Bible Software in the Classroom


There’s a post on the Logos Blog about Logos in the Classroom. Actually it’s a commercial for a 15 minute talk by Senior VP Dale Pritchett, which itself is basically a commercial aimed at Seminary professors to convince them to replace their single classroom textbooks with the full Logos Digital Library. If you have the 15 minutes you should listen. If you only have about 7, do a quick read of the PDF transcript.
I have two simple observations to make.

Upgrade the audio please

The audio is probably over compressed. It’s either that or the audio is the result of several takes and a bad patch job. Dale comes into various sentences sounding completely different and it seems with different breathing patterns; almost as if they’ve taken two or more clips and sliced and diced them into one speech. The only reason I mention this is because I found it annoying to listen to. I’m tempted to say it’s over compressed because I’ve experienced the same phenomena with other Logos media. Michael Heiser’s excellent lecture “The concept of the Godhead in the Old Testament” was plagued in it’s Camtasia format with horrible over compression that introduced all sorts of nasty audio artifacts into the speech. It’s worth downloading the MP3 on that one instead of listening to the stream.

Yes, But…

I agree wholeheartedly with the principle message of Mr. Pritchett’s speech. But I also see a problem. It was common practice for my professors to require that we bring our texts to class for whatever various reasons they had. The problem with making Logos Scholars Gold your textbook is the machinery by which it is used. And I mean that in every literal sense. In order to make this work, every classroom will need to be outfitted with electrical outlets at every desk. As well as providing extra time for every computer to boot up, and for every copy of Libronix to load. I can only imagine the horrid noise as 23 copies of Libronix start up and play the Libronix sound in some kind of repulsive 23 part disharmony.
At the same time I see a possible solution. Imagine the prof making an annotation file available for download to every student with his class notes and relevant links embedded. Now we’re talking something useful.

But Wait, There’s More!

Now if you’ve been paying attention you can see that the header for this particular post is “Bible Software in the Classroom” not merely Libronix but all kinds of Bible Software. I can readily imagine Hermeneutics profs requiring a copy of Bibleworks (or The Hermeneutical Spiral via Libronix). Then there’s E-sword and oh just go Google against Bible software and see what you get. As a Library instead of just Bible Software, I confess that Logos has the upper hand in this because of their broad spectrum of books available. Many of them just simply make my mouth water in horrible ways that my wallet cannot support. I am getting increasingly left behind in my own Library accumulations as Logos now claims to support over 9000 volumes and will be adding at least 2000 per year now! But I digress….

I can easily imagine various professors in differing classes requiring different Bible Study Software – the end result can be disastrous. I constantly use Bibleworks 7 together with Libronix 3.x on my computer. I have access to a few other platforms including a few books in Pradis (freebies when I got them) and some Step books, lots of PDF’s and zillions of my own studies in Open Document Format (Openoffice.org). Bringing Bible Software into the classroom and pushing it is a great idea, but it is fraught with the same problems that Bible Software has had for years: a lack of standardization.

When you have multiple formats and multiple companies fighting for their formats to take the lead it’s liable to be a messy business and the end users usually lose unless they happen to make the “right” choice along the way. In terms of BIBLE software (emphasis on Bibles), there are already lots of formats and I already have several; but in terms of Library Software there are only a few – and in my limited experience there is only one – Libronix.

As I see it Libronix stands at the threshold of winning the standards war in the same way that Microsoft tends to win the desktop OS war; by shear numbers. But Logos must be aware that they are not the only company making inroads with ebooks. Amazon is coming up the road real fast.

How to Win the Software War

If I may make a humble (if misguided) suggestion it is this: Libronix needs to find a way right now to work together with the fastest growing ebook device on the market, the Amazon Kindle. Amazon, by it’s shear juggernaut status has the power for the first time to truly set the standard for ebook publishing which all others must follow. Libronix is probably as close to having the Christian ebook market as Amazon is to having the secular ebook market as it’s own. It is not just a question of platform superiority; many failed platforms were better than Microsoft Windows (OS2 and Linux to name only two) but Microsoft won by sheer numbers (as well as what many consider to be less than above-board business practices).

Logos is going to have to maintain not only godliness in their business practices, and not only constantly labor to platform superiority and not only shear numbers (all of which IMHO they have done thus far) but as much as I dislike the thought of it they will need to become truly cross platform – no not in the Mac/Windows/Linux debates but rather in the book world.

To my knowledge the only non-religious material ever produced on the Libronix platform was a set of model railroad building catalogs by Atlas (I have them and I like them very much thank you).
I’m not at all pushing for Logos to start publishing harlequin romance novels (ick) but what about secular textbooks? Imagine Grey’s anatomy or OED or all of those shiny case-books that Lawyers need sitting not on a shelf but on a hard drive and powered by Libronix.

The church created science, so why not let bible study software create the next generation method of studying? Bible Software in the classroom? Sure, why not. But why should those classrooms be limited to Seminaries?