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OliveTree BibleReader for BlackBerry with ESV Study Bible, a review

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by Jason Smathers on December 15, 2009

BibleReader 4 for BlackBerry
Overall I am very happy with the product. I was using YouVersion on my BlackBerry for Bible reading and I found that having to access the internet caused too much latency to get to a verse. Particularly in a rural church with block walls keeping out wifi and most cell signal. BibleReader 4 is the best Bible reader I have used thus far on my BlackBerry. I will keep YouVersion on my BlackBerry, but only to use when I want a translation not in BibleReader.
General navigation in BibleReader is quite easy. I am able to get to a verse faster than I could using a paper Bible. In the past, using YouVersion, I would be the last person to the text in a Bible study because it was so slow. Using BibleReader, I am the first one there. The verse chooser is very easy to use and quick, which you can see in both videos. One caveat about speed, although getting around is quick once you are in BibleReader, it is not quick to load. Be sure to have it open to the library before you are ready to use it or you might find yourself in a pickle. I assume some of this slowness has to do with the amount of resources I loaded. I have about 150 MB in my library. When I say navigation is quick, I am talking about after you load the library.
I want to make it clear that I am very happy with what BibleReader does before I sink my teeth into what it doesn’t do.
UPDATE: What I thought was a problem with the way text scrolls, is actually a setting. By default, it is set to page scrolling, but by changing to line scrolling it is much easier to follow the text.
Note taking and highlighting is unfortunately missing from OliveTree on BlackBerry. I hope to see this added soon as it would really go a long way to making BibleReader a real alternative to a pocket sized paper Bible. Next to this, I would like to see some advanced search options, particularly searching across multiple resources. For example, I often want to find a specific phrase in the Bible, but am not sure what translation I am remembering the phrase from. Finally, some greater cross reference tools would be nice. When I am in a text, it would be great to see what resources I have the reference the verse rather than having to check each one to see if there is commentary on the verse.
Free Resources
OliveTree makes over 150 resources available for free. I am very impressed with the selection which includes great resources by John Piper, Spurgeon, Augustine, Luther, Calvin and others.
Some of the free resources are formated better than others. None of the ones I tried allowed for bookmarks to be placed. Searching did work well which is great.
Perhaps there is a way that I have missed, but I would love to be able to import my own resources. Think how powerful it would be to import your sermon notes or lesson plan right into BibleReader and also how great it would be if you could link to the text from your notes.
ESV Study Bible

The ESV Study Bible is a great resource. Heather uses it as her primary paper Bible and I frequently use the web version.

Navigation is easy. A cool feature is being able to access the ESV Study Bible notes from any translation. You can effectively have the ESV study Bible commentary with the NASB text or whatever your favorite translation is. When you are on a verse, you simply select the ESVSB from the library, and you are taken to the commentary for the verse you are on. Clicking the BlackBerry back button takes you back to the text or you can click the text in the commentary to be taken to that text in the Bible.
I am not going to get into an in depth review of the ESV Study Bible, I think it is already well recognized as one of the best study Bibles in existence. C.J. Mahaney says it well: “I can’t imagine a greater gift to the body of Christ than the ESV Study Bible. It is a potent combination indeed: the reliability and readability of the ESV translation, supplemented by the best of modern and faithful scholarship, packaged in an accessible and attractive format. A Christian could make no wiser investment for himself, a pastor could recommend no better resource for his congregation.”
The ESV Study Bible is huge. Now you can carry it in your pocket and you can navigate it quicker than ever.
Video demonstration of BibleReader with ESV Study Bible

Please excuse the audio in these videos, the only microphone I have is built into my laptop and it has an echo and picks up my laptop fan noise just as well as my voice.

Update:
After posting this review I received an email from Christopher Coleman, the developer for BlackBerry at OliveTree. He showed me that the scrolling problem that I mentioned is an option. Line scrolling will become the default in later versions, but for now you can change this in the options menu.
Christopher also pointed out a few more things:
  • The version of BibleReader in my video is not the latest. It seems OliveTree had an outdated link that I found. Christopher tells me the new version has a much nicer user interface than what you see in the video. I just upgraded and can confirm, it is much prettier! I do not have much more to say yet though because I have not had time to use this version at length yet.
  • The Strongs numbers can be hidden or shown using an option in the menu.
  • Notes and highlighting are coming soon
  • Searching and cross referencing across books is also on the to do list already.
  • The next features we will see: Greek & Hebrew support!

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