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The Creation of the ESV Reader’s Bible, Six-Volume Set: With Chapter and Verse Numbers

The following is an interview with Don Jones, Crossway’s vice president of publishing, about the ESV Reader’s Bible, Six-Volume Set: With Chapter and Verse Numbers.

1. Describe this edition’s unique features. How does this edition differ from other reader’s volumes?

The English Bible contains over 750,000 words. That’s a huge amount of content to fit within one volume. Because of this, producing a one-volume Bible in a beautiful and readable format is extremely difficult. Typical Bibles are produced with small fonts, ultra-thin paper, tight margins, and close line spacing. The ESV Reader’s Bible, Six-Volume Set, first published three years ago, breaks the text into six separate volumes, which gives the text space to breath and allows it to be formatted like a beautifully produced novel, with generous margins, ample line spacing, an elegant font, and high-quality book paper. In addition to the beautiful layout and high production quality, the original ESV Reader’s Bible, Six-Volume Set strips out reference tools that are typically featured in traditional Bibles: chapter and verse numbers, footnotes, cross-references, and section headings. The book-like layout and stripped-down reference tools are meant to create an inviting, undistracted reading experience to encourage deeper immersion in God’s word.

This new edition shares the same overall concept as the original ESV Reader’s Bible, Six-Volume Set. It breaks the text into six volumes, retains the same beautiful layout and high production quality, and strips out cross-references, footnotes, and most section headings. The defining feature of this new edition—the distinctive that sets it apart from the original ESV Reader’s Bible, Six-Volume Set—is that this edition retains chapter and verse numbers throughout the text. These are included within the text in an elegant and subtle way. They’re there if you need them, but they are included in an undistracted way that causes them to fade into the background so as not to interfere with the reading experience.

2. Can you speak to the specific needs the Bible Department created this edition to meet?

The original ESV Reader’s Bible, Six-Volume Set was released three years ago. Since its initial release, we have received helpful feedback from those who are using the edition. A consistent theme runs through the feedback. Readers have found that this edition encourages immersion in the scriptures for longer chunks of time. Users find themselves getting swept up into the flow of the story and spending more time in the Scriptures. We love hearing this feedback because this is exactly why we created the reader’s editions. That was distinctly our heart and hope behind creating this edition.

At the same time another theme of feedback began to emerge. Some readers love the basic idea behind the ESV Reader’s Bible, Six-Volume Set—they are attracted to the distraction-free reading experience, novel-like layout and format, and beautiful production quality. But despite their interest, the absence of chapter and verse numbers is a difficult hurdle to overcome. Some readers want to use a daily reading plan, but the absence of verse numbers makes that impossible. Other readers feel disoriented by the absence of verse numbers; they rely on verse numbers as a way of rooting their place in the overall story or for making a mental note of the exact location of a particularly striking passage. For these reasons and others, some readers have indicated that having no chapter and verse numbers keeps this edition from being a viable option for their day-to-day reading.

This kind of feedback sparked the idea behind this new reader’s edition. Our goal in creating this edition is to extend the reach of the ESV Reader’s Bible, Six-Volume Set concept by making the inviting, immersive reading experience available for those who prefer the inclusion of chapter and verse numbers.

3. What went into the creation of the edition?

Although we had a general sense that some readers disliked the absence of chapter and verse numbers, our evidence was largely anecdotal. So as part of the product development process, Crossway’s marketing team surveyed over 10,000 respondents regarding their level of interest in this new reader’s edition that retained chapter and verse numbers. Each respondent was provided with a typeset spread from the original reader’s edition (with no verses) as well as a spread from the new edition (with verses). After reviewing both options, only one third of those surveyed had a preference for the edition with no verses. This helped to support our general sense that adding subtle verse numbers would make the ESV Reader’s Bible, Six-Volume Set concept usable by a broader group of people.

Given that this new edition shares the same general concept, design, and production as the original ESV Reader’s Bible, Six-Volume Set, much of the heavy lifting in terms of product creation had already been done. We were able to borrow on the hard work that was put into developing the concept the first time around. But there was one major challenge particular to this new edition: How could we introduce chapter and verse numbers into the layout while still retaining an undistracted, immersive reading experience? We worked hard to incorporate chapter and verse numbers in an elegant and extremely subtle way. We put a lot of effort into ensuring that the verse numbers are handled in such a way that they fade into the background and have minimal interference with the layout of the biblical text. The end result is a typesetting that retains the immersive reading experience of the traditional ESV Reader’s Bible, Six-Volume Set, but with the inclusion of chapter and verse numbers for those who desire them.

4. In what ways do you envision reader’s volumes being used (distinct from other typesettings)?

The reader’s volumes are designed to provide an uncluttered, inviting reading experience. They are meant to facilitate deep reading of extended portions of Scripture. I envision a reader pulling a volume off the shelf and settling in for a deeply immersive interaction with text, reading Scripture as it was meant to be read—not simply as individual isolated verses but as a broad connected narrative that centers upon the grace of God revealed in the gospel. The reader’s volumes were created with this goal is mind.

Learn more about the ESV Reader’s Bible, Six-Volume Set: With Chapter and Verse Numbers today!

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