An article written by John Fidel, CPA. Copyright © 2005-2011 by the author. All rights reserved.
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The purpose of this article is to discuss the business and marketing
side of Bible Study Software. I have been using and reviewing Bible
Software for many years. It has been interesting to see program
features and content develop from an electronic concordance to a true
digital library. While there are many articles dealing with the
specifics of each of the available Bible programs and available
content, this article deals with what I see as four distinct business
plans or visions. Lastly, this article is limited to windows based
products. I do not own a Mac, and as such am not in a position to
comment on those software companies at this time, but may do so in the
future as more companies enter that market.
Being a Certified Public Accountant by occupation, I find the
business and marketing side of any industry interesting. I have watched
with interest the significant changes that have been happening in the
Bible Software industry in the last few years. What I see now is
probably the most diverse perception of the market and the future of
Bible software since its inception. Several of the software companies
are staking their future on visions and business plans that are
contrary to each other. This often indicates a situation where
industries go through significant changes.
What follows is a summary of the diverse visions followed by quotes
taken directly from interviews with individual representing these
companies as posted on the Bible Software Review Website.
While this does not provide me with an in-depth amount of information,
I think you will find it does provide definite ideas as to where each
of these individuals feels this industry is going.
While this article may imply that in my opinion some business plans
are not as viable as than others, it is not intend to reflect on the
quality of these products. I have used each of the products discussed,
and while I have those that meet my personal needs better than others,
this is not intended to be a review or commentary on the products or
support provided by these companies.
The visions for the future are based upon the following ideas:
Customers make purchasing decisions that are primarily resource-based.
They want or at least are willing to have several different Bible study
programs to access those resources. In addition, the market, authors
and users will benefit from this plan.
want to be able to use software primarily for Bible textual analysis
and translation. They do not feel comfortable investing in an extensive
library because there is not a standard publishing format.
Customers want most of their resources available in one program. They
are also interested in how these resources can be integrated together
to assist them in their studies. They will purchase the program that
offers them the most resources and integration.
Customers really want one program that is easy to use with a good set
of resources available. If the program is too complex, customers will
not like it. The key factor in their purchasing decision is ease of use.
The market segments for Bible Study Software are as follows, and they are not mutually exclusive:
Scholars, seminary students and teachers in an academic environment,
primarily interested in Bible study software for the study and
translation of the Bible from the original languages.
Pastors and teachers using Bible study software for sermon and lesson
preparation. These persons have an interest and possibly an expertise
in the original languages, but also want to be able to access other
resources for illustrations and clarification of the text.
Lay persons interested in in-depth Bible study. This market may desire
the same tools as the above markets, but is probably not as interested
in reading and translating the Bible from the original languages.
the general markets are outlined above, a recent survey indicates that
the Windows-based market of commercial bible software users can be
summarized as follows:
· In Academics 37%
· Pastors 30%
· Others 33%
of users are men; 80% are over 35 years old; 52% have attended some
level of Seminary or Bible College; 42% have some formal training in
the original languages; 53% use bible software at least 5 days a week
for their studies and use electronic tools for 76% of the time as
opposed to hard copy books; and about 55% expect to spend more than
$100 on Bible Software tools in the next year.
be a larger market for digital libraries that are not Biblically
oriented, but that is outside the scope of this article.
Here is how the various companies line up with the above four ideas:
1. Britt Dennison of Zondervan in his interview with BSR:
"As a publisher we have no plans to do Zondervan material or Zondervan
author's works to be published in any other software (okay there are
currently a couple of exceptions but few), it simply does not serve our
authors or their hard work. Other publisher's will soon see that giving
the control of how the content is used to a software company (over
which they have no control), is not in their author's best interest. So
if anything happens, I think more publishers will begin to publish in
their own electronic form. The user wins. The more formats there are,
the more innovation and growth in the medium. If there is only one
format and the vendor controls the format, growth stagnates."
Target Markets: 2 and 3 above having an interest in the NIV and related resources.
Key to Success: The resources have to be very desirable and unavailable anywhere else.
Limited to one publisher that also has the cost of developing and
maintaining cutting edge software. This plan would be similar to having
consumers purchase different DVD players because a company like Disney
created a format that only works on their own players. The movies and
player better be good.
Strength: The NIV is a popular Bible translation.
2. Michael Bushell of BibleWorks in his BSR interview:
"There are at present no industry publishing standards for electronic
media. There are many wannabe standards, but users still routinely buy
multiple copies of the same texts to use with different programs, not
to mention print copies. This is grossly unfair to the consumer.
Electronic publishing will never be a viable industry, one in which
users can invest money with confidence, until there are standards. No
one wants to buy a library of books that will be unreadable in 10
years. At the very least, prices should reflect the fact that, compared
to print media, electronic modules may have a limited useful lifetime."
Target Markets: 1 and 2 above having an interest in the original languages.
to Success: Having the most up-to-date resources and texts along with
the most advanced tools for analysis, research and translation.
BW does publish some resources that are not Biblical texts, but do so
in format of a help file. Also, the idea that digital publishing is not
viable appears to be in conflict with the success of Logos Bible
Software signing on many different print publishers. Lastly, those
companies providing a digital library are also providing very good
integration with the Bible texts. If a digital publisher can offer
comparable resources and analysis tools, BW may lose market to
customers that also want commentaries, dictionaries etc. in one
Strength: A specialized product will
almost always out perform a multi-use product because it can tailor the
features to their user base. They have an excellent product that
specifically meets the needs of their market. In addition, they have
great customer support and a loyal customer base.
3. Bob Pritchett of Logos Bible Software in his BSR interview:
"Our technology has been used by 54 different publishers to deliver
their own reference products, making the Libronix format a de facto
standard. With 75 employees and more than 115 publisher partners you
can expect that we'll be here to support you ― and your investment in a
digital Bible reference library ― long into the future." And "The next
step is helping users go deeper when they don't know what to look for.
Logos is working on ways to do this not just for the beginning student
("How do I study the Bible?") but for the scholar as well ("What
journal articles / books / databases are relevant to my research?")."
Target Markets: 1, 2 and 3
to Success: Balancing the market perception that one product can be the
best for scholars, teachers, pastors and laypersons. Providing the
features for complex analysis tools that continue to integrate with the
entire library. Balancing ease of use and high-end customization.
Continue to expand publisher base and providing the highest quality
Weakness: Competing with companies that can
tailor their product more specifically to either ease of use or
advanced original language studies. The program may be perceived or in
fact be less desirable than comparative products at either end of the
Strength: They currently have significant
support of publishing partners, which provides incredible momentum in
becoming the standard for digital publishing of Biblical related text.
They continue the development of tools that integrate these resources
in a meaningful way along with the development of products that expand
their market for scholarly and academic use.
4. The final group consists of companies that focus on ease of use with, a good selection of resources, which would include WORDsearch and PC Study Bible.
There are not available interviews with these companies, but if you
check out the programs and the websites, you will find that they focus
on ease of use.
Target Markets: 2 and 3
to Success: Having enough resources to compete and tailoring those
resources closely to their markets. Maintaining customer confidence
that their proprietary format will carry them into the future along
with great customer and technical support. Staying ahead of the free
and online programs available that offer much of the same public domain
Weakness: These companies have to compete more
directly with free and online programs. They need to continue providing
resources and integration to compete with programs that currently offer
more resources. In short, they need to compete on a price and content.
Strength: An easy to use program is often the one that gets used and recommended.
There are some incredible individuals developing these products for
our use and it is my sincere hope that they would all find their
markets for success. I offer this analysis for two reasons: It is
interesting to see how this industry and it's future is developing; and
as consumers when we purchase any Bible software we are investing in
the hope that the company will succeed so we can use the software for
many years to come. Hopefully this brief look at some at how some of
these companies see the future of Bible software will assist you the
consumer and perhaps even those whose visions are mentioned in this