Some time ago, I started a YouTube channel called Bible Software Guy. Just as many auto mechanics were successful with channels about repairing cars, I thought I’d do one with my own little niche. Sure, there are far fewer people doing work in advanced Bible software than repairing cars, but I thought this would be helpful. Many actually did feel this way. My video on how to try Logos Bible Software for free received over 2,400 views, which is a large number at least for me. I was also surprised recently how there were still some recent kind comments on videos including some questions on when I was going to get off my laurels and do some more videos.
My history with Bible software started as I was beginning my studies at Dallas Seminary online while still on active duty and living in Japan. After some weighing of options, I chose Accordance over Logos. Sometime thereafter, DTS announced that all students would be receiving a DTS-customized, Logos “Silver” equivalent package for free. I continue to have both, and I’ve added to each library where appropriate or necessary, but I’ve never updated the Logos “feature set,” a term which refers to many of the functional aspects of the software such as Bible Sense Lexicon, Factbook, and Timeline. Having been out of the loop at the wrong time, I sadly missed the opportunity to pick up BibleWorks before its company ceased operations. I never heard a foul word about them.
As Logos progresses into future versions, I can’t see myself investing any money in future upgrades. Here’s why.
I purchased my current MacBook Pro, a late-2013 15″ Retina version, on Black Friday 2013 while vacationing with my wife in O’ahu. We had good news and bad news around that time. The good news that we learned was that we were expecting our first child! The bad news was that Logos was still slow on this brand new, ultra-fast system. Although speed improvements have been made to the Logos engine on Mac at least up to my current installation of Logos 7, the reality remains that Logos is significantly slower and less stable on my system than Accordance. The occasional need to index the Logos library can also be debilitating upon the system and makes one jokingly wonder if it’s mining bitcoins.
On the mobile side, I always found Logos’ apps to be almost completely unusable unless one is reading a book straight through. In some cases, that defeats the point of paying a higher price for the Logos version versus a standard eBook.
Faithlife (Logos’ parent company) claims that Logos 8 is faster than 7, but I’ve yet to test that out myself, as I’m willing neither to pay for the upgrade nor to unethically exploit the secret URL that allows a non-paying user to download the Logos 8 engine for free.
The Questions of Cost
It’s no secret that Bible software can get expensive very quickly, and this is nothing unique to Logos. A purchase of the Accordance “All-in-All” collection is currently priced at $39,999.00. Let the reader understand: the laborer deserves his wages. Whether in the form of Logos base packages or Accordance collections, these monies eventually go to the publishers and authors who originally produced print resources that were later converted to digital. Other portions of these prices go to workers who convert the resources to digital format, which involves producing an accurate table of contents, hyperlinks of scripture references, and sometimes involves grammatical tagging. Rightly addressing this issue requires level-headedness and understanding. The former is rare. The latter is difficult to acquire and even more difficult to communicate well, so I ask your forgiveness if I fail to communicate such.
What’s It Really Worth?
Not long after I had made an initial investment of about $500 to purchase what was then the Accordance 10 “Essential” collection, I recall discussing with a friend who had made a large investment of his own into Logos. No, our discussion was not a war about which software package was better. Rather, it was about the typical aversion we had observed against making such large purchases of Bible software. Many perceive such high prices to be unjustified or outright greedy and un-Christian. The Bible should be free, right?
Here was my mental reply to that concern in 2012: How much did you pay for that iPad?
Our culture is willing to pay high dollar for nice things. The average cost for a new car is $34,000 when a cheaper used vehicle might still “do the job.” Apple and Samsung seem to be doing just fine selling $1,000 smartphones even while sending messages of being “socially responsible.” One credit hour at a conservative evangelical seminary can cost between $552 and $705. American Christians love Chick-Fil-A, where a small, four-to-six dollar chicken sandwich might be making a 90% profit margin (just my guess). Yet when The Preacher’s Bible (then $200) was released, half of Christian Twitter choked on their waffle fries!
Are these prices un-Christian? Is it sinful to pay any of these prices instead of getting something cheaper? No and no, and we need to rethink our priorities before making such criticisms of Bible software.
Are Bible software collections worth their high prices? I can’t answer that for you in your individual situation. My answer with respect to the resources I’ve acquired in my last six years of using high-end Bible software is an unequivocal yes. But I’m not you, and I only purchased a large collection once. Everything after that has either been handed to me (Logos through DTS) or I’ve acquired as individual purchases, some of which were still three figures. That initial $500 is still the largest individual Bible software purchase I’ve made, and I’ve never regretted it.
I would, however, be more regretful if I had personally spent the purchase value of my Logos software to acquire it. Part of that is because I have many resources in my Logos library that I already had in Accordance. The other end of that that Accordance is rightly my primary Bible interface, and going back and forth between the two makes for a distracting experience. If I may make one more comparison, I do not regret purchasing things in Accordance which I later received for free in Logos.
The price of high-end Bible software may not be for you. That’s fine, but don’t throw stones at Logos just because you see dollar signs.
Ambiguity in Upgrade Costs
Faithlife states that “You can upgrade to Logos 8 without investing in additional books.” The accuracy of this statement depends on what one considers a “book.” Based on the library I already own, the minimal feature upgrade costs $109.11. Purchasing this starter upgrade would upgrade the Logos engine to version 8 and add various software-interface features, some of which do look rather interesting. Others, however, sound more like digitized books. Nineteen resources in this list that I do not own are reverse interlinear Bibles. One is a “Harmony of the Synoptic Gospels for Historical and Critical Study.” The very top of the overall list is a group of nine lectionaries. Faithlife may argue that these aren’t “books” because the way the software is able to present them differs significantly from a physical book — much more so than a Kindle book or PDF. They should reconsider the wording of this claim, as it has resulted in many confused users as evidenced in the comments section of the starter feature upgrade page.
While Accordance has been content to provide upgrades to its engine for about $50 for each new version, including various new features within the actual engine, Logos bundles “feature upgrades” (not to be confused at various prices above $100. Comparing these bundle prices gets difficult when one starts to account for what is already in the user’s library. A minimal “starter feature upgrade” based on what I already own is $109.11. A “bronze feature upgrade” is $272.16. A “full feature upgrade” is $341.31. Browsing through each offering produces some interesting resources that might be nice to have individually, but paying three digits for having so many resources that I don’t expect to use doesn’t make sense. The web interfaces for these upgrades present no easy way to click through and purchase the included features or resources individually.
In short: we shouldn’t criticize Faithlife just because Logos is comparatively expensive to even a high-end paper Bible. However, continuing to upgrade the Logos features, as opposed to adding publications and resources to one’s library, may not be as sound of an investment for me as they claim.
Most Things Above Us readers probably remember a few years back when criticism of heaven tourism books and LifeWay was at its peak. The selling of books claiming heaven tourism ought to have been a very clear-cut issue for a bookstore operated by the Southern Baptist Convention. And rightly enough, nobody has boycotted Amazon for selling these books because Amazon is not church-operated and doesn’t even claim to be Christian. Where does Faithlife stand in this regard, and to what standard should they — and Accordance for that matter — be held?
Arguably, the standard to which we hold LifeWay may not be the same to which we hold scholarly Bible software. After all, part of scholarship is the close examination of perspectives outside the pale of orthodoxy. For example, both Accordance and Logos sell Roman Catholic commentaries such as Sacra Pagina. Even as I’m writing this, the Logos version of Sacra Pagina‘s Romans volume looks attractive for the value of being able to examine and understand Roman Catholic soteriology. I’m actually tempted to pick it up right now. But we may rightly be worried if we saw LifeWay offering the same in the context of “Here’s a great commentary on Romans, Southern Baptists!”
But in the case of Logos, some “base packages” are explicitly tailored towards groups outside the pale of orthodoxy: Eastern Orthodoxy, Seventh-Day Adventism, and Roman Catholicism, the latter being under the Verbum brand. In other words, Logos isn’t just saying “Here are commentaries from outside orthodoxy so that you can be a well-prepared preacher and scholar.” Instead, Logos is saying, “Here’s something to make you and others better Roman Catholics.” That does appear to cross a different line. And outside of Logos’ scholarly and pastoral emphases, Faithlife Ebooks appears not to have a discernment standard of any kind.
This isn’t any kind of insistence that we boycott Logos absolutely, but this should at least color our perception of the company that offers it and does negatively impact my ability to recommend its products to others.
But I Still Can’t Get Rid of It
If I have so many things in both Accordance and Logos, and Accordance is my primary Bible study interface, why must I still keep Logos on my system? Besides those library items that I do have exclusively in Logos and not Accordance, there’s one thing: I can buy individual commentary volumes on Logos.
Just earlier, I mentioned the Sacra Pagina volume on Romans that looked tempting for scholarly and research purposes. I can’t do that in Accordance; instead, I must purchase the entire Sacra Pagina set for $349. Sure, there are periodically some nice discounts, but buying individual volumes on Accordance is difficult. If I really want that individual commentary, I might just piecemeal it in Logos.
I suspect there will never be a perfect solution here, but I do hope this is helpful as you pursue resources in your personal study.
Garrett, thank you for your thoughtful post. I’d like to offer a quick comment about buying individual commentary volumes for Accordance. What I’ll say is probably not news to you, but may be to some of your readers who aren’t as familiar.
While it’s true that we don’t currently offer individual volumes of the Sacra Pagina, we do make individual volumes available for a number of series including Word Biblical, NICOT/NT, NIVAC, and others.
A lot goes into the decision. We feel there’s greater value in having an entire series (when possible) in one module for comprehensive searching across the series, so that’s usually the default way we offer a series. And this is one way we differ from Logos in that they usually offer commentary volumes individually by default. Logos and we offer the greatest discounts when purchasing a commentary series as an entire set, of course.
However, we offer individual volumes, or at least subsets, for some of the larger series to make them more affordable. Also, sometimes particular series get used more in classes where only one volume is required. And then, sometimes, there’s simply a lot of demand from our users that volumes in a series be made available individually, and we try to listen to these requests and see what we can do.
Sacra Pagina is a very good series or both Catholic and non-Catholic readers, but it’s not well known. We’ve not had many requests to make these volumes available individually and at $349 as our regular price for all 18 volumes, it’s a bargain even when it’s not on sale.
Accordance Bible Software