ESV Omega Thinline Reference Bible- Wow!

photo 2The ESV Omega Thinline Reference Bible is one that has, in the words of EvangelicalBible.com, “come to us a bit under the radar.” With the recent release of manifold premium editions of the English Standard Version, whether from Schuyler, Allan, Cambridge, or Crossway, the Omega seems to have become somewhat lost in the shuffle, which is unfortunate for such a well-executed Bible. EvangelicalBible.com teamed up with Crossway to create this Bible, and it is a great success on many levels.  It should be on the radar for anyone looking for a quality edition of the ESV.

The following is Crossway’s own introduction to the Omega: “In honor of its 75th anniversary, Crossway is introducing the Omega Thinline Reference Bible. Adapted from the Large Print Thinline Reference Bible, this limited edition is made from the finest materials. It features a goatskin cover lined to the edge with generous overhang to protect page edges, high-quality Bible paper, art gilding, and four ribbons. In addition, the Bible comes handsomely packaged in a two-piece box. Elegant and useful for a variety of purposes, the Omega Thinline Reference Bible is a beautiful edition that will last a lifetime.” [side note: there are actually only two ribbons on these.]

Cover and Binding

photo 2The Omega’s cover is made of a thick, supple goatskin with full leather linings, making this the only leather-lined goatskin reference ESV besides the R. L. Allan editions. I have handled three different Omegas, and the finish and grain differed on all three. I cannot perfectly recall the other two, but as for the one I currently have, the goatskin is just as soft and supple as my Allan ESV New Classic Reader’s edition (ESVNC1), if not more so. The grain on this one is beautifully coarse and pronounced, running horizontally across the cover—gorgeous, and difficult to not just look at! I love holding this Bible—the quality of the leather is second to none (perhaps equal to Allan’s highland goatskin). I will say, however, that due to the thickness, the leather is slightly stiffer than Allan’s highland goatskin, though hardly so. The semi-yapp and the perimeter stitching provide an elegant and practical touch.

Notice the difference in grains on these two
Notice the difference in grains on these two

photo 21 photo 3

reinforced hinges
reinforced hinges

 

 

 

The only regret I really have about the binding is the reinforced hinges / tabs in the front and back. Even though evangelicalbible.com says it lays flat right out of the box, I must confess that mine did not, and it is because of these tabs. They support and strengthen the binding, but at a cost. By way of contrast, the Allan bindings lay as flat as a pancake. But even after just a few weeks of use, the Omega lays much flatter, and I suspect this will only improve in time. The Omega was printed

Allan (top) and Omega (bottom) both opened in Revelation 22
Allan (top) and Omega (bottom) both opened in Revelation 22

and bound by the best: Jongbloed in the Netherlands. As such, it is no surprise that the binding is perfectly sound and uniform, with no cockling or quirks. Allan Bibles, on the other hand, are hand-bound in London and thus have some variation, idiosyncrasies, and quirks from the hand-binding process (these variations are not bad, but can annoy the perfectionist like me…but let it be said in Allan’s defense that the result is a limpness without precedent or equal).

 

Layout and Size

photo 19

Note the Omega's innovative and smart placement of the references
Note the Omega’s innovative and smart placement of the references

The layout is a two-column style with 10 point font. This edition features line-matching, which essentially means the text is perfectly lined up on either side of the page to mitigate show-through (“ghosting”). This is a full cross-reference Bible, but in contrast to others, the references on this one are moved to the bottom right on each page, allowing for wider text columns on the page. J. Mark Bertrand, on his blog, claims that this allows the text “room to breathe” because it isn’t crowded by what is essentially a third column on each page. Others say that the text does not have room to breathe because the columns are right up against each other with no center-column references breaking things up. On this note, I agree with Bertrand. The removal of the cross-references to the bottom right means wider columns, which, in my opinion, makes for a more readable text and a less-busy page.  Also, wider columns means that the layout doesn’t dice up poetry as much as other two column Bibles.

Poetry in the Omega (right) versus the ESVNC1 (left)
Poetry in the Omega (right) versus the ESVNC1 (left)

Compared with the Allan ESVNC1, there is one aspect of the Allan’s layout I like better, and that is margin space. If the Omega opened flatter, it wouldn’t make as much of a difference, but you have .88” margins on the inside and the outside of the ESVNC1, and this combined with the “pancake-flat” Allan binding keeps any text from curving into the gutter. The Omega suffers from this effect, but only slightly.

photo 9This brings me to size. Smaller margins on the Omega mean a smaller footprint. And the thinner paper on the Omega means a thinner Bible (28 gsm paper and less than 1” in thickness, as opposed to the Allan’s 32gsm paper and 1.25” thickness). One might fear that the smaller size on the Omega means more ghosting and more strained reading. The opposite is true. I find the paper and text of the Omega more reader-friendly than the Allan ESVNC1 because of the line matching (which the Allan lacks) and because of what appears to be a slightly larger font (maybe .25 or .5 points larger).

Other features

Top to bottom: Plain ole' gold gilding, Omega, Allan.
Top to bottom: Plain ole’ gold gilding, Omega, Allan.

The Omega features art-gilding (red dye on the pages’ edges underneath the typical gold foil). For me, this is a must on any high-end Bible. No art-gilding is as rich as Allan’s, but the Omega is passable in this regard. The ribbons are another typical complaint on the Omega since they are thin and prone to fraying (like most Bibles!).

Notice the embossings on the spines- Omega is busier
Notice the embossings on the spines- Omega is busier

 

 

 

 

 

Conclusion

In the end, I think the ESV Omega is the finest thinline ESV available, and I almost like it better than my Allan. Few Bibles do as many things well as this one does.  Not only is it nearly perfect for preaching and teaching, but also for carrying and reading– a great “all-photo 26arounder.” It is a very convenient size, and to be honest, the details on this Bible are more polished than the Allan. The binding is perfectly uniform and has absolutely no cockling, the cover is top-notch and features perimeter stitching, and the interior layout is smarter than any goatskin ESV reference Bible on the market. Add to these considerations the price and what you end up with is a Bible that is hard to resist! They could have easily sold these for $200 and had sufficient clientele (The Allan equivalent runs for $230 and the Schuyler for $190…and the “retail” price for the Omega is listed at $250!). But instead, you can get your Omega for $157 at EvangelicalBible.com while supplies last, which won’t be forever on this special limited edition Bible!

EvangelicalBible.com’s Omega page has some more helpful info and photos.  You can order here, as well as find links to helpful reviews.  Finally, J. Mark Bertrand’s review.

And lest we get lost in leather-bound English-Bible luxury, please remember to pray for translations in the remaining 1,859 Bible-less languages in our world. Click here to see my heart on the matter and to even support the work of Bible translation.

photo 25 photo 24 photo 22

Top: Classic Thinline ESV Bottom: Omega
Top: Classic Thinline ESV
Bottom: Omega
Flexible!!!
Flexible!!!

photo 11 photo 5 photo 1

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20 thoughts on “ESV Omega Thinline Reference Bible- Wow!

  1. I always enjoy your very informative reviews and it’s always nice having a comparison. I have wondered about the line matched ESV Omega and how it compared with the Allan NCR, which has no line matching. Hopefully in time line matching will become a standard with bible publishers. I have found a couple of papers that are very thin, but are opaque enough where line matching and ghosting is not an issue. One in particular is a 24 gsm paper that is fairly opaque, so the gsm rating can be somewhat misleading. I do prefer the color of the paper in the Allan NCR and the NCR has some of the best printing that I have seen in a bible. There’s only one other bible that I have seen where the printing is as good and like the Allan NCR it does not have line matching, however it’s about $200 cheaper. You would also think with Schuyler and Crossway upping the ante on quality and at a better price that Allan’s prices would have leveled off, but their prices have been increased. And I’ve been wondering what the cutoff price for customers would be…. $250, $275, or maybe $300? Based upon your review the Omega sounds like a good quality bible with similar features as the Allan, but at a sensible price. What concerns me is the 28gsm paper, which I think has a similar rating as the Cambridge Clarion. I’m wondering, have you noticed any issues with page curling with the three different Omegas that you’ve handled?

    1. Thanks for commenting Norm. I agree with you about pricing…I certainly wish it were lower (God forbid they exceed the low $200s!). However, the hand-binding process that Allan uses is pretty unique as far as I’m concerned, so it makes some sense for these to fetch more than the competition. As for the Omega, I haven’t noticed any page curling and I haven’t heard others mention this either. I had this issue in two Clarions and even an ESV Pitt Minion (2011 text), so I know what you’re talking about! I don’t have a Clarion to compare with the Omega, but I’m fairly certain that the paper and print quality are better on the Omega. The gsm rating does seem to be hard to discern, I agree. I really can’t tell much (if any) difference between the 32 of the NCR and the 28 of the Omega!

  2. I’m looking for someone to do a side-by-side comparison and evaluation of the font/text boldness, clarity, and readability. Which Bible, Allan ESV New Classic Reader’s edition (ESVNC1) or the Omega (both 10 font) stands out as the best choice for crisp, clear, and even ‘bold’ text!
    Honestly, I’m worn out by people being fixated on leather and binding and want some clearer definition on the qualities of the texts! It’s like being thrilled with the look of a car, but not being concerned with what is under the hood! Someone, please help me on comparing font/type/readability issues! Thanks!

    1. Thanks for commenting, Ron. I’ve tried to comment on the text block as well as the binding and leather quality. For the Bibles I’ve reviewed so far that are printed at Jongbloed in the Netherlands, the font crispness and legibility is superb. As for the Allan ESVNC1 versus the Omega, I find the font very crisp and readable in each–large and even somewhat bold. I believe both are listed at 10pt font, but the Omega feels slightly bigger, maybe 10.5 (but that may just be my eyes). As I’ve said, the Omega has the advantage of wider columns, but the NC1 has the advantage of excellent use of white space (i.e. wider margins) which ultimately leads me to prefer it slightly over the Omega (and yes, for the Allan leather and binding treatment too!). The fact is, readability is obviously a super important factor because we should engage the Bible more at the level of reading (readability factor) than “admiring” (aesthetic factor). But I focus on binding and leather in addition because thats what makes a Bible last (longevity factor)…and yes, it looks good in the process (aesthetic factor again : ) …Thoughts?

      1. Thanks for your reply, Jeffrey! I am like most of the people who are engaged in high-end Bible discussions: I’m on the elusive hunt for the Holy Grail of ESV Bibles! I’ve been using the Allan Classic ESV1 for a couple of years and enjoy the boldness of the font in that addition. I own the Goatskin Omega, and love the layout and size of the book; however, I wish there were a way to make the type just a little bit bolder! The size of the Bible is exceptional, paper GSM questionable, but the format is stellar. I ordered the Allan ESVNC1 yesterday, so when it arrives, I’ll have a clearer foundation for comparison and comments!
        My physical Bible these days is for international ministry and my own devotional reading. I preach and teach from an iPad all of the time using Microsoft Word on my Mac and Documents to Go on my iPad. I always have my verses pasted directly into the iPad document itself for my message.
        My quest is for the profile of the Omega with just a bit ‘bolder’ 10 font. Obviously the darker the text, the more you have ghosting issues…but I can dream!

  3. Hi Jeffrey,
    I have a question similar to the first comment from Norm, but that was about 6 months ago so I want to get an update and maybe a bit more info. I was spoiled having grown up using a Holman NKJV thinline Bible, and that form factor remains my favorite. I mainly use my RL Allan (ESVSCR1?, Blue Goatskin) in the pulpit, am preparing to have a custom NT-only ESV bound at Leonard’s, but I have a Black goatskin ESV Clarion. The clarion is enjoyable here and there, but the paper quality leaves SOOO much to be desired. Not just the page curling, but just typical page wear that wouldn’t/doesn’t happen on even moderately better paper. It is enough of a deal-breaker for me that I can only bear using the clarion a few days before I put it up again. Since you answered Norm’s question, have you seen any further wearing of the pages? I’m considering giving the Omega a chance, but I’m worried it will be too much like the Clarion. I also tried the Crossway Heirloom thinline and wasn’t too impressed with it.

    If RL Allan would just make a thinline ESV bible I’m certain that would end my search!

    1. Thanks for commenting! I traded away my Omega since the review, so I can’t tell you about further wear to the pages. Sorry! But I do think it’s better than the Clarion paper, even though only 28 gsm versus 27 gsm, so you should expect better mileage. I happen to love the Clarion though! Have you considered the Heirloom Legacy? Check out my review…I may like it better than the Clarion for a single column goatskin ESV. Pretty thin too, all things considered. But if it’s a Thinline your after, I would recommend you consider the Allan ESVNC1- better paper than any mentioned so far (32gsm) and a very beautiful double column typesetting with large font and a stellar binding! It’s my favorite double column (aside from one I have with 6.5pt font!). It’s not exactly a “Thinline” but pretty close. If you have the ESVSCR1, imagine that but .25″ thinner. It’s a tad bigger than the Omega but not by a lot. If that sounds way too big, the Omega may suit you, or the Heirloom Thinline which is a lot smaller (but with only 8pt font). I hope this helps more than it confuses!

    2. And one more note, Allan will be releasing another classic reference ESV (so smaller than the ESVNC1) in the next year or two. But my vote would be the ESVNC1. (I reviewed it a while back too, which you can check out. Also I have some shots in this review comparing the Omega with the NC1, which I’m sure you saw). I hope to review a black Allan NC1 too in the future. That’s all!

      1. Just got my bible – and it DOES have 4 ribbons! What an amazing bible! I instantly like it better than my Allan – I’ve always been a fan of the ‘thinline’ form factor and the Allan is just a BIT too thick to be considered that…this thing is like…everything I’ve wanted in a daily reading / traveling bible. It’s sooo nice!

  4. Those hinges are often said to be the reinforcement, but those hinges are actually what is keeping the cover on the book block. If you took the hinges off, the cover would come off…

    1. Yes, thats true. However, there’s no need for that strong of tabs/hinges. Allan and Cambridge tabs, for instance, don’t resist laying flat as much as Crossway’s or Schuyler’s. But I think they’ll break in just fine. Doesn’t bother me any.

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