Recently, on the MinistryGeek This Week podcast, we have been discussing the pluses and minuses of electronic libraries and namely Bible Software. Some arguments have been raised against these tools that I think need to be discussed. And so, this is my attempt to respond to those arguments (without the Darth Vader music being played in the background while you read). My colleague has raised some important issues, I certainly agree that we need to understand what we are buying and the risks involved with these purchases. This is true of any major purchase we make today. Let me also add that I am indeed a Logos Bible Software user and so I will deal with the arguments as they relate to that product line (since that is the only product line that gets the Darth Vader music when it is mentioned). Some other software companies may have different policies and you need to check with them each individually. To date, I have heard four major arguments raised and so I will deal with each of them. I am certain that there are others, but will will deal with these four first.
You don’t own your books, you only own a license.
TRUE – While it is true that you don’t “own” your electronic books, but simply a license to use those books, this is not unusual. As a matter of fact, you don’t “own” a single piece of software installed on your computer. You don’t even own the operating system that makes it work – you own an “end user license.” You know that really long, legalese bunch of text, that appears on the screen that you have to click something like “I Agree” to get past when installing software? That is called an EULA – End User License Agreement. If you read it, and you probably didn’t, you would see all of the details of the “license” you bought. You cannot install it on other machines, you cannot make copies, you cannot alter the code, etc… You see you own a license, not the software itself.
Now it could be argued, that $120 piece of software like Microsoft Office is not the same as spending thousands of dollars on electronic books. But it is not different than most professional fields. I worked as a Graphic Designer for years. It was not unusual to spend $1500 or more on a software package (namely Adobe Create Suite) in order to have the professional level tools needed for the job. Guess what you get for your $1500? A license to use it. You don’t own a thing.
I consider Logos Bible Software a professional level tool. I have no problem not “owning” my books. I don’t own anything else on my computer either.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Logos has gone to great lengths to build additional information into the books they license. This information allows these books to be interconnected in ways that paper sources could never dream of. These electronic resources know whether you are looking at an English word or Greek word and they know what other books provide information about English words and which offer information about Greek words. Maps become interactive, searches become multi-dimensional. Logos has made the books “smarter” and they deserve to profit by that. It makes them innovative – not evil.
Also, Logos doesn’t sell their software or upgrades to their software. You can upgrade your core software for free. That’s right – FREE – zip, zilch. nada! (Try calling Microsoft when Office 11 is released in a few months and tell them you want it free because you already bought Office 10. Just make sure you hold the phone away from your ear as they laugh hysterically in your general direction). If Logos adds a new feature or function – your software is updated automatically – no charge. Most companies wouldn’t dream of doing this. So what are they charging for? Check out this post for clarification on upgrades and crossgrades.
There is no guarantee that you will be able to access your books 10 years from now.
TRUE – Welcome to the computer age. Obsolescence is part of the deal. If a company goes out of business there is no guarantee that you will be able to run their software 10 years from now. I don’t think this surprises anyone. That is why software companies are constantly upgrading their software (and charging you for the upgrade I might add). There is no guarantee that your COMPUTER will be running 10 years from now! As a matter of fact, I would almost guarantee that it won’t be! Does that mean that we should go back to typewriters because they lasted longer? I don’t think so.
Just because we “might not” have access to these electronic resources 10 years from now doesn’t mean we should settle for their analog counterparts. The functionality gains are WAY too high to go that route. Personally, even with the problems and expenses we have with computers and software – I don’t want to go back you typewriters and White-Out!
This argument does mean however, that we need to look at the track records of the companies we do business with. While it is no guarantee that they will stay in business (Am I the only one that owns a Saturn?) it should be an indicator. Don’t buy software from fly-by night companies. I certainly wouldn’t consider Logos a fly-by night company. They have been around a long time and seem very stable.
You can sell your old analog books, but you can’t sell your electronic books.
FALSE – You can sell them – or more accurately, you can transfer your license to someone else. There is a $20 flat-fee per transfer. You can transfer as many licenses in one transaction as you want for that $20 fee. Here is the policy as stated on their website. I have called Logos and confirmed that this policy is accurate:
“Licenses for shippable products on CD-ROM or DVD-ROM, which come with a Serial Number, can be transferred from one person to another. (See the EULA for more information.) Unlocks can only be transferred as part of a full license transfer. There will be a processing fee charged on all transfers which is subject to change without notice. As of 6/17/09 the fee is equal to $20.00 per transfer. Either party involved with the transfer can pay the fee. We require the transfer request in writing (email is accepted) from the person to whom the software is currently registered.”
That being said, there are limits to what you can transfer. You cannot break up a bundle or base package that you received a discount on. Some may squawk about this, but I think it is more than reasonable. Here is the way I understand this policy. If I bought a March Madness bundle for $300 that contains books (excuse me licenses) worth $700 individually, I cannot break that bundle up and sell the component parts to someone else. I can sell the bundle to someone if I decide I don’t want it. This prevents individuals from buying a bundle at a deep discount and then profiting by selling the individual components at full price and expecting Logos to do the work of transferring all of those licenses to someone else.
IMPORTANT NOTE: In defense of this argument, I have found that during the first couple of weeks, during the launch of Logos 4, they put a moratorium on the transfer of licenses. This was due to the volume of upgrades and new purchases being made at the time. It may be that during this moratorium period some staff at Logos did not communicate clearly with customers. Now I have said myself that Logos did not handle the release of Logos 4 well. They did not communicate clearly and so some criticism related to these issues is warranted. But we should now communicate accurately the policy that is in place – not some mis-information from the past.
BOTTOM LINE: For a $20 fee, your licenses can be transferred to another individual. Either the seller or the buyer can pay the fee. YOU CAN SELL YOUR BOOKS.
Logos doesn’t give you full credit for the books you have bought and wants to charge you twice.
FALSE – My personal experience is that Logos has always been reasonable about trying to give me credit for licenses I have bought. That being said – it hasn’t always been 100 percent equitable, and honestly, I can’t expect it to be and the rest of the world works the very same way.
I just bought a Beatle’s box set of 5 CDs for $40. These retail individually for $15 each, I saved almost 50 percent. But, I already bought two of these individual CDs and spent $30. Do I call the record company and tell them they are obligated to give me the other 3 CDs in the set for $10? Of course not! Why would I expect them to? I have to decide if the other 3 CDs in the set are worth the price of the entire set – in this case $45. I may still be interested since that is a $5 savings, but I might decide that added CDs aren’t worth it to me. That’s my choice. I shouldn’t slam the record company as being evil (hear Darth Vader music playing in the background) or not caring about its customers by offering the new box set and not giving me full credit for my past purchases. (BTW – The same case can be made for my Lord of the Rings boxed set, purchasing MS Word and then wanting to buy the entire MS Office suite of any other combined or bundled offer.)
How does this play out with Logos? A couple of years ago I bought the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, Revised Edition shortly after it was made available. The full retail price of this resource is $150.00. Today, this resource is one of the components of the Gold Library Upgrade for Logos 4 which is being offered for $171.00. This upgrade contains over 64 new electronic books of which The Oxford Dictionary is just one. Should I expect Logos to now give me these 63 additional resources for $21? Basically, I consider that I am paying $171.00 for these additional resources. Certainly, I need to ask myself if these additional resources are worth $171.00. If they aren’t then I won’t spend the money. If they are, I am still getting a good deal.
On top of that, MY experience is that Logos has always tried, whenever possible, to help give me credit for what I have purchased in the past. There have been a couple of “boxed set” situations where I had to decide if the offer was worth it, but in almost every case I found that it was.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Since I purchased my Oxford Dictionary for full price as an individual license, I could sell it to someone and recoup my costs. Just like I might try to sell Rubber Soul and my White Album on eBay or Craigslist.
Logos is NOT Darth Vader!
Logos, like any other company on the planet is out to make money. Noble intentions aside as far as helping us study the Bible better, they need to make profits in order to stay in business and continue innovating. Have I always agreed with the way the company has done things? Not even close! Have they always been the best communicators? No. But that makes them human – not evil. It also doesn’t give them credit for the amazing tools their products now provide.
These arguments unfortunately distract people from the HUGE benefits…
Sadly, what these arguments don’t discuss is what these new electronic resources do that their analog counterparts couldn’t dream of doing! The benefits of this technology are incredible and that is what we should be spending our time talking about. The truth is that these integrated, interactive resources can help you do things that you CANNOT do with their paper versions. To compare them with paper versions is not an apple to apple comparison. In my next post, I will outline a number of the benefits that make this technology and these electronic resources well worth the investment.