Saturday, August 11, 2012

BibleWorks Review: Digital Philosophy

Main BibleWorks post

Yes, that’s right, BibleWorks cautions against building up electronic libraries. Does it sound kind of weird for an electronic Bible software company to take such an approach? Not when you hear their reasons. Their stance is actually one of the reasons I immensely respect Bibleworks, something I don’t say often about any business, secular or Christian. 

Though BibleWorks does offer different modules, they are mainly lexicons and original language grammars. At the bottom of their module page, BibleWorks has “Some Thoughts About Electronic Libraries.” Here, they caution against building up your electronic library for two reasons. The first is that “there is no guarantee computers will, in as few as ten years, be able to read today's electronic media” [1]. This is followed by a link to two articles that further explain this. The first article, “At Libraries, Taking the (Really) Long View,” surveys the problems that librarians are having as they try to preserve their resources in digital form. The article ends with, "The clarity is that there is no set course [for preserving digital resources], and that things are very much in the air. It’s nice to have clear uncertainty at the very least, I guess" [2]

“The Digital Ice Age” article has a similar thesis and uses a few different examples to illustrate. For instance, National Archives' Electronic Records Archive (ERA) is tasked with preserving all historical relevant documents from the federal government. The problem is, at the time the article was written, the ERA had 4,500 different file types to deal with, each requiring a unique solution. The ERA’s solution is converting files into a flexible file type, but not all agree that it will work. The conclusion of the matter? “Consumers have shown little interest in digital preservation, and corporations are in the business of meeting consumer demand. Others say corporations are only concerned with selling more new products” [3]. Doesn’t exactly leave us with much hope.

                The second reason Bibleworks gives for caution is that today there is no standard for electronic format, and specifically for bible resources. BW links to an article entitled, “Is it Time for a Second STEP?” which describes why a standard format for bible software is not likely to come. The implication of this is that if your Bible software all of a sudden goes defunct, all of the resources you have bought are gone as well. I suppose you can continue operating the defunct software, but as soon as new operating systems are released (which we all know happens quite frequently) you will be faced with the decision to either continue running your outdated OS or make the jump and lose everything. 

 With this in mind, BibleWorks’ stance is a breath of fresh air and proof that they truly are thinking of their customers. They are not completely against owning digital commentaries and the like[4], and they agree that it makes sense to buy electronic versions of the reference works you use on a daily basis, but for everything else they recommend buying the print versions first, and only then buying the digital version if you really need it.

[4] As their new agreement with WORDsearch demonstrates


  1. so why not just have a computer that is for only your bible resources, in todays market you can buy a really fast one that would be very suitable for all your bible research library, the covetousness of people to always have new will put a lot of very good used computers at your grasp, which would make an excellent resource library, make sure to load up on hd's that work with this computer, i have around 10-15 hd's for hd failure, my computers range 2.8 - 3.2, 2 are duel core 2 aren't, maybe $375 for all 4, and there all nice too, anyway this will take care of your older bible/resource programs, then when they make new programs that work with only new os systems, then start another library resource computer, whats the big deal,

    1. Yeah, that is an idea for sure. The only thing is the computers aren't exactly designed to last for a long time. Five years is considered a good long life for most. So that would work for a bit, just not long term.

  2. I greatly appreciate this article. It has given me pause to think. But my one caveat in response is Logos, which I can tell is in the crosshairs of this post. So far Logos has done a marvelous job of being a multiplatform software company and I believe they will continue this trend.
    Doesn't that cover many of the concerns you have raised?

    1. Logos isn't necessarily in the crosshairs, but rather the entire e-resource market. Logos just happens to be the big man on campus.

      Yeah, I do think Logos is big enough that they won't fall anytime soon, and will probably continue for a very long time. In fact, I will probably soon be purchasing logos myself for access to their insanely large library.

      However, I really don't know what is in the future for computers either, and should things change drastically, nothing is guaranteed to make the jump when it comes. Which is what I will always consider before buying a resource that is strictly digital.