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Originally published Saturday, December 10, 2005 at 12:00 AM

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The old Bible in new packages

The Holy Bible, a staple of hotel rooms and many American households, remains a popular choice for Christmas giving. Especially now that publishers...

Newhouse News Service

WASHINGTON — The Holy Bible, a staple of hotel rooms and many American households, remains a popular choice for Christmas giving. Especially now that publishers are determined to light a candle in every imaginable lifestyle niche.

This season's offerings include portable Bibles, quick-read Bibles, Biblezines and the latest in devotional and study Bibles. They come in shapes, sizes and scriptural translations to suit almost every potential believer. There's even something for readers who don't know where to begin when it comes to the Bible.

How niche-specific does the Bible get these days? Here's a quick look at four specialized versions:

"Real: The Complete New Testament"

Target reader: 25-year-old black male

What's unique: the complete New Testament in a magazine format, with hip-hop photos and features, including "Bible 411" on Jesus, Resurrection, hell and heaven; and "The Script," rap renditions of Gospel stories, including Jesus feeding the 5,000 and his Crucifixion

Bible translation: New Century Version

"God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son so that whoever believes in him may not be lost, but have eternal life."

— John 3:16

Publisher: Nelson Bibles, $16.99, in stores

"The Outdoor Bible"

Target reader: skiers, snowboarders, hikers, hunters, climbers, boaters or anyone in the military or doing mission work in the outdoors

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What's unique: the New Testament printed on six thin water- and tear-resistant plastic sheets, folded like road maps and packaged in a burlap bag

Bible translation: New American Standard Bible

"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life."

— John 3:16

Publisher: Bardin & Marsee, $34.95, or $9.95 per "map," available only online at www.theoutdoorbible.com

"The HCSB Light Speed Bible"

Target reader: anyone with seventh-grade reading ability and more desire than free time to read the Bible cover to cover

What's unique: a step-by-step plan allowing you to read the entire Bible in 24 hours or less with, the editors promise, "good comprehension"; Old and New Testaments marked for reading at four intensity levels (Light, Landmark, Learning and Meditative) plus self-quizzes to check your understanding

Bible translation: Holman Christian Standard Bible

"For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life."

— John 3:16

Publisher: Broadman & Holman, $19.97, in stores

"The Complete Idiot's Guide to The Bible" (third edition)

Target reader: complete idiots — or anyone, as the introduction says, "haunted by ghosts of Bible studies past"

What's unique: maps, timelines, explanation of how an epistle differs from a Gospel, a fair amount of context to the writings of the Bible, a glossary of biblical names and terms, a section on noncanonical books that didn't make it into the "official" Bible

Bible translation: volume doesn't include the whole text

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."

— John 3:16

Publisher: Alpha, $18.95, in stores

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