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Bible software 2011: a comparison of Accordance and Logos

In July 2009, half way through my first year of theological college, I purchased Accordance. Now, given that I’m heading overseas, I’ve realised that a digital library is especially important — something that Logos has always been known for. As we head into 2011, what would suit best?

Accordance has been the Mac standard for Bible software since its release in 1994, and its powerful language tools have made it a leader in the field. At the end of 2010, however, Logos has become a serious rival with its first complete Mac release, Logos 4. The new Logos interface looks especially promising. It seems to have all the ease of a web browser: it’s intuitive, dynamic, and seamlessly incorporates infographics and other visual elements. It makes full use of the Mac’s smooth, user-friendly approach. Accordance may be losing the edge it claims.

Mostly, though, Logos and Accordance seem to do the same thing; they just look and feel a little different.

We’re back to my digital library question. What’s available?

This is where things get tricky. It’s a bit like comparing mobile phone providers! There are squillions of options, which scarcely seem to get much clearer even after hours of research.

The problem with bundles

Accordance offers five ‘primary collections‘ and Logos has nine ‘base packages‘. This practice of bundling software is meant to make things simpler: buy the languages bundle if you’re learning NT Greek, or buy the library bundle if you want digital commentaries, and so on.

I find bundling a bit deceptive, though. Firstly, while the seller can trumpet massive savings, you may be paying for little more than sheer quantity. For example, Logos is keen to point out that its $600 Scholar’s bundle contains a ‘$8000 print equivalent’ — ooh, that’s a saving of more than 90%! But if I think about it, I really have no need for $8000 of new books, no matter how cheaply they’re selling. More is not better.

Secondly, bundling obscures the nature of the Bible resources. Take the Pulpit Commentary, for example: 77 volumes sounds fantastic! Yet nowhere does Logos mention that the Pulpit Commentary is well over a century old. In fact, a number of these bundled resources are too dated or idiosyncratic to be of any use to me. It’s a similar story with some of Accordance’s titles, like Smith’s Bible Dictionary. Neither Logos nor Accordance are particularly helpful at this point. The software bundles contain enormous stockpiles of data, but where’s the quality control?

Actually, when we cut through the maze of bundling options to the resources I actually want to buy at this point — college textbooks — there’s not much difference between the two. Both Accordance and Logos are sourcing from the same publishers, so when I look up something like the NIGTC, it costs about the same whether you buy it for Accordance or for Logos. Accordance doesn’t seem to bundle NIGTC with anything, and while Logos does, you can only get it as part of the bundles that start at $1300.

I wish there was a way to affordably customise my own bundle. I don’t want a pre-packaged bundle that’s being sold to me on the basis of its ‘print equivalent’. I don’t want 500 books, let alone 1000 — I just want to pick a few things that I know will be useful. I wish that a more diverse range of titles could be bundled, too, including thought-provoking publications like the JPS Tanakh and the Hermeneia series.

A sort-of verdict

As I mentioned, I can’t currently see too much difference between Accordance and Logos as pieces of software. Some differences emerge, though, when it comes to resource availability. The Logos library is certainly enormous, and the Logos bundles seem to come with comparatively more Bible versions and more visual resources. These bundles seem overloaded, however. By contrast, the Accordance bundles are modest in size, designed as starting points, and give a clearer idea of what you’re actually getting. In 2009, I bought the basic Accordance language package, to which I added some commentaries and the Church Fathers, totalling $390 after a group discount. What seems to be the Logos 4 equivalent is currently selling at $415, and that doesn’t really include things like commentaries.

What I’m experiencing is the need for good information in contrast to more information. Accordance claims to offer ‘quality not quantity’, and that seems pretty accurate. The Logos bundling options appear bloated by comparison. For me, this means that Accordance is still doing its job well, and if I want digital books, I’ll just have to pay the going rate. Fair enough!

Finally, as Bible software rapidly advances along with other technologies, we need to keep our heads screwed on. Don’t fall for the hype: Accordance is not ‘inspirational‘ and Logos does not ‘change everything‘. Bible software is mostly just a search engine — and like any search engine, it places vast amounts of information at our fingertips but does not guarantee that we will use it wisely. It can easily leave us with ‘all the gear and no idea’. It is an abysmal substitute for the true learning that is possible in the context of Christian community. No man is an island — we need each other before we need technology.

Categories: Written by Arthur

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Arthur Davis

Arthur Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.

12 replies

  1. Thanks for the post. I find your comment, “Mostly, though, Logos and Accordance seem to do the same thing; they just look and feel a little different,” a simplified and unsustained premise in the article. You don’t tell us what you are doing, specifically in your post here. I own both Logos and Accordance, and I am perplexed when I hear this comment, because it is not my experience that both “do the same thing.” Are you averring this from a utilitarian perspective, or progressive perspective, as I think this changes a great deal of one values a software program. You could be right — I am just merely raising the point that your argument fails to convince me.

  2. Hi James

    Yes, I’ve assumed that they’re similar pieces of software, and instead compared them as consumer products. I’d be happy to hear about how they differ as pieces of software, although that’s not really what I’m getting at here. Perhaps you could say this post is less about Bible software and more about the ethics of advertising and publishing.

  3. Helpful. I haven’t forked out for any software yet, I’m keen to see how far I can get in life by the power of google and the Library’s electronic database. So far, so good.

    I reckon Logos looks cooler though. Branding wise. So, being completely superficial I’ll probably get suckered in to the more expensive product when the time comes…

  4. Also, you’ve got to wonder how much better off you’d be just buying a kindle and building your own e-book library. All the old (out of copyright) stuff on the Kindle is incredibly cheap (if not free) – and I suspect this makes up for a lot of the quantity in the Bible software packages.

  5. Speaking of public domain — that might be part of the bundling problem. An item like the Pulpit Commentaries has the appearance of adding value to a bundle, when actually it’s so old that bundling is the only way that it can still be ‘sold’…

    Kindle is a good suggestion.

    In that case, I’d say Accordance wins hands down as a comparatively cheap biblical languages tool — it does everything a theology student needs for $150.

  6. I’ve got logos and I’ve filtered out the junk from the bundle I bought (but been surprised by the usefulness of some of the junk). The bundle is really just the starter to get you in the door… I’ve purchased a number of commentaries in both sets and individually as well as dictionaries and find them invaluable. The total cost of ownership has been cheaper than accordance would have been since I picked up most stuff in their regular sales.

    Using books on a platform like logos is way better than kindle because logos cross-links and indexes everything much better for searching.

    you’re right, it is all about searching

  7. Randle, good to hear from you! Mm, this is where it’s a bit like comparing apples and oranges — Logos has ‘beefy’ bundles and Accordance has ‘lite’ bundles, so it’s hard to make comparisons. Accordance has regular sales too.

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