Portable bibles.

by K.W. Leslie, 29 April 2022

For convenience, we Christians oughta always have a bible on us, or near us. And now we technically do: We have phones. Our phones have web browsers. And those web browsers can easily call up Bible Gateway, or one of the other bible websites—and voilá, we got bible.

But before phones with internet access became so ubiquitous, I encouraged Christians to get a portable analog bible. One they could always have on them, or carry with them. Not just stash extra bibles everywhere we usually go—like an extra bible at work, in the car, in one’s gym locker, and so forth. I’m talking about a convenient portable bible. I tend to get ’em pocket-size, and call ’em “tiny bibles.” But they don’t need to be tiny. Just portable.

Yes, bible apps have kinda made the portable bible moot. Our phones are already portable, and they’re usually on our person. Plenty of women keep their phones in their pockets, not their purses (assuming they’re wearing pants, and their pants have decent phone-size pockets), so for many people our bibles are always on us. Always immediately accessible. More so than a portable bible.

Still, I’m kinda partial to tiny bibles. Even though I read my bible app way more often than that tiny bible, I still stash a tiny bible in my duffel bag.

Because you never know: The wifi might be down. The cell towers might be down. (Not that I need a signal; my app keeps the bible texts in the phone.) Say the phone battery is dead, and I forgot my charger, and my portable backup battery, and I don’t have access to an outlet: It’s unlikely, but it could happen. Or some natural disaster has cut off access to electricity, and I need to save my battery for, y’know, actual phone calls.

I should also point out: When you’re reading a tiny bible, it creates opportunities. When you’re reading your phone, you could be reading anything. When you’re reading a tiny book, people wind up checking out the person with the tiny book.

HE. “Wow, that’s a tiny book.”
ME. “Yep. With tiny type. Check it out.”
HE.Wow that’s tiny type. And you take your glasses off to read it?”
ME. “Yeah; the glasses are for distance. I can read small print just fine.”
HE. “What is it, a bible?”
ME. “Yep.”
HE. “You read the bible a lot?”
ME. “Yep.”
HE.I should read the bible more often.”
ME. “Yes you should, you filthy heathen.”

No, I don’t actually say that last line. Just making sure you’re awake.

But again: They don’t need to be tiny. (If you need reading glasses, you’re not gonna want to read it!) Just portable. Something lightweight; something you can conveniently carry around; something which fits in whatever you usually carry with you—a purse, bag, briefcase, computer bag, backpack, gym bag.

Pocket bibles work for me, but obviously they’re not for everyone. There are also thinline bibles, bibles which are designed to be portable: They’re softcover, usually bound in a durable leather or pleather. They use really thin paper, and large but compact type—so they’re thin, as the name implies. They’re about the same price as other bibles—unless you’re thinking of the big-ass commentary bibles, which aren’t cheap at all. Thinline bibles come in all the popular translations, like the KJV, ESV, NASB, NIV, NJKV, NLT, and NRSV.

If you have a little more space in your bag—and the idea of frequently giving away your bibles kinda appeals to you—discount bibles are definitely the way to go. They’re deliberately cheap, because the plan is to buy lots, and give away lots. Problem is, they aren’t built to be durable, and won’t last long. Give these bibles away quick! (If it’s fraying at the edges, you kept it too long.) Again, they come in KJV, ESV, NASB, NIV, NJKV, NLT, and NRSV. Sometimes the publishing companies, or bible-distributing ministries like Bibles At Cost, offer bulk deals.

Finally, there’s the tiny bible: The pocket-sized bibles I prefer. I got lucky and found mine for $5, back when we had a Christian bookstore in town. (I also recovered one of ’em with black duct tape, so I can squeeze a few more decades out of it.) You might have to do some serious shopping before you find them cheap, ’cause publishers love to jack up the prices in exchange for that portability. Same translations as before: KJV, ESV, NASB, NIV, NJKV, NLT, and NRSV.

Of course you can always get the New Testament by itself, or with Psalms and Proverbs included. They’re cheaper. But they’re not the entire bible. If you’re in church, and the preacher begins the sermon with, “Turn to Genesis,” what good is your print bible?—you gotta use your phone. (And if you give away this bible to someone, you’ve given them the same problem.) Preachers quote the Old Testament all the time, and it’s a pain, and not worth the few bucks you’ll save. Don’t bother.