Monday, September 6, 2010

Cambridge KJV Pocket Reference Purple Imitation Leather

Anyone familiar with Cambridge University Press Bibles automatically begins to envision supple, rich-smelling leather when the name is mentioned. Cambridge has an outstanding reputation for quality and their high end Bibles have received innumerable honors (many from J. Mark Bertrand at Bible Design Blog and rightly so). However, my interest was piqued by the more affordable everyman Bibles in the Cambridge line and when the new KJV Pocket Reference Bible came out in Purple Imitation Leather on Aug. 10, I jumped at the chance to review the edition.

The packaging serves as a slipcase and in true Cambridge style boldly displays the edition's features on the front. The edition is available with a wraparound snap cover and a zip cover, but the review copy came in traditional style which I prefer.
The color is a rich, regal grape, making this edition a pleasant and desirable oddity. The imitation leather itself features a nice matte finish with a realistic looking grain, but is not nearly as soft or supple as Crossway's TruTone. The cover is somewhat firm, which may be a benefit in durability. On a less complimentary note, the imitation leather has a distinctly rubbery feel to the touch, which is probably less desirable than the glossy feel of most imitation leathers or the soft, leathery feel of Crossway's TruTone. However, most imitation leathers descend into something akin to tire rubber over time and this texture is much smoother and silkier to the touch and may be more resistant to wear and sun damage, though only time will tell.
The spine has an attractive, rounded shape which fits pleasantly in the hand and has a nice aesthetic. This is a new feature in the Cambridge design and was introduced on the ESV Wide Margins as well. Hopefully it becomes a trademark Cambridge design. The Bible includes a single purple ribbon, which nicely matches the color and style.
This photo displays a slight defect in the cover, a small indented line which runs parallel to the spine. I'm not sure if this is merely a individual defect or a regular occurrence. It is actually barely noticeable, but can be seen when the light catches that part of the cover.

At 3.625 x 5.125 the Bible has a nice carrying size and fits perfectly in the back pocket. These small sizes are always a trade in mobility vs. readability, and Cambridge is majoring on mobility. 
The text is fairly small at least 6/7 font or perhaps smaller. Considering the size the font the text is very readable and my young, nearsighted eyes can still comfortably read the page even when I hold the Bible at arm's length. The text block is a reduction of Cambridge's popular Pitt Minion, which is a favorite for its comfortable, readable two column setting. This edition is no different and Cambridge does not let the reduction in size mean crowding in the margins. Ghosting is fairly minimal, especially considering the narrow spine and the compact size. However, I would not highlight with wet highlighters, as the paper is fairly thin. I would advise an 005 Pigma Micron or something very fine tipped as the paper, though strong, will probably not hold up to rough marking.

  Bold cross-references are included: a blessing I often wished for in other editions, and a glossary and pronunciation guide. The glossary is quite an aid considering King James English contains a number of antiquated words or words that have altered in meaning over time. The pronunciation guide I could take or leave, and since the Bible has no concordance, I could leave it.
The Bible does not quite lay flat. The stiffness of the cover prevents it from lying completely open on the table in most positions. However, with a little coaxing it will remain open.
The silver gilding makes complements the purple beautifully and keeps the edition modest but classy.

It's somewhat difficult to see, but the stitching is visible down the seam, proof of Cambridge's famous sewn bindings, which can take quite a beating. This picture also illustrates that the cover is not readily flexible, though it may soften up with use. 
The slipcase becomes a storage case, though this Bible isn't really designed for the shelf. This is a go anywhere beater Bible meant to be carried in the back pocket and manhandled. It's durability and mobility are prime features next to its niche aesthetic. Purple is a color more publishers should consider. It's classy and can appeal to both men and women. It's connection to royalty gives it Biblical significance and the future will surely reveal that purple is both the new black and the new pink.

Overall the color and size are prime selling points along with the sewn binding and familiar text block. The Bible includes the Cambridge lifetime guarantee regarding materials or workmanship, and is almost certain to hold up well. Some features to be desired are a Concordance and a softer, more supple imitation leather. The edition has a great layout and quality design and the low price of $24 should sweep any objections aside. A sewn binding within that price range is unheard of and this is actually the cheapest pocket reference I've come across. And it's Cambridge. This edition truly capitalizes on mobility, durability and quality per dollar. It's not a miracle, there are always trade offs in designing an affordable, compact edition, but Cambridge has maximized the quality of Pocket References in this price range. 

Cambridge provided this review copy free of charge. I was not required to give a positive review.

KJV Pocket Reference Purple Imitation KJ242:XR 


  1. "A sewn binding within that price range is unheard of and this is actually the cheapest pocket reference I've come across."

    I have seen, and indeed own, a genuine leather, sewn-bound KJV though it's not pocket-sized. And I think there's a reason not many bibles are available in purple (think Falwell and teletubbies).

  2. When it comes to purple, it's time the body of Christ started taking it back. Jesus wore it to the cross first. Thanks for the comment!

  3. Your review was incredibly helpful! It is very well written and answered ALL of my questions. I purchased this Bible immediately after reading your review, so THANKS!