Five premium Bibles — all of which have the same translation, references, colour, and overall general design — may seem like a high level of redundancy to have in one’s library. And to a degree, I feel kind of silly staring at the stack of Bibles and thinking that I have a general purpose for each.
But each Bible has been made for a different purpose. One is designed for the deepest of studying. The next is designed to be a workhorse — a personal Bible worthy of study, portability, and general reading. The next is a single column artistic masterpiece, sporting the most beautiful Bible design on the market. It’s cousin is a double column variety, with pristine attention to detail.
And this one — the 80th Anniversary Omega Thinline — is the closest thing I have to a “take anywhere” Bible at this point. It’s thin and (relatively) light, sports a large font in a double column variety, has wisely located references, and has a soft goatskin leather cover to boot. As a sum of its part, the 80th Anniversary Omega is worthy of sitting alongside the Quentels and Heirlooms in my collection.
But there’s also that small omission in the name of the 80th Anniversary Omega: There’s no “Heirloom” there. I suspect this is for a reason.
For all the 80th Anniversary Omega can boast about, there are a few elements that hold it back from that Heirloom moniker.
Crossway’s 80th Anniversary and the Move to China
Crossway marked its 80th anniversary with the release of two Bibles: the ESV Heirloom Study Bible and the ESV Omega Thinline. The Heirloom Study Bible was printed by L.E.G.O. in Italy and bound by Royal Jongbloed in the Netherlands, while this ESV Omega was printed and bound entirely in the Netherlands. I suspect the Heirloom Study Bible was printed in Italy because of the 10-year anniversary of the ESV Study Bible’s publishing, but I’m just speculating.
Regardless, commemorative editions like the ESV Omega are effectively special editions — they’re published to mark an occasion. Current stock of this line of Bibles is thinning out per newsletters from EvangelicalBible.com, and future production of the Omega line is said to move to China in the future.
I think this has some notable implications.
Without a doubt, there’s a stigma attached to a “Made in China” tag. In the clothing world, this often means the garments are machine-sewn, made of synthetic and cheap fabrics, and are often made on the backs of low wages. It’s hard to get around this stigma when judging a product by its cover.
Does this stigma apply to Bible making? I trust those at Crossway understand the implications of moving production to China, and I’m willing to give the non-profit the benefit of the doubt for making the move. I’ve read that some of Crossway’s Chinese-made Bibles have a slight deterioration in quality, but that it’s imperceptible for most people.
This does leave this current 80th Anniversary ESV Omega Thinline in a nifty spot, though. This Bible is essentially the last of its line to be produced by the highest quality printers and binders in Europe, somewhat carrying the torch for “what was” the Omega Thinline Bible.
To that end, this is a Bible worth holding onto.
Design and Materials
I’m feeling fraudulent at the moment: The ESV Omega Thinline is the third Bible I’ve reviewed here at The Newsprint, and I fear falling victim to verbal regurgitation. But when it comes to black, goatskin leather, Crossway ESV Bibles, they start to look the same.
There are differences though.
Where the ESV Heirloom Study Bible’s goatskin cover felt sturdier than the ESV Heirloom Legacy Single Column Bible, the ESV Omega’s goatskin cover is significantly flimsier than all of them. This is the softest, most supple, most flimsy cover in my premium Bible collection.
It’s borderline too flimsy, to be honest. The cover folds wonderfully around itself, providing you the option to hold it with one hand. But where other ESV Bibles from Crossway are sturdy enough to hold that second page firmly for you to read, the ESV Omega is so flimsy, it still falls in on itself. Whether this is a softy and flimsy cover or whether this is the nature of a thinline Bible is beyond me. All I know is that the ESV Omega is so flimsy, two hands (or a desk, naturally) are essentially required for reading.
The goatskin leather cover has much the same texture as the Heirloom Study Bible, in that it has a smoother, less pebbly feel than the Heirloom Legacy. To my eye, the leather is also shinier or glossier than the Heirloom Study Bible.
Perhaps this glossiness is a real thing, as the goatskin cover also has a different — more manufactured, perhaps — smell to it. I’ve grown used to opening a box to that wonderfully pure goatskin smell. The ESV Omega’s out-of-the-box aroma was more synthetic to my sniffer.
The goatskin cover is edge stitched and is lined on the inside with either a synthetic or calfskin leather. The edge of the inside cover is lined in a gold gilding, while the back inside cover has a simple “Goatskin Leather” branding applied.
Spines are my heart throb. A good Bible spine is sure to be the first thing to catch my attention. And to Crossway’s credit, the ESV Omega has a high hill to climb to meet the same quality as its brethren.
One of the Heirloom Legacy’s biggest criticisms was Crossway’s over-branding of the spine. With six ribs and four “ESV” or “Crossway” stamps on the spine, you’d be hard-pressed to guess which translation was housed in the Heirloom Legacy.
With the ESV Omega, Crossway has dialled down the branding and the number of ribs. You’re still left with two “ESV” logos (both a stamp and the words “English Standard Version”) along with the Crossway logo at the base, but this is much more tasteful than the Heirloom Legacy.
Because of the nature of the goatskin leather (smoother, less pebbly, for instance) and due to the fewer number of ribs, the ESV Omega’s spine comes in somewhere in the middle of my radar. I like the way the Omega looks sitting on my bookshelf, but overcoming the Heirloom Legacy and the Schuyler Quentel in this regard was always going to be a tough job.
The ESV Omega is one of half a dozen Crossway Bibles sized at 6.125” by 9.125”. From a height and width perspective, this is a somewhat generic size, providing ample room for well-sized fonts and comfortable line heights in a relatively take-anywhere package.
But the ESV Omega is a thinline, so it comes in much thinner than its Heirloom brethren. The Omega has the same 28 GSM paper as the Heirloom Single Column Legacy, so the decrease in overall thickness comes from a variety of printing techniques instead. A dual-column layout, maximum use of margins, and elimination of extraneous content really thins this Omega off.
Of course, the thinness results in a lighter Bible as well. The Omega measures in at 39.29 ounces — 6 ounces less than the Heirloom Legacy.
With the thinner and lighter package, you’d be correct to think this is designed as a portable Bible. To me, this is a briefcase Bible — it’s large enough to allow for a comfortable reading font size, but small enough to slide into a briefcase and take to church on Sunday or to the office during the work week. One might consider the upcoming ESV Personal Size Heirloom to be Crossway’s idea for a take-anywhere Bible, and they’d be correct. But the Omega can quite easily fill that position as well.
I should note, though, that it’s the 6.125” x 9.125” combination with a thinner paper block that contributes to the Bible’s overall flimsiness. Again, I like a flimsy Bible — it generally signifies the highest quality leather and Bible paper — but the Omega takes it just a bit too far for my liking. This semi-larger size with such a thin book block only makes the whole thing feel more like a noodle.
Binding and Hinge
I mentioned in my review of the Heirloom Study Bible that a Royal Jongbloed binding isn’t always the exact same across different Bible lineups — the Schuyler Quentel Bible on my desk is significantly different than my Heirloom Bibles, even though they were all bound by Royal Jongbloed.
Same thing goes for the ESV Omega, but I’m particularly fond of this binding edition. Where other bindings may “pinch” the gutter — shaping an opened book block with an up and then flow away characteristic, the ESV Omega’s gutter is relatively flat, no matter your reading position.
This is truly the most lay-flat Bible I have in my collection.
Perhaps a thinner book block yields a better chance to produce a lay-flat binding, or perhaps there are other factors at play here. But this Bible lays flat, no doubt about it.
I would never call myself a paper aficionado, but The Newsprint really did get its start reviewing Field Notes memo books. So perhaps my expertise is lacking, but my pickiness sure isn’t.
I’m not disappointed at all with the ESV Omega’s paper quality. The 28 GSM European Bible paper is the same as Crossway’s other premium Bibles and has many of the same characteristics as well.
This being said, you can find better paper from other Bible producers.
Thickness and Opacity
GSM — “Grams per Square Meter” — is the meta term for describing paper thickness. Generally, the higher the GSM, the thicker and more opaque the paper.
You can imagine the trade-offs pretty easily — a Bible with over 800,000 words likely can’t have 50 GSM paper without garnering a 12” thick book block. And extra thin paper — say, in the teens — would probably result in a translucent, wax paper reading experience.
It’s just physics, really.
But, conversely, I’ve learned that Crossway’s 28 GSM Indopaque Bible paper has a magical quality that allows it to be relatively opaque while still only measuring in at a lesser GSM rating. To my eye, Crossway pulls some tricks with the paper colour and line matching to ensure the paper yields a thicker, more comfortable reading experience than its rating would assume.
You can always rub two pages together to get a feeling of the paper quality as well. The ESV Omega’s paper doesn’t catch, has no tackiness to it, and both feels and reads thicker than its overall rating.
This is essentially the highest praise I can give to a 28 GSM book block.
I mentioned paper colour above because it’s always the first characteristic I notice when I open a new Bible. The first time I opened an Heirloom Bible box and cracked open the Bible, I was taken aback at how creamy and comfortable the paper colour seemed.
The ESV Omega has that same cream-coloured paper — perfect for reading in bright light, low light, and normal light, and a perfect match for the paper’s art gilding.
Again, to my eye, the ESV’s Omega paper is ever so slightly cooler than the Schuyler Quentel’s paper colour, but it’s significantly warmer and creamier than the Heirloom Study Bible. The cooler Heirloom Study Bible paper makes sense though — with all the graphics, maps, and charts, having a paper that didn’t skew the colour of the printed ink would have been required. With nothing but text in the ESV Omega, it appears Crossway could use its more normal creamy paper that I’ve seen in other Heirloom Bibles.
In the Crossway world, thin Bibles come with thin ribbons. I’m unsure if there’s a production limitation or if the goal is ultimate thinness, but those looking for thick, durable, and long ribbons will likely look past the ESV Omega.
These ribbons are identical to the Heirloom Single Column Legacy and the Heirloom Wide Margin — four thin ribbons in black, chocolate brown, tan, and saddle brown colours that extend about 2” beyond the edge of the paper when inserted. The ribbons are narrow as well, measuring maybe a 1/4” wide.
In my slowly growing collection, no ribbons come close to those housed in the Schuyler Quentel. The Heirloom Study Bible’s ribbons are large, Beresford ribbons (like the Quentel), but the ribbons are so short, they nearly don’t stick out when extended to the corners of the book block.
The ESV Omega has, essentially, the worst of both worlds: thin and short.
Fortunately, ribbons aren’t defining factors for any Bible.
I was surprised to find such a difference in art gilding quality when comparing the ESV Omega to other Heirloom Bibles. In fact, I was left wondering if the quality of the art gilding in the ESV Omega is one of the reasons it doesn’t carry the “Heirloom” moniker.
Running my thumb along the edge of the book block really highlights the inconsistencies in the gilding. Near the beginning of my Omega, there are two significantly darker gildings, easily seen with the naked eye. There are also numerous spots throughout my Omega where the gilding has actually bled onto the front-facing part of the page. Again, no deal-breaker here, but I was surprised to find these inconsistencies.
These complaints aside, Crossway’s now ubiquitous salmon-coloured gilding has a wonderful one-two punch with the cream-coloured paper. There’s a lot of “comfort” in these colours, no matter the light you put them under.
Normally, this section would be short and sweet, as any prior Heirloom Bible I’ve looked at has opted for reading comfort or studying comfort over thinness.
But the ESV Omega is different, and there’s another element of magic here.
Font, Font Sizes, and Layout
Magic, in a Bible? Yeah, that’s not the right word, but most would be surprised to find this thin and light ESV Omega has a larger font size than nearly all the Heirloom Bibles Crossway currently offers. The 10 pt. font is big and comfortable and the font would be larger than most other Bibles designed for at least an element of portability.
I like how some Bible fonts use some play in the ascenders and descenders of letters to provide the illusion of a bigger font size. Schuyler is a master of this art, for example — lowercase letters take up about 80% of the line height, while any capital letters or letters with ascenders that extend upwards (like a “t” or an “f”) only extend the upper half of the letter the remaining 20% of the line height. This provides the illusion of a far bigger font size than the actual specification.
Crossway is certainly using this illusion to its advantage, but not to the same extent as the font in the Quentel. Letters with descenders in the Omega that extend below the line really shorten up, while lowercase letters only take up about 60% of the line height or so.
The Omega’s general line height and column width is of other concern, however. The layout here just feels awkward — words feel crammed together, while the difference in size between ascenders and descenders makes the whole text body feel squished and uneven. To make this Omega a genuine thinline Bible, Crossway had to jam as many letters as possible on each page, and the line height took the brunt of this compromise.
I showed the ESV Omega to a friend who is a font and typeface die-hard. I asked him to compare the ESV Omega to the Heirloom Legacy, the Heirloom Study Bible, and the Schuyler Quentel. He quickly exclaimed his love for the Heirloom Legacy and the Heirloom Study Bible, while he quickly admonished the ESV Omega’s choice of typeface and line height.
Crossway’s Bibles have a wide variety of reference layout options to choose from. The ESV Omega opts to put cross-references at the bottom of the second column on each page, while footnotes span the entire width of the bottom of each page. There are a fair number of cross-references included with the ESV Omega — Crossway boasts over 80,000 cross-references have been included in this Bible, and it isn’t considered a study Bible, by definition.
I think one’s mileage will really vary on the typeface and overall double column layout of the ESV Omega. Words are crammed onto each page and done so in an awkward manner to accommodate the larger font size, but this is done in the name of portability and thinness. If those are your two goals, I expect these typeface factors to be secondary.
The ESV Omega does a fine job in line-matching, even though the feature isn’t wholly noted in any spec sheet. Line-matching is the printing feature that places a line of text in the same spot as text on the flip-side of the page, helping to alleviate show through and ghosting from the backside. This helps improve readability throughout the Bible.
Each 10 pt. line appears to fall on the same line as the backside of the page, while cross-references don’t perfectly match to the text on the backside of the page. You may find the odd line that isn’t perfectly aligned (another reason why I think the ESV Omega lost the “Heirloom” moniker), but overall, line-matching is well done.
In my early days, I used to insist on red-letter Bibles — if man is flawed, then the only letters we can truly trust must be the red letters, correct? Of course, this is a flawed way of thinking.
Regardless of the paradigm, the general idea of separating who says what through ink colour is no longer a correct practice, in my opinion. Red letters simply imply that certain words are more important than others, despite the fact that we are to believe the entire Bible is God’s own Word.
So with that in mind, I prefer black letter typesetting Bibles these days, especially for studying. The ESV Omega — and all of Crossway’s Bibles that I’ve come across, for that matter — is a black letter typeset only.
Study Materials and Extras
No Crossway Bible will ever measure up to the Heirloom Study Bible in terms of study materials and extra content. If that’s your main goal, the ESV Omega isn’t for you. The Omega houses your standard array of cross-references, footnotes, maps, and a healthy concordance that should meet the needs of someone who would use a thinline Bible in its intended use.
As mentioned above, footnotes line the bottom of each page and span the entire width of the page. Footnotes correspond numerically to their place within the text, and they run left to right before starting a new line. Everything has been completed here in order to save space and thickness of the book block.
Like the concordance and cross-references, there are enough footnotes here to answer the major translational questions when reading. If you need more footnotes and commentary, there are other Crossway Bibles to serve your needs.
The ESV Omega’s concordance is actually fairly healthy in size, considering the thinline nature. Major terms are printed in bold, all-caps letters and their respective placement within the Bible follow in a lighter font below.
I had noted in my Heirloom Study Bible review that the term “God” took up nearly an entire column on its own in the concordance, while “Christ” had 17 different references, and “Faith” had 36 references. The ESV Omega has “God” measuring in at about 3/4 of a full column, “Christ” at 16 references, and “Faith” at 32 references. Again, for a thinline Bible, the ESV Omega’s concordance isn’t going to disappoint.
Lastly, the ESV Omega includes your standard array of maps at the very back of the Bible. Like all other Crossway Bibles I’ve seen, the Omega’s maps are printed on a different type of paper from the rest of the Bible. This paper is glossy and thicker than the rest of the 28 GSM Bible paper, making it easy to find just by feel if you’re jumping through the back of the Bible.
Colours are a tad bland in comparison to some other maps from other Bible lines, but these will certainly do the trick.
Maps included range from:
- The World of the Patriarchs
- The Exodus from Egypt
- The Twelve Tribes of Israel
- Israel Under Saul, David, and Solomon
- A chart of Jerusalem at the time of Jesus
- Palestine in the Time of Jesus
- Paul’s First and Second Missionary Journeys
- Paul’s Third Missionary Journey and His Voyage to Rome
I’ve alluded to the fact that the 80th Anniversary ESV Omega Thinline Reference Bible isn’t actually an Heirloom Bible, Crossway’s most premium line of Bibles. But because this is somewhat a special edition, the ESV Omega inherits many of the same premium features from the Heirloom line and comes in at a slightly lower price than the Heirloom line.
The ESV Omega can be purchased in black goatskin directly from Crossway for $249 USD.
At the time of writing, however, there may be a better deal for you at EvangelicalBible.com. EvangelicalBible.com carries two additional colours — Vintage Brown Goatskin and Ocean Blue Goatskin — and both range between $165 USD and $170 USD. You can also pickup the Black Goatskin variety from EVBible for $162 USD.
As I understand it, the reason for the lesser price is pretty simple: Production of the ESV Omega is being moved to China and EVBible is looking to sell their remaining stock of the Omega printed and bound in the Netherlands.
To my way of thinking, the EVBible option provides you a better price, more fun colours, and the last of the European Omega line.
As I continue to delve into this world of premium Bible reviewing, one thing has become ultra-clear: Premium Bibles are made for specific use cases and will fit each individual differently.
I use three different Bibles mainly in my home right now:
- The Heirloom Legacy lays on my mantle and I use it to read in the morning over a cup of coffee or for quick spurts when curiosity arises throughout the day.
- The Schuyler Quentel lays on my coffee table in my basement, where I tend to read on and off in a poorer light. The larger font of the Quentel is easier to read in this situation.
- The Heirloom Study Bible is my main driver these days, and I read at my desk in my home office where the rest of my highlighting and writing tools are located.
It’s easy to see that each of these have a different use. I’m still waiting for the perfect portable Bible to throw into my work bag so I can read anywhere on-the-go. I initially thought the ESV Omega might be able to do the trick, but I’m not sold on it for this use at this point.
This being said, I can see the ESV Omega being a perfect option for those who would prefer a larger font in a semi-portable package that is thin and light. If you prefer a two-column layout with unobtrusive cross-references and footnotes, then the ESV Omega is for you. And if you carry a thin commuter bag and need a thinline Bible to travel with you when you’re out and about, then the ESV Omega could be the perfect companion as well.
The 80th Anniversary ESV Omega Thinline Reference Bible is a well-made Bible made with the highest quality materials. It falls short of the very high bar set by Crossway’s own Heirloom Bible line, but for the price, this is a worthy Bible to add to any collection.