray. I am not sure if it had come unglued, or had never been properly glued in the first place, but it appeared simply awful. I took some pictures to show what I mean.

As you will also notice, the typeface is incredibly small - 6.2 point font, to be exact. Given the cover, I imagine the audience intended for this Bible would be young boys, but I have trouble imagining the young boy who would struggle with reading a typeface this tiny for long (they may exist - I always hope I am wrong in such assumptions).

The text itself is the ESV, or "English Standard Version," which is a descendant of the Revised Standard Version. The ESV first appeared in 2001, and purports to be "Essentially Literal." In other words, this version delivers the "precise wording of the original text in the personal style of each Bible writer," according to the introduction.

When I looked this Bible up on Amazon, and looked at the customer comments, I was surprised to find that there was a lot of debate about the merits of the ESV as a translation, but very few comments about the actual physical version of this Bible itself. In fact, I discovered that Amazon mixes and matches comments with regard to Bibles, such that you will be getting comments about other physical versions of the ESV (Say, the CrossWay Study Bible) along with this particular version (the BattleZone) which you might be ordering.

I did come across one comment that seemed to speak to what I was looking for, from a customer referring to herself simply as A Customer:

I am disappointed with the poor production values of this Bible from Crossway--at least in the hardcover I purchased. From the logo, to the cover, to the layout and general typography, this is an ugly Bible. The quality of the materials and processes (binding) is also disappointing. Given the quality of this translation, I'm frankly surprised that more care and attention was not afforded this Bible by Crossway. I'm contrasting this edition in terms of production quality and beauty with the first edition NIV I have from 1978, and also my current NASB in the hardcover side-column reference edition. These Bibles far surpass this Bible in production quality and beauty (Smyth-sewn binding, lovely, readable typefaces, nice layouts, etc.). This translation deserves a beautiful format.

It is obvious that the particular object I picked up (this particular BattleZone ESV) had seen some rough handling by other store customers. But this gave me pause; isn't rough handling the point? If the demographic audience is young boys, is it not a given that the opening, closing, page turning, and reading will be rough? (snips and snail, after all). Moreover, the entire design of this Bible version - its appeal and very raison d'etre - is in its rugged durability. Resources (not just paper to print and gas to transport, but steel) have been used to create this object, to communicate a certain message with it. This object was designed not just to communicate "God's Word," but the very security of God's Word ("...they will protect you").

It seems curious that this particular Bible seems unable even to make it out of the store with this message intact. That's clear to me, and I'm not nearly as smart as your average 11 year old boy (just ask them). If I think this Bible isn't delivering the goods, what in Heaven's name will they think?

My conclusion? This particular version of the Bible is built to withstand the tests of time and the elements, just so long as you never actually open it.


Akempis said...

Fascinating. My wife asked me about this version (translation, not edition) just yesterday. Thorough and helpful review, friend.

Alexander said...

Hooray, another Hummer for civilians.

You know, I assume, about the steel-covered bibles issued to soldiers in WWII, to be kept in a breast pocket quite literally for protection (and all of the associated myths)?

Ironically, Madonna's limited edition metal-covered book _Sex_ had similar troubles keeping the binding together....

dault said...

I did *not* know about the WWII Bibles - excellent. Thank you for the info -