A Bible Without Verses?
It takes time and training to learn to ignore the verse numbers, footnote indicators, and reference markers embedded in the text of the Bibles sold today. I am an avid reader; I have been since an early age. Now I want to read the narratives of the Bible as I would read any other book: without interruption, in single-column text.
The only other text I've ever seen with a built-in reference system is Shakespeare's plays, and even then, the reference numbers are in the margins. By contrast, the Phillips translation of the New Testament has verse numbers on the side, due to text recontextualization which resulted in the recombination of several verses into complete thoughts or arguments. The Message was similar, until the Message/remix edition reinserted the verse numbers.
Some Bible software, such as the ESV's WORDSearch software, allows the color of various categories of text to be altered. Turning the verse numbers the same color as the background effectively removes the verse numbers. But there are still gaps.
The verse system also makes the Bible's texts seem more uniform than they really are. The Bible is an anthology of books and letters written by forty different authors from similar but changing cultures, over a period of at least 1500 years. The literary styles include poetic narrative, historical narrative, poetry, philosophy, prophecy, law, ethics, and advice on how to live wisely.
The Books Of The Bible is a reformat of the Today's New International Version which tries to address these concerns. It formats poetry as poetry, and the rest as single-column text. It places footnotes at the end of each book, instead of at the bottoms of the pages. It puts the chapters and verses in an unobtrusive corner of the page.
But I want the English Standard Version or the New King James translation of the text formatted this way. Even if it's just available by special order, I would buy it. I would give it without reservation or preface to an unbeliever. I would also buy giveaway paperback gospels I could give to people I meet who need God's Word in their lives.
Accessibility is the key here, folks. Accessibility for people not yet trained by time to ignore the constant, nagging verse count. Accessibility for people whose brains won't allow them to ignore the embedded footnote markers. Accessibility for children more sensitive to the tedium of ignoring the language they've worked so hard to acquire. Accessibility for the unchurched, who would probably be more interested in a slightly annotated narrative than an encyclopedia of cross-references.
Would you buy such an edition?
EDIT: It's being published in May 2014! Praise God! ESV Reader's Edition