I received my new HCSB Study Bible today. This review is based on my initial impressions and will not address the HCSB translation (which I do like), but only the features of the study Bible. I must say, the HCSB Study Bible certainly raises the bar for study Bibles. One of the first things you will notice is that Holman spilled A LOT of ink on this Bible. There are entire pages with color, full color photos and maps right there on the Bible pages, and different color inks for verse numbering and cross references (blue) and headings (brown) that effectively stand out from the usual 'sea of gray' study Bible.
I realize that photos seem like a gimmick, put they really do draw the reader into the text and give the impression of 'being there' (a picture is worth a thousand words). I find the brown, ancient scroll-like coloring for pages used for book introductions and charts very appealing too.
The content for book introductions is quite brief compared to what you will find in the ESV Study Bible and to a lesser degree other study Bibles. Perhaps this feature is in keeping with the publishers goal of keeping the focus on the text itself, but the difference is substantial. The amount of commentary below the text is similar to other study Bibles like the NIV, ESV, or MacArthur Study Bibles. In addition to the many in-text charts, maps, illustrations, and Hebrew and Greek word studies in the HCSB Study Bible, I appreciate the short doctrinal essays scattered throughout on topics like "Christ in the Old Testament" and "The Biblical Basis for Missions." Rather than a regular concordance, the HCSB Study Bible contain an topical concordance which is fine with me, though I know some readers greatly dislike a study Bible without a substantial concordance.
Concerning the physical properties of the HCSB Study Bible, I purchased the genuine leather indexed edition. I am very pleased with the binding. This Bible is smyth-sewn and very flexible--enough for the pages to hang down over your hand if you hold the spine (the true test of quality binding). The leather is flexible, but SUPER thin. It seems likes they took a piece of leather and sliced it into about 5-6 sheets to get it so thin. This is the one complaint I have with the binding. The paper is outstanding as is the printing itself. My edition came with two ribbon markers. The thumb indexing has a unique cut rather than the regular "crescent" shape and there are different colors for OT and NT (black for OT and red for NT).
Overall, the construction, printing, and content of the HCSB Study Bible is exceptional and really does a good job of drawing the readers attention. At this point, I'm not sure the excellent features are enough to win me over from the ESV Study Bible as my main study Bible partly due to my preference for the ESV as my main study and preaching translation, and the too brief book introductions. But if you are not settled on a study Bible, the HCSB Study Bible is definitely one that I would recommend the reader consider. Even if you do not want to use the HCSB text as your main Bible translation, the HCSB Study Bible is well-worth the investment as a reference tool and perhaps even as your primary study Bible. Bravo Holman Bible Publishers on a job very well done!
If you are interested in purchasing a copy I recommend the Black Genuine Leather Indexed edition or, if you can afford it, the Black Premium Cowhide edition. I also recommend you order them through those links (Amazon referalls with the best price and optional free shipping) to help support my web ministry (http://www.frontlinemin.org/).