Most Americans own a Bible, but few read it. To be more precise, according to LifeWay Research, while 87 percent of all Americans own a Bible, 53 percent have read little to none of it. Only 1 in 5 Americans have read the Bible at least once.
No doubt there are many reasons for this disparity between ownership and readership. The Bible is a big book, for one thing. Differences between ancient culture and contemporary culture mean the Bible is not always easy to understand, for another. Finally, it teaches us about God and His ways. If you think God is easy to understand, think again! As the apostle Paul put it in Romans 11:33: “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!”
Alongside size, age and complexity, I’d like to suggest one more reason why people don’t read the Bible: format. My NIV Thinline is printed with two columns per page and 8.4-point font size. (NIV stands for New International Version, by the way.) It has chapter and verse numbers, section headings and footnotes. Other formats include cross-references on each page.
And then there are study Bibles. My NIV Study Bible has 2,560 pages and weighs in at 5.4 pounds. (Strangely, no one calls it a Fatline even though it’s huge.) In addition to all the above, it has over 20,000 study notes, as well as 400 full-color pictures, maps, charts and illustrations. The biblical text is printed in a readable 10-point font, but everything else is much smaller and therefore harder to read.
Now, there are many advantages to packing all this information into a single-volume Bible. It’s an economical way to provider readers with high-end scholarship they need to understand God’s Word. It also makes the Bible look like a dictionary, encyclopedia or textbook, and we all know how little Americans like to read those.
That’s why I’m glad that so-called Reader’s Bibles are the new trend in Bible publishing. Each page has exactly one column. Font size is bigger. There are no chapter or verse numbers, let alone section headings, footnotes or cross-references. Prose is printed in paragraphs; poetry is printed in stanzas. The Bible is printed like an ordinary book, perfect for ordinary readers.
For some time now, I have used the ESV Reader’s Bible for daily devotional reading. (ESV stands for English Standard Version.) The format makes it easier to read and enjoy Scripture over longer periods of time. The problem is, the ESV is not my preferred translation. The NIV is, but there was no comparable NIV product.
This month, Zondervan released the NIV Reader’s Bible with both imitation leather and hardboard covers. It is comparable in size to the ESV Reader’s Bible. The table below lists the two Bibles’ respective pages, font size, trim size and weight:
|NIV Reader’s Bible||ESV Reader’s Bible|
|Trim size||5.25 x 8.5 inches||5.25 x 7.75 inches|
|Weight||44.8 ounces||32.7 ounces|
While both the ESV and the NIV are reliable translations, the NIV is typically easier to read, in my opinion. It was updated in 2011 to track changes in the English language since its original publication in 1978.
When you combine the NIV’s ease of reading with the fact that it is the best-selling contemporary translation in the United States, especially among evangelical Christians, using it is an obvious choice. It is likely the translation used by your pastor, in your pew Bible and in Sunday school and small group curriculum. The NIV is a solid translation from reputable scholars in readable English.
And now, the NIV Reader’s Bible puts that readable translation into a readable format. The NIV Reader’s Bible became my go-to devotional Bible the moment I received it. I hope you will give it a look too. The NIV Reader’s Bible will help turn you from a Bible owner to a Bible reader.
NIV Reader’s Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2017).
P.S. This review was written for InfluenceMagazine.com and appears here by permission.
P.P.S. If you found my review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon.com review page.