Yesterday at lunchtime I did something not characteristic of me... I actually left my office and drove down to Mardel to pick up the ESV Study Bible I had preordered! It came shrink-wrapped, not in a box, although that matters very little (I guess it's that much less trash to carry out to the curb on Friday). The dust jacket and cover are beautiful... the dust jacket even has the ESV starburst logo (see it at the top of this page) embossed into the paper!
I got the hardback version. At first the pages seemed a little wrinkly right next to the binding, but after using it for a while they seemed to smooth out. The pages smelled all "new-booky"; I lvoe that smell. I was sniffing it all afternoon! There was an insert inside the back cover which had a scratch-off box with a code that gave me access to the online version, which is really cool although as a Web programmer and experienced Web user myself there are a few things about the online interface that I might change. Not unusable, but I think the number of clicks it takes to get to your information could be reduced. But that's material for another post, maybe!
The content itself is awesome. The colors in the pictures aren't as brilliant as they are in, say, The Holman Illustrated Study Bible, but they are still beautiful and very useful (see some samples here, but the online examples actually look more brilliant than they do in the book... maybe because of the thin Bible paper or the print process). I brought it with me to church last night and enjoyed using it during the message, although as with any study Bible, the temptation is to get absorbed with the study notes and miss part of the message!
I read some of the supplementary material too; I had already read "Introduction: A User's Guide to the ESV Study Bible" in the Book of Luke sample I got at Mardel several weeks ago, and I really am interested in the "Reading the Bible" series of articles (you can read it in the free online samples), but I didn't have time last night or this morning to read that. I did enjoy the "God's Plan of Salvation" article, which is kind of wordy and pretty detailed but ultimately a simple (and complete) overview of The Gospel. Last night before choir practice I enjoyed showing some friends the illustrations in Exodus of the Tabernacle in the wilderness, along with illustrations of the various pieces of furniture (golden lampstand, Ark of the Covenant, bronze altar, etc.) and did my best to impress a writer friend with the way the study notes and the book outlines are visually connected to help you see where you are in the overall structure of the books.
I'll probably lug the thing to church again Sunday to show a few more friends, but overall it's so thick and heavy that I'll probably mostly use it at home. Besides, like I mentioned before, I wouldn't want to get distracted from the message by the study notes! I'm seriously considering just starting from Genesis 1:1 and trying to make my way all the way through it. It'll take a while, but if my study of Luke in my sample copy has been any indication, it will be very much worth it!