Read Through The Bible In A Group This Year


Since the turn of the year is nearly upon us and since it’s customary to begin a new bible reading program at that time I want to invite you on a journey through the Bible with a growing group of like minded individuals. Like any potential adventure it could be quite dangerous. First it might be dangerous because the program I’m going to suggest is in “beta” mode right now. That means that it’s stable enough to test but not necessarily stable enough to call stable; though in all fairness I have not found it to be unstable.

Second it’s likely to be dangerous to your current way of life. God’s word has a powerful effect on those who actually read it. It will change you and that for the better.

The First thing you need to do is take a look at the Logos Bible software page on the Global Bible Reader Beta Test. This is where you’ll be able to read about and download the program. Let’s assume you’re interested, what can you expect?

Let me walk you through the current beta version which was announced just this week in the Logos newsgroups.

Installation

Once you download the installer double click it to run it.
You’ll see a simple install screen, just click next to walk through the installation. Once it’s complete you’ll be presented with the final installation screen.

That’s it! Now it’s time to click finish and the program is run for you.

Trial Run

When you run it you’ll first see the little purple book icon appear in the task bar area. Soon after you’ll see the main program.

Hmm, unfortunately I ran into a snag. The Internet server which feeds the program wasn’t responding.
I tried adding it to my windows firewall but alas that apparently wasn’t the problem. I’m going to guess that the server is down and try again later.

Behold through the power of the Internet you have traveled forward in time to the point where I can finish this review…. 🙂 The problem wasn’t the firewall at all actually it was an incomplete install. I still had Libronix running during the last install, I turned it off and removed then reinstalled the program (repairing it through the control panel’s add/remove programs applet did not work) and it is working fine. I’m not sure if it was a problem with Libronix or a hiccup from some other source. At any rate it’s working now. When it finally loads you’ll see the following screen.

Options

Notice your options. First in the top corner is a log in section. Logging in provides only a small change, your user information is displayed and a drop down lets you change the time you’ll be reminded to read for the day. Second there are two icons which enable you to switch from the KJV to the ESV bible (ESV for me) as well as a small red box icon with an L that opens up Libronix to the passage in your preferred bible and executes a passage guide on the current text.
Third there is a tiny drop down next to the current reading plan which enables you to switch between any of the current three available, which you can see are the entire bible in a year, the gospel of John in a month or the New Testament in six months.

Features

There are a surprising number of good features in the program. If you reference the screen shot above you see the red calendar icon centered on the top of the screen. Below it you can observe that you are behind or not. By clicking it you can read a few days in advance if you wish. Reading the bible is equally easy. Just read the text on the screen clicking the small gray arrow on the bottom right of the page to continue. I was happy to notice that I didn’t have to click my arrow I could just scroll the wheel on my wheel mouse and the page would advance, that is a nice touch. The size of the text is also changeable by adjusting the control on the bottom left of the screen. Next to that is a great little pay feature for Logos in the form of a very small and very unobtrusive advertisement for their latest deal. At the moment it’s for 25% off of Logos collections; but that’s certain to change after the turn of the year.

If you click on the comments section a panel fades in which enables you to read comments that other readers have made. At this moment I can see the future, not as a prophet but as a user. Even the beta testers are prone to ignore instructions and post problems here instead of text comments relevant to the reading. Because of human nature, I can almost guarantee that will remain a problem for as long as the program exists. One potential solution would be to include a built in “report a bug” feature on the help menu.

In a neat little “cutesy” feature if you hover over a persons name the slowly spinning globe will grow and display a minuscule dot for that person’s location on the map. Right now it only works for North America but I suspect that feature will be fully working for the globe (as best it can) by the time this leaves beta.

Clicking the help tab currently only displays an “about this bible translation” so it’s not really a help section at all, though I would also expect this text to expand to answer some FAQ’s along the way. By clicking the tab again the panel fades out of the way opening up the rest of your reading. When you’re all done for the day the final page of reading displays a nice “finished reading” button which if you click, marks today’s reading as complete. Clicking the close button (the windows X in the corner) sends the program back to the system tray where it will silently sit until tomorrow when it reminds you to read the scriptures.

Resource Hungry

For those of you concerned with resource usage keep in mind that this is a .NET 3 program which means that .Net is already mostly running on your computer so those resources are what they are and cannot be changed. I monitored just the Reader’s memory and CPU usage while I used it though and it remained fairly constant. There was minimal and IMHO acceptable CPU usage except for minor spikes during loading. But memory usage was higher than I would like. Memory stayed fairly constant at between 90 and 100 MB’s Even though I’d like it lower I know there is alot going on behind the scenes to make this program feel snappy. Don’t freak out at the memory usage during reading especially since it’s very common these days for windows programs to be bigger than we think they should. That said, I would like to see the good people at Logos bring that way down when the program isn’t running in the foreground. I see no reason why it can’t be halved. This from a non-programmer :-).

Concluding Thoughts & Observations

This program is a great idea, with a moderately good chance of being useful to the few who are comfortable reading on the screen. I know several people who actually print their emails out so they can read them so there is a limited audience for on screen reading still. The comments section itself could eventually be a commentary unto itself. Or it could degenerate into a blithering stream of endless touchy feely blather with no edifying qualities. Right now in beta with a group of largely dedicated Bible readers I would expect the former, but at release to a broader audience it could become the later. I am certainly hoping that adequate spam prevention and moderator monitoring will be in place. Without it I can almost guarantee that spam of the grossest variety will demote the usefulness of this program to much less than it should be. Of course a logos.com account is required to use the program so It should be relatively easy for the offending users to be blacklisted if need arises. Here’s to hoping for strong moderation!

There are a few shortcomings in the comment section that bothers me in addition to the potential for misuse. Right now if you look through the comments section you’ll see that it’s presented chronologically. This is a problem since multiple readings occur on a single day. For instance there is a post about Matthew 1 just before a post about Proverbs 1. My Psalm 1 post is after that. I would humbly suggest that this is so much as worthless especially if we expect to gain any sort of utility from this as a built in devotional/commentary guide (which is my own vision not necessarily Logos’). The comments should be relevant to the passage currently being read or it loses it’s appeal to me altogether.

Additionally there is no provision to edit your own posts, for instance to fix a typo or modify a comment which you’ve changed your mind on. This is a shortcoming. I know far too many people who like myself let the send button get in the way of the spell checker, if I’m logged in as myself I should like to have the power to edit my own posts.

As for the reading timer, I like it. Most of us need a small nudge now and then to keep us going, especially as Leviticus comes along 🙂 Leviticus happens to be one of my favorite books but I’m certainly in the minority there.

To be honest I think I would rather have the timer just built into Libronix and not have to run this as a standalone program yet I realize that it is intended also for those who do not own or use Libronix. Still I’d like to see this functionality added to Libronix and still have this free standing for those who don’t have Libronix.

I am really not very fond of the Libronix icon running a passage guide on the text. I have a rather powerful computer and even for me a passage guide eats a ton of resources while it’s running. Plus if all I wanted was to read this in the NASB why should I have to stop and close the passage guide? Of course I know the question goes the other way, “Why not run a passage guide too? Obviously I clicked the button because I want to dig deeper!” My response is a happy medium. Go ahead and open a passage guide, drop in the passage pericope but don’t run it. Wait for me to click the little green arrow to make it run.

I would encourage anyone interested to download the beta. Don’t get too scared at the concept of pre-production software after all you will have a voice in shaping it to be what it should be. And so far it’s shaping up to be something good.