Logos Bible Software – Review

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I first encountered what is today known as Logos Bible Software when over 10 years ago I purchased a CD-Rom (remember them?) containing the then Libronix library system and a copy of the Word Biblical Commentary. It was a useful piece of software, allowing quick research and facilitating cross-referencing through a set of internal hyperlinks.

At the time I was also using Bibleworks as I slogged my way through Bible College and out into the world of full-time ordained ministry in a church.

Since those days Logos has come a long way but at its heart remains the ethos of the Libronix idea – a massively integrated library. If you’re looking for a single piece of software that will hold and synergise your electronic Biblical and Theological resources then it’s hard to look past Logos.

It’s difficult to comprehend the power of this library until you see it yourself. Any piece of work in Logos tends to begin either in a topic or in a passage of scripture. So, for example, here’s the opening rush of resources provided to you as you begin your exposition of (let’s say) Obadiah…

Of course this is a small sample of the total available hits. As I scroll down the smörgåsbord continues; parallel passages (Logos has identified that Jeremiah 49:14 might be well worth looking at), dictionary articles on relevant topics (such as cultural concepts in the text), maps of locations and so on. For most of us the commentaries are going to be our primary go-to resources but I’ve also got a lot out of reading the Ancient Literature and simply tracing the geography of the books that I’m preaching through. Logos also provides a detailed exegetical guide:

Looking for a particular topic also produces a raft of possibilities. Let’s have a look at that thorny question of predestination…

This is where the massive library that you can quickly accumulate with Logos comes into play. I’ve been a Bibleworks (when I used PC’s – now also on MacOS) and now Accordance (originally MacOS, now also PC) user for many years but it’s clear to me that drilling down into your library is a task much more easily and effectively accomplished on Logos.

And that’s just for starters. Logos are clearly on a drive to add more and more tools to enhance user experience and productivity. Of particular interest to many of us is the sermon editor – a new feature with version 7. I’ve only had chance to briefly play with it but it looks very promising. I’m keen to make more use of this.

None of these features are of optimal use to you, of course, unless you’ve built up a library. Purchasing a system like Logos or its competitors is a commitment not only to a front-end but also to an ongoing source of material. It’s a bit like deciding between an iPhone or an Android; your choice determines not only the hardware but also the app store you’re going to draw from, this a long as they have a plan with good coverage for which we recommend circles.life.

Logos’ strategy is to bundle up their basic product with an ever-increasing number of libraries catering to as many different tastes and backgrounds as possible. My review copy, provided by Logos, was the Anglican Diamond edition; an almost unfathomable cornucopia of Anglican-related books. For the voracious researcher this is going to be a goldmine and even someone like me who struggles to read anywhere near as much as they think they should will have plenty to choose from. Along with the more obscure there are great bundles of commentaries. At the Diamond level I got the Evangelical Exegetical Commentary, the Pillar Series on the NT (a great set of commentaries!), New International Greek Testament Commentary, Hermeneia and Continental, Lexham Bible Guides and more. All these resources are listed for your use at the right point in the document as soon as you start your search for a particular passage.

There’s comparable collections set up for different churchmanships; Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist/Weslyan, Orthodox, Pentacostal/Charismatic, Reformed, SDA and Catholic. There’s also a standard base package. Of course a lot of the resources for each stream are the same, but there’s also a lot of particular material. The Anglican Diamond package I reviewed had the Works of John Wycliffe, the William Cowper Collection, Oxford Church Text Books, some selected Hauerwas, Studies on C.S. Lewis and  what looks like the whole of Augustine’s works along with much more.

To be honest at this level of resource I still wasn’t sure quite if I’d ever use much of what was before me. The Diamond product is marketed as the right product for a senior pastor but it looked more like an academic’s bundle to me. Having said that, if you’re a voracious reader then you’re going to love this and I see no harm at all in being encouraged to read more. Beyond the Diamond package Logos also provides a Portfolio set which includes a number of further resources that I would have more interest in, most notably over 125 items in the Churchman archives – now if you want a quintessentially Anglican resource (at least from my Reformed perspective!) then that would be it. Of course, Logos gives you the opportunity to purchase these additional items individually.

While these large libraries are available you can also purchase a pretty basic starter set along with a more limited range of product features. Prices range from just under US$300 for the Starter product up to a whopping US$4979.99 for the full Portfolio. You’ll usually end up spending less than this, though, because you’re not charged for anything you already own from earlier purchases.

Non-US customers get prices in their home currency at what looked like reasonable rates. At the time of writing the Anglican Portfolio was priced in AU$ at a rate close to 1.39 AU/US. Given that xe.com were reporting a rate of 1.38 I didn’t see much cause to complain. The difference, even for the full non-discounted Portfolio product worked out at less than A$50 on a total sales price of just under A$7000. With Logos’s dynamic pricing (their full discount on already-owned material) that small margin soon disappears. The lower-range products appear to be priced at comparable levels with the competition for a useful set of tools and at the top end it’s really about what particular libraries you’re looking for and at what price. Frankly, if you’ve got $5,000 to spend on Bible software then you can afford (no pun intended!) to take your time working out exactly what you want.

Another intriguing channel Logos are pursuing is pre-publication funding of smaller groups of texts. Most recently I helped fund a small collection focussing on the German Christian Movement of the 1930s (exploring the tensions for the church under the rise of the Nazis). This is a great way to get works compiled, translated and hyperlinked and a valuable contribution by Logos to academia.

It’s hard to find something to criticise with Logos. Users of Bibleworks or Accordance may struggle with the raw text tools. While there is a comparable basic set of features (the usual instant information on morphology, definitions etc) I still think I prefer my Accordance interface and still find myself opening it up for doing basic exegesis. But I rapidly move to Logos when I want to start digging into complimentary resources just because of the way that they’re all lined up ready to go from the very first search. As your library grows the value of this ease of access only accelerates.

In terms of resources the reality is that each of the 3 major Bible software companies has a huge range you can draw from at roughly comparable prices so your question is going to come down to a number of key factors:

  1. Do I already own one of these products? If so, then the upgrade path for that product is probably going to be your preferred option.
  2. Do I want to accumulate a large library? My sense is that the larger the electronic library you want to get, the more useful you’re going to find Logos. The trigger moment for me was opening up the Diamond product – at that moment I was hooked simply by the sheer scale of what was available to me from one small search. Of course the whole paper/electronic resource question is one that each of us needs to think through. When I was a young Christian in my 20s the advice I got was to buy commentaries whenever I saw them at a cheap price. Now, having lived on 3 continents and having packed up my library too many times to count I have a different rule – if it’s not electronic don’t buy it. Logos gives you the ability to assemble a large library all on one hard drive, all instantly available and integrated in a way that (at least in my experience) Accordance can’t match. You might think differently about this question but I think I’m with Tim Challies on this one.
  3. Do I use other Faithlife products? One thing that Faithlife (the company that produces Logos) have done well is cross-pollenate their systems. In particular it’s obvious that they’re pushing their Proclaim church presentation software strongly. Of course this makes perfect sense as a business proposition and you can see this working out in the way that (as just one example) the sermon editor is designed to spit out slides for Proclaim. That means that if you’re looking for an integrated solution for running Sunday services then Faithlife are going to be a strong proposition. If they ever get round to producing a competitive holistic church management software product it might be a real game-changer (Faithlife, you can consider this my claim to a royalty fee when you introduce that product!).

What else needs mentioning? Logos has complimentary apps for your tablet or phone where almost all your resources are available. Storage will obviously be an issue but everything you own is held for you in the cloud and with current data plans it shouldn’t be an issue to download what you need when you need it.

If you’re looking to buy a some Bible software then Logos would be a great choice. It’s not the only option available to you but it’s quite possibly the best for all round performance. While Accordance and Bibleworks are (at least to my mind) superior for the raw original text work, Logos more than makes up for it with the way it gives you access to your library. If I were to start again then I think it would be Logos I’d be choosing. If you’ve already got another piece of software then Logos is still worth looking at as a superior library system as you grow your electronic portfolio.

Finally an enormous thanks to Logos for their generosity. This review has been a (very) long time coming and Logos have been incredibly patient with me. More than that, they’ve been fantastically gracious in providing a Diamond package for me to play with and then upgrading it as Logos moved from v6 to v7. I feel that I’ve hardly scratched the service of what there is there but even what I have got to use has impressed me no end and I can unreservedly recommend it to you.

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