Books are great things, but they aren't always inexpensive, nor are they always
easily portable. Try lugging an 800-page reference book around, for example. While
eReader devices are perhaps poised to make a splash, the lack of cross-device
compatibility and some user-friendly features may pose problems for serious
researchers and students.
What's the answer? A small firm in Bellingham, Washington, some 91 miles north of
Seattle, might hold more than a few keys.
Logos Research Systems, whose products have been reviewed here before, is in the
process of launching Logos Bible Software 4, and it's revolutionary both in
concept and execution. And, I believe, it might have implications beyond the world
of religious studies.
In the past, users would spend anywhere between about $150 to $1,500 and buy a
particular Logos Bible Software "package," and receive both a software
"engine" and the rights to use electronic copies of various books. Many of the
reference works, on Logos, are priced at a fraction of their print counterparts, and
have the added advantage of near-instantaneous lookup, as well as linkage with other
"books" in your copy of the program's computer-based library.
Now that's cool, but it could also be limited. If you didn't shlep your
computer to and from the office or classroom, you might be stuck. And forget about
handheld access: how would you pack 1,400 books on a Palm Pilot?
Logos Bible Software 4 eliminates this problem. I'm not sure of the legal moves,
but the idea, now, is that a user can have mirror images of their digital libraries
on computers at work and home, as well as a rather huge representation of titles on
their iPhone, and everything works together, right down to keeping your "place"
in a dozen (or more) books from where you were at work to your den to your mobile
If the old way was "cool," what adjective fits this?
One of the big things I've found in using Logos' products is the tremendous
synergy that erupts. If you're researching a given topic, it's possible to find
hundreds of references and linkages across a diverse range of books and thinkers.
Many serious students also like to delve into the "original" languages of
Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic. Again, thanks to the integration of all the texts and
resources with a computerized search system, the cross-references and discoveries
are almost endless.
I also like the new "home" screen of Logos Bible Software 4, which resembles a
Web page or a newsmagazine layout. There are different articles and readings daily,
as well as ways to dig deeper into various subjects. The overall program is very
inviting and non-threatening for the novice user.
On the iPhone side, the Logos Bible Software application, which is free at the
iTunes Applications Store, will tap into your library, via a wireless data
connection, and bring up the items you need or want. You can also specify titles
that are of greatest need or interest. Not every Logos title shows up perfectly on
the iPhone at the moment, but they're working on refining it, as well as a Mac
version of the new desktop software. Ultimately, all three platforms, Windows,
iPhone and Mac, will work together rather seamlessly.
But think, for a moment, beyond the (rather large) "niche" market of people who
study the Bible and related resources. Think of doctors, lawyers, accountants or
anyone who needs to consult a wide range of texts, some old and some modern, on a
continual basis. I would imagine that the Logos Bible Software "engine" could be
adapted to these areas, and that similar benefits could emerge.
And for those who have a serious interest in Bible study, the combination of
Logos' technology and the firm's access to a super-wide range of titles, suggest
that this new product will attract a great deal of attention. Information can be
found at www.logos.com, and believe me - it's very well worth it.
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JWR contributor Mark Kellner has reported on technology for industry newspapers and magazines since 1983, and has been the computer columnist for The Washington Times since 1991.Comment by clicking here.