The New Living Translation
What exactly makes a Bible "Large Print" or "Giant Print"?
I am often asked this question. Deep down, I’m always tempted to answer “the title”. Not terribly helpful I know, but sometimes it feels that way. The real answer is a little, well really a lot more complex. There is no adhered to industry standard for what constitutes a large print or giant print Bible, even though there are several standards for print products in general. A Google search yielded several, and all had to do with font size – 14,16, and 18 point were listed as either as either minimum or preferred.[1] There are no large print Bibles that I am currently aware of which meet any of these general standards and in fact, most giant print Bibles do not. Broadman and Holman’s “Super Giant Print” is printed in an 18 point font but that is the only one that you are likely to find on the shelves of a bookstore near you, and then only in a few translations (KJV and HCSB).

It’s all about the font size?!

The largest Bible publishers (Thomas Nelson, Zondervan, Tyndale and Broadman and Holman) are not entirely consistent in font sizes used, though there are a few “rules of thumb” that I have found. Typically a large print Bible is approximately a 10 to 12 point font and a Giant Print Bible is approximately a 14 point font. Trim size and other features such as whether the Bible is a slimline can greatly impact the font size on large print editions. This is much less of an issue in giant print editions. There are exceptions to these rules of course, and they does not apply for large print compact editions (no this is not an oxymoron even though it sounds like it) or specialty Bibles.

Additionally, it is important to note that the different publishers title competing products in different ways. This is most notable in the best selling personal size category which includes Large Print Personal Size (ZON, TYN); Hand Size Giant Print (BRO); and Personal Size Giant Print (NEL). These Bibles are all similar in trim and font sizes but that would not be readily apparent unless you were standing in a store and comparing them side to side.

Tyndale Bibles labeled “large print” have a variety of font sizes as do all other Bible publishers. In some instances a large print Bible is created by photographically increasing the typeset pages at the printer. This process eliminates redundant typesettings and helps to contain costs but yields a fractional font size. This is why you may find font sizes like 9.6 listed for some of these products.

If there is no standard font size, how is a large print Bible created?

When Tyndale creates a large print or giant print Bible we look at several things including industry norms for various lines or types of Bibles, page layout, how long (and therefore heavy) the Bible will be, type of paper, bleed through (the last two are closely related and deserve their own post at a later date so I will not go into detail on them here), and above all else readability.

Font size alone is not a good judge of whether or not a Bible is readable. There are at least two other issues that make a huge difference in readability.

The first is the choice of the font used. For instance, the font that Tyndale developed for the NLT – Lucerna – looks as big at 12 or 14 as many 13 and 15 point fonts respectively. Lucerna was designed to be as efficient as possible in terms of both page length and overall legibility. Since the NLT runs between 7-10% longer than many formal equivalent translations, efficiency on the typeset page becomes crucial in light of market realities.

The picture on the left is a great illustration of just how two fonts at the same point size can be visibly much more or less readable. (I know, they do not look like they are the same size at all, but our design team assures me that they are). The x-height is crucial in this regard. By increasing the x-height relative to the ascenders and descenders (think the top of a lower case f or the bottom of a lower case j) the font appears to be much larger than many other fonts of exactly the same point size.

The second and related issue is leading, which basically refers to the spacing between lines. If the leading is too small then the text becomes much harder to read. If the leading is too large, then the length of the book will increase, thus increasing the cost to produce it and its retail price. (Not to mention they just plain get heavy).
Do to screen resolution variations it is virtually impossible to show an accurate comparison in this blog article, but you can see what I am talking about by simply opening several books and visually comparing the space between the lines. In the case of NLT Bibles, Lucerna gives an added benefit. The combination of short ascenders and descenders with optimized leading helps to ensure maximum readability. (And for this I must commend Timothy Botts, who has been helping to design page layouts for Tyndale Bibles for more years than he would probably care for me to mention and who also had a hand in designing Lucerna as well).
So where does that leave me?

Well, not quite back at the beginning of this entry, but close. There are a lot of factors in play, and you can get a general idea of the Bible in question, but in the end, the only real way to determine if a large print Bible is large enough is to look at the actual text for readability and find what works the best for you.

[1] See for eaxample:
http://www.aph.org/edresearch/lpguide.htm
American Printing House for the Blind: The American Printing House for the Blind takes the position that large print for use by the low vision population is print that is eighteen points in size or larger.
http://www.loc.gov/nls/reference/circulars/largeprint.html
National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS): Most adult books are set in 10- to 12-point type, newspapers are often 8-point, and some editions of the Bible are in 6-point type. The minimum size for large-print materials is 14-point type. Large-print materials are most commonly available in 16- to 18-point type.

7 Responses to “What exactly makes a Bible "Large Print" or "Giant Print"?”
Anonymous
4th March, 2010 at 2:25 am

Thank you so much for this article. I am looking for a larger print bible for my Dad. He has a hard time with small print. Now I know what to look for. I need to look for letter height & sentence spacing. I no longer need to think in terms of "large" or "giant" print. Thanks Again, April

Anonymous
6th March, 2010 at 8:46 am

Kevin, your readers may benefit from this article from the designer of Lucerna, Brian Sooy:

http://www.sooyco.com/branding-with-type/lucerna-bible-font

It chronicles the development process, and has links to many online articles and references to Lucerna. It quickly became a reader favorite, "easy on the eyes" is my favorite comment.

11th May, 2011 at 3:57 pm

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Martha Alls
8th June, 2011 at 4:02 pm

Do you have a comparison chart for NLT font sizes
that you could email to me?

Mrs. Don
26th May, 2013 at 9:09 pm

Thank you for this article, it helped me to choose a large print Bible that I considered to be readable for my mother who has a benign brain tumor pressing on her eye, causing a lot of vision challenges. Thank you again!

Cathy K
20th March, 2014 at 4:23 pm

Shopping for a larger print bible and am shopping for the best price. Have found what your posting states as true. Same bible on two different sites. One states is large another giant. Found one site that actually showed me an inside view and stated the font size of 14 pt. Same site indicated that a hardcover copy was available for same bible. When I looked at details it was only 12 pt. Each version had a unique ISBN number.

My question–Can I use the ISBN number to assure that I am indeed getting the same bible that gave me the 14 pt in the description. Does each font size have a unique ISBN number. Some sites will indicate the font size others will not.

Bernd
25th July, 2014 at 2:42 pm

The ISBN number is unique and refers to one tpye of book. With a different ISBN although title and author are the same the font size or binding (hard cover vs paperback) may (or may not) be different.
Example if you find on one web site the right font you need, so you should use that associated ISBN to find on a different web page or seller the same print.

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