Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Logos for Mac and Accordance: Smackdown!

Okay, that is a provocative title for what is intended to be an irenic post. There has been a bit of fur flying as a result of this post by Paul T. McCain noting the release of an alpha version of Logos for the Mac. (At this Logos site, you can view a short video of the alpha in action, and you can download the alpha version. If you have licenses to Windows resources, you should be able to open them in the Mac version.) McCain, who is Publisher and Executive Director of the Editorial Department at Concordia Publishing House, followed up with this post including a screenshot, and then this post where he predicts the eventual demise of Accordance. He claims that Logos and the Libronix platform are the "obvious" choice because

  1. "Libronix is the largest provider of digital texts" [true],
  2. Libronix "offers very powerful original language research tools" [true] that are so good that "there is no reason to obtain alternative software packages like Accordance or BibleWorks" [hmmmmm????],
  3. Accordance has a "clunky interface" and lacks "core functionality" [hmmm???],
  4. and nowhere but with Libronix can you obtain digital editions of core Lutheran works [well, not really...] "Simply put, there is no other resource remotely comparable to it [Libronix] for Lutheran theological research and study." [probably true...]
The good folks at Accordance quickly responded with a defense of their work here and here. They don't plan to go out of business anytime soon!

If this argument interests you, let me make some observations. Do note that I have very little experience with the Mac. I do have their Bible Atlas module, and have commented on the good experience I have had with it. I am, however, fairly proficient with both BibleWorks and Logos.
  • I disagree with the claim that Logos has now made other Bible software programs, Accordance and BibleWorks in particular, unworthy alternatives. Personally, I am usually running both BibleWorks and Logos at the same time. (Thank goodness for dual monitors!) As has long been noted, BibleWorks7 is simply much faster in most instances in conducting searches on biblical texts. (BW7 is even faster for setting up searches once you become familiar with the somewhat arcane command line codes. And, as I have long complained, Logos still has not fixed their unreliable LXX database.) OTOH, I need Logos for the Anchor Bible Dictionary and a ton of other commentaries and books I use for research. Logos is also developing some important original language research tools making use of syntax and discourse analysis. I would be unhappy if I had to choose one or the other.
  • What if money is an issue, so that a person really can't afford more than one program? I try to present the strengths of both Logos and BW7 to my students. Most end up buying BW7, because it is a better 'value' in terms of the biblical texts and language resources they can get. BUT, almost all of them also end up getting Logos. A number of required textbooks come with Libronix CDs, and they slowly build up a library of other Bibles and books. Since BW7 can create an external link to Logos books, they end up working fairly well together. And the Mac users? They usually do end up buying Accordance, even though it is somewhat pricier for what they are able to get. (Logos for the Mac has been promised for a long time, and it still is just an alpha version.) All of them have been very happy with Accordance.
  • As for interfaces: I have been through QuickVerse > BibleWindows=Bibloi > BibleWorks5>6>7 and LogosX > Logos3. Each one of those transitions took some getting used to. I had gotten quite comfortable with BW6 and the switch to BW7 was unsettling, but ultimately, BW7 makes the most sense to me. In fact, I have set up my Logos3 so that it approximates BW7. Works for me. I took a look at the Logos for Mac alpha, and it pretty much appears to look and act like the Windows version. That may be a great thing for some but not necessarily so for native Mac users. I had a Mac friend show me how they use Accordance, and they were intuitively doing things that made no sense to my Windows mind.
  • It is a bit suspect that an employee of Concordia Publishing House would criticize Accordance for not having CPH products when CPH appears not to be willing to license its products to Accordance but only to Libronix. And CPH is not the only publishing house that appears to have established exclusive relationships with Libronix. Hey, that is the right of publishing houses to make such decisions, and they certainly need to figure out their own costs/profits. I realize that the issue of obtaining licenses is rather complicated (ask the BibleWorks people about their attempts to get rights to the critical edition of the Greek NT from the German Bible Society!), and there are costs to consider, profits to maximize, etc., but McCain's criticism of Accordance does appear to be self-serving and reflecting a conflict of interest.
  • As for the claim that you can get core Lutheran works only in Logos/Libronix, that is not true. Check out the "Lutheran Resources" for BibleWorks, including the Bente edition of the Book of Concord which you can download for FREE. (Yes, you will get more Lutheran resources that are updated in Libronix...)
For now, I am quite happy to have this competition between Logos, BibleWorks, and Accordance, as well as others. Part of the reason for why I write this blog is to encourage best practices, better implementations, more resources, etc. I'm not thinking that this is a winner-take-all battle. I'm more interested in having a repertoire of tools that I can use depending on my needs.


  1. I think just about everyone can agree that McCain's initial statement was a bit over-reaching. At the least, most of it was subjective, which means that there really can be no argument about it since it was, after all, just his opinion. But I think for the broader issue you hit the nail on the head:

    "It is a bit suspect that an employee of Concordia Publishing House would criticize Accordance for not having CPH products when CPH appears not to be willing to license its products to Accordance but only to Libronix....but McCain's criticism of Accordance does appear to be self-serving and reflecting a conflict of interest."

    The picture we are missing is why CPH has decided to license only to Libronix. Otherwise it's not really fair to slam another program because your company chose to license with the other company. At best, it's bad business practice to anger people with who are actively seeking out your company in order to make both your company and their own more profits.

    Perhaps McCain or someone else in the publishing business could comment on this, but I assume the ultimate motivator is that traditional publishing houses are still ambivalent about how to approach the electronic format and they don't want too many competing resources for the same product. I don't know whether that argument really is to their advantage or disadvantage, but you can see the same thing happening in MP3 format/wars or more recently how movie studios were fighting over Blu-Ray and HD-DVD.

    As a consumer I am annoyed to have to buy multiple "copies" of resources like BDAG (because they cost a lot!) for the book edition and the BibleWorks version I use. I believe it does ultimately hurt the paper-publishing industry. I am much more hesitant to buy paper commentaries because I know that at a later date I can get them much cheaper for the electronic ones. However, I am less likely to get the electronic version now because I know I will only get it for one program, when in reality the one I use most is the program that does not have the licenses to that material.

    Thanks for your commentary. It's nice to have a "neutral" ground to discuss the matter.

  2. Someone who has been involved with publishing and who quite appropriately wishes to remain anonymous submitted the following comment:

    As a publisher who has been involved in licensing multiple products to Logos and to Accordance (and who uses Accordance on his Mac and Logos on his PC), I would note only that there are several possible reasons why a particular publication would be available through one software developer and not another. (1) As already indicated, some publishers may choose to work strictly with one developer and not the other. Based on my experience, this would be rare (and foolish). (2) More frequently, a given product will be available from one developer but not another simply because the latter has good reasons for not seeking to license it. To state the obvious, larger companies have greater developer resources, both human and financial, and thus are more likely to provide a broader product line than a smaller (but still excellent) developer. There is nothing conspiratorial or insidious in all this; it is simply a business reality: each company seeks to use its resources as wisely as possible so that it serves the greater good over the long term. I have no idea why Accordance has no CPH and few Lutheran resources available (although I suspect explanation 2 above is close to the truth), but I do know that both Accordance and Logos are worthy of our fondness, thanks, and respect.

  3. Mark,

    Very nice job: very well said. Loved the title too!