The Numbers Game
Jun 8, 2009 David Lang

The Numbers Game

Way back on March 1, 2006, I wrote a blog post entitled "Why We Don't Bother to Count". In that post, I explained that while other developers advertise the number of electronic books they offer, we don't even bother to count them.

Why don't we go around quoting the number of books we have to offer? There are several reasons.

1. The quantity of books in your library doesn't matter nearly as much as the quality. I have no less than 17 Greek lexicons and dictionaries in my Accordance library. Guess how many I regularly consult? Two! If I had the other fifteen and didn't have the two I most value, I wouldn't be bragging that I have fifteen Greek lexicons; I would be wishing I had the two I really need!

2. The total number is meaningless to me unless I need everything. Accordance's offerings are so varied that no one person will want them all. If I only know English, the number of foreign-language resources a Bible program offers is irrelevant to me. If I'm not a scholar, the number of high-end research tools is irrelevant to me. If I am a scholar, I may not care how many classic devotional resources are available. Whatever the total number of available books, the important thing is the total number which is of interest to you.

Incidentally, that's one reason we don't try to put together huge one-size-fits-all packages of material. We have our Library collection for English Bible study resources, and our Scholar's collection for Greek and Hebrew texts and tools. If you want both, you can save a lot of money by bundling these packages together, but we do our best not to force you to buy stuff you don't need just to get the stuff you do. Again, it's not the number of books you have that matters, but the number you regularly use.

3. There's no real objective way to give an accurate count. I discussed this problem at length in that previous blog post. When dealing with electronic resources, what constitutes a "book"? We offer 58 volumes of Word Biblical Commentary in two Accordance modules, and we list it on our website as one product. Does that count as one book, two books, or 58 books? Or what about Matthew Henry's Commentary? I have seen it available in print either in 6 volumes, or in one massive volume with ridiculously tiny print. Do we count that as six "books" or one "book"?

Then there are the resources which are not technically books, like journals and magazines. The Theological Journal Library contains more than twenty-five different journals and a combined 550 years worth of issues. Depending on how many issues each journal published per year, there may be as many as 2000 different issues contained in that one product. Do we count the Theological Journal Library as 25-plus books, 550 books, or roughly 2000 books?

What about little paper-back Bible study guides like the Zondervan Discipleship series? This one module contains eight separate Bible study guides which are each about fifty pages in print. Should that count as one book or eight books? It's certainly eight separate "titles."

With no clear standard for how electronic books should be counted, and no clear idea how our competitors are counting, it becomes virtually impossible to offer a true apples-to-apples comparison. I recently took the time to count our available modules the way I think the other guys may be counting, and I came up with an estimate of about 1500 books. Frankly, I suspect I'm still being too conservative, and I could potentially give an even higher number. But what is the point? Now I'm just playing the numbers game and emphasizing a quantity which, as I explained above, is ultimately meaningless.

So aside from that last paragraph, you won't see us playing the numbers game. "More is better" is certainly an easy argument to grasp, but on closer inspection, it falls flat. Windows PCs have more available software, but folks are finally figuring out that it's better to have one Mac program you can use than to have 10 Windows programs you can't. The local buffet offers you more calories per dollar than the fine steakhouse, but most of us prefer a good meal to cheap indigestion. Other programs may offer more total books than Accordance does, but if you want quality resources, powerful features, a streamlined interface, and stellar support, Accordance is clearly number 1.

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Archived Comments

James Murray

June 10, 2009 12:43 AM

David,

You may not count the books. However, I just want to let you know all that Accordance does for enhancing our study of the bible counts. Thank you. And, by the way, let Dr. J know the podcasts are great. Please keep up the good work.




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