Bible Software Review: By way of an introduction, please give us any personal information you'd like to share with our readers.
Bob Pritchett: I grew up in a Christian home with a father who was an entrepreneur in the computer industry and a mother who was a church librarian. My parents co-founded a library software company that the whole family worked in and when I wasn't in school it seemed I was at computer trade shows or Church and Synagogue Library Association meetings.
Looking back I can see the Lord's hand in preparing me for what I do today: I learned so much that's been useful in developing Bible software, and very little besides that!
Today I'm blessed to have both of my parents (and my brother) working with me at Logos.
BSR: When did your company start, and why did you feel the need to set this project off?
BP: I wrote my first Bible software program (for MS-DOS) as a teenager in 1987. It was very simple, but the positive feedback from users kept me thinking about how to write something better. In 1991, while on an internship at Microsoft, I brought it up during lunch with my friend Kiernon Reiniger. We decided right there in the restaurant that we'd write it together as an "evenings and weekends" project.
We decided to develop it for the still-new Microsoft Windows 3.0 and within a few months it was clear we had something new and useful. We took it to one of the existing Bible software companies and offered it to them so that we could keep our day jobs while they sold and supported it. They turned us down. (They weren't confident that Windows was going to be a success.)
We then planned to stay with the "shareware" distribution model and to keep it a hobby until we found out that licensing the most popular modern English Bible would require a huge up front payment and annual royalty guarantees.
My father, Dale Pritchett, joined us to help pursue licenses and explore distribution options, and in the next six months we made the decision to raise some money from family and friends, quit our day jobs, and develop Logos Bible Software full-time.
BSR: What is your current role in the company?
BP: I am the president of the company and am actively involved in the design of the software, though I don't get to write much code anymore.
BSR: When you look back, what would you identify as being the single greatest feat in the history of Bible software?
BP: Bible software has been a fount of innovation in computer software.
In 1981 Bible Research Systems developed The WORD Processor and managed to deliver the KJV on machines like the Apple II. It was an amazing product for its time and sparked my interest in using the computer for Bible study. (I was ten years old, and my mother had taught me to use Strong's Concordance. It was immediately clear that the computer was better than that heavy paper book!)
In 1985 Erich Altvater managed to deliver an elegant, super-fast, fully-indexed KJV New Testament on a single 360k floppy disk. I used it in high school to write papers and spent lots of time with a calculator trying to figure out how he could fit the text and index on one disk. (A full index can't fit ― but he got around that!)
The single greatest feat, though, has to be the late 80's development of CDWord Library. Developed at Dallas Theological Seminary, this Microsoft Windows 2.0 product was so far ahead of its time that it was sold bundled with a CD-ROM drive, because in 1989 almost nobody had one. CDWord was the first digital library of serious Bible study tools with commentaries, lexicons, support for Greek, Hebrew, and extensive hypertext linking.
It was the integration of CDWord's data (which Logos acquired in the early 90's) that changed our definition of Bible software from simple concordances of a few Bibles to large digital libraries of Bible reference material.
(I can't say this much about the history of Bible software without also acknowledging Larry Pierce and the Online Bible. The electronic texts prepared for the Online Bible were the basis of many Bible software packages. Larry's emphasis on low system requirements, generous distribution policies, and digitizing Bibles in many languages has helped ensure that Bible software is globally accessible. He was also very generous in assisting us during the early development of Logos Bible Software.)
BSR: What segment of Bible software users do you consider to be your main target?
BP: We are focused on supporting and encouraging "serious Bible study." We want to build tools that help everyone go deeper into the Word. Our primary products are named Christian Home Library, Bible Study Library, Pastor's Library, and Scholar's Library. We see this as more of a progression than segmentation.
By serving users at all levels we support their personal growth. Dividing the market into "English Bible" and "original languages" products creates artificial cost and learning barriers for students who are moving from one to the other. Going deeper in your study is something we want to make as easy as possible.
BSR: In your opinion, what are the three most salient features of your application?
BP: Logos Bible Software is built on the Libronix Digital Library System ― a technology we developed and have licensed to dozens of publishers. There are more than 3,800 titles (from more than 115 different publishers) available for the Libronix DLS, which gives users of Logos Bible Software access to the best collection of digital Bible reference materials anywhere. Our best selling product has more than 230 titles in it, so we offer the largest library in a single package even without adding books or modules.
The addin modules in Logos Bible Software are like automated research assistants that generate custom reports. We've taken all the power that software packages hid away in menus ― if it was available at all ― and exposed it through these simple reports that work just like web pages. Each page is custom generated for the passage or topic you're working on, using the resources in your personal digital library.
The best feature of Logos Bible Software is on the friendly "Home Page" that Logos opens to. Enter a passage and click "Go!" and you'll get a Passage Guide. This single report collects commentaries, maps, music, Bible dictionaries, cross references, and more into a single document that you can navigate by clicking hyperlinks. It also generates links to more in-depth reports based on the underlying Greek and Hebrew text.
BSR: If you had to recommend the use of Bible software to someone who has never been exposed to it before, how would you go about it?
BP: Bible software puts a huge library of material right at your fingertips. It puts the many "lookups" in Bible study (cross references, concordances, dictionaries, lexicons) just a click away and lets you focus on the text and not the tools.
Eliminating the tedious paper steps lets you go deeper in the time you have for study ― and hopefully encourages you to spend more time in study, too.
BSR: Why do you think people should consider using your software?
BP: Logos has a twelve year track record of excellent service and continual innovation. Our software upgrades have been free since 1995. (The continually improved viewer is freely downloadable; you can buy more books and special addin modules if you choose.) 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.
BSR: What is the primary use you make of your own software?
BP: The variety of resources available for Logos makes it useful for all types of study. I've used both the Bible Reading Scheduler and the daily devotional feature on the Home Page as starting points, though I almost always end up running the Passage Guide before I'm done. It's the easiest way to pull together a list of relevant resources.
I run a whole-library search for things that are less passage specific, like research I was doing on an old hymn. That project took me through biographical works, old sermons, and general purpose reference works.
BSR: Is there any feature lacking in Bible software in general, that you would love to see implemented soon?
BP: I would like to see Bible software go beyond fast searching and big libraries. These features are important, but they only serve users who know what they're looking for. 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?").
BSR: Are there any specific plans to port the software to other platforms? (Mac, Linux, PDA...)
BP: By focusing on a single platform we can take full advantage of it. Microsoft Windows is the most widely used, allowing us to serve the most people. There are excellent alternatives on the other platforms.
BSR: Besides English, is or will your software be available in other languages in the foreseeable future?
BP: Our interface is available in more than a dozen languages and we have Bibles in more than 30. There are three full packages with lots of content in Spanish, as well as significant libraries in Afrikaans, Swedish, and Norwegian. We offer a four-Bible pack in Korean and a Portuguese library will be available soon.
The Stuttgart Electronic Study Bible, from the German Bible Society and Netherlands Bible Society, will feature texts and user interface in German, Dutch, French, Danish, and more.
We believe that the investment we can afford to make in western language tools, because of our larger, wealthier markets, should pay dividends for the church worldwide, so we're also working on texts and tools for users and field translators in "smaller" languages.
BSR: From your perspective, what should Bible software be heading for in the years to come?
BP: Bible software doesn't have to be limited by the printed book model. While there are decades of work ahead in digitizing printed material there are also opportunities to "think outside the book" and do things we couldn't do before. I'd like to see Bible software supporting new types of research tools and databases.
I also believe Bible software can be a tool that encourages and facilitates Bible study in groups ― connecting your study with your pastor's, your friend's, and your classmate's.
BSR: Would you like to add or share anything not covered in the previous questions?
BP: At a very early age I fell in love with technology and with business. It's no surprise that I'm in the software industry.
The amazing thing to me is how God brought so many different paths of interest and experience ― computer programming, a Christian education, typesetting, library science, business ― together into the only job that could use them all.
Amazed as I am, I know my experience isn't unique. I love to hear the same story of travel on different paths to a similar destination from others in Bible software. I consider it a great blessing to work in a field where competitors, co-workers, and consumers are part of the same family.
Thank you, Rub�n, for giving us a forum to share our experience together.
BSR: Thank you so much for your time!