Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Keith Mathison's Bible Study Software Reviews

Keith Mathison of Ligonier Ministries has reviewed the three major Bible study software programs: BibleWorks, Logos, and Accordance. This morning Keith posted a summary and comparison of all three. What matters most when considering which of these three packages will be best for you is to consider the type of Bible study you do on a regular basis, the depth of that Bible study (devotional, for SS, for preaching, or for scholarly research), and how comfortable you are with doing your study on a computer (even PC or Mac).

I was given a copy of the Logos Scholar's Library, the smallest of the three Scholar's packages (compare them all here), in order to use and review, but I have hesitated to do so because of mixed feelings. I love the idea of a digital library and the possibilities of doing detailed searches, but after working at a computer all day long I find it difficult to sit and read via a computer screen in the evenings. Even with all of the search capabilities available, I love to sit in my library surrounded by real books, pulling them from the shelves, piling them up on my desks, thumbing through them, underlining and marking them up. The physical actions of handling them, turning their pages, and bookmarking them helps me to retain more of what I study. I realize that you can do similar tasks on the computer, but I find that the process of digging allows for more time to think and process information. Of course, a lot of this has to do with me and my circumstances, so I want to resist denigrating the value of the Logos Bible Study software. It truly is remarkable, and those willing to spend the time using this software will greatly benefit from it!

I have not used Bibleworks or Accordance, so I appreciated Keith's comments without being able to relate them to my own experience. On the other hand, I really appreciated his evaluation of Logos because it highlights some of my own concerns. Here are his comments:

LOGOS

Logos is strong in terms of the sheer number of resources it makes available. There are over 700 resources on the Scholar's Library Gold version that I reviewed. Logos is also the only program that currently has any kind of syntax search capability for the original languages. The Logos interface is one of the most intuitive of the three. It resembles a basic website interface. The amount and kind of resources is very helpful. To be able to do a search and see results in original language resources, commentaries, sermon illustration books, etc. is a strong point.

The main weakness of Logos is the cost. Even with the available discounts, the high price could be out of the reach of many pastors and seminary students who are trying to make ends meet. The other weakness of Logos is a byproduct of one of its strengths - namely the large number of resources. In the first place, most users will probably find a large number of these resources to be extraneous. Second, the large number of resources slows down searches - sometimes dramatically.
I heartily concur with the issue of cost as a weakness. With the rapid growth of digital readers and free research software online, the idea of re-purchasing digital copies of books I already own is difficult to swallow. The idea of purchasing new digital books at prices higher than printed copies is likewise difficult to justify (even though there are extra features included in the digital copies). It's the penny-pincher in me (along with the limited budget).

Most digital books are sold in packages which truly does allow for greater discounts, however, packages tend to be expensive. As opposed to purchasing books by the 10s of dollars, you have to consider purchasing packages by the 100s of dollars. The cumbersome nature of software packages along with the extraneous resources and slow search speeds is a disappointment. This is why I found the old Online Bible programs to be frustrating; they included a lot of resources that I never used, however their presence drastically slowed down the speed of the program.

Well, I probably should defer to the testimony of those who are far more experienced with these software packages than myself. I recommend to you the following reviews:

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