We’ve all read the descriptions of bonded leather on these blogs – “plasticky”, “pleather”, “stiff and hard”, etc. Bonded leather is not all we would like it to be, of course. What we would like it to be is…well,…genuine leather!

But genuine leather is something that is a rarity at certain price levels – those price levels where many of us must dwell. So we must make do with either hardcover Bibles, paperback Bibles, imitation leather Bibles, or, what the publishers have so graciously given us, bonded leather!

(I hear you saying even now, “But you should try the new Tru-tone imitation leather!” Yes, I agree, it may be worth trying, but now the verdict is coming in on that stuff, and it may not be all that they claim it would be. See this link.)

Be that as it may, this post is to be about bonded leather Bibles. They’re usually more affordable than genuine leather, and they usually look good for a period of time, and they certainly can feel good in the hand. I should know, I own about a dozen of them.

There seems to be some differences in quality of bonded leather. I’m not sure if it has to do with the publisher, or the manufacturer. I have seen a number of complaints about Zondervan’s bonded leather. My experience, though, has been that the Zondervan covers are generally among the best bonded leather covers. They usually are soft and seem quite durable, although I do have one example that is stiff and shiny.

I have two TNIVs in bonded leather: an XL thinline with finger-indexing, and the TNIV Reference Bible, both of which were used and given to me as gifts. Both are soft and flexible. The cover of the larger TNIV RB seems a little thicker and more durable. It had a year’s worth of heavy use before I got it, and the cover still looks almost like new, although it has been dropped at least a couple times, and so the text block tends to lean part-way out of the bottom of the cover now, and the inside end-panels are starting to come loose at the spine.

My Zondervan NIV Study Bible in black bonded leather that I bought several years ago is still looking very good, still soft and flexible, but it doesn’t get the heavy use that some of my reference Bibles get. My NASB Personal Size Large-print Reference Bible from Zondervan has had very heavy use over the past five years, and while it’s still soft and flexible, the wear is becoming quite evident. The “shiny” coating that’s supposed to make it look like real leather is coming off in the areas where it gets stressed the most, and it’s even cracking at the outer edges where it hangs over the edge of the pages. But I can’t complain, it’s had very hard use over the years.

The first bonded leather Bible I ever bought was a NKJV Giant-print Personal Size from Nelson. That’s the Bible where I first noticed how good it felt to hold it in my hands. I’m surprised when I pick it up now, because it’s anything but soft and flexible! It’s stiff and hard, almost like a hardback Bible. But the wear it is showing is still very similar to the wear on my soft and flexible NASB.

I also have a NKJV from Nelson that i bought more recently, like about a year ago, and because it’s just not getting used very much it’s not getting worn, either. But when it was new it felt soft and flexible, just like the Zondervans, and not stiff and hard like the first Nelson NKJV I got.

My newest bonded leather Bible is a thinline NLT from Tyndale. It is considerably stiffer than the Zondervans, almost like my original Nelson. When I use it, it doesn’t want to bend much, especially near the front or back of the Bible where there isn’t much page weight on the cover. It’s getting a lot of use, but I’m not sure i like the feel of it. The grain of the cover is very nice, and it feels good to my fingers, but the combination of the stiff cover and the thin, flexible pages makes it a bit awkward to use at times. The pages sometimes want to curl over on themselves inside the cover, and so I have to be very careful when handling it.

Anyway, so far I am not displeased with my bonded leather Bibles. I wish they lasted longer. But as my co-worker tells me, when you get one worn out, don’t worry. They’re cheap. Just go buy another one!

So what kind of experiences are you having with your bonded leather Bibles?