Is Bible Software Primarily About the Library?
In preparation for a comparative review, a Mac reviewer recently asked users of another Bible program how they thought it compares with Accordance. The answers were all interesting, but one of the more notable responses came from one of that developer's former marketing employees. He wrote, in part, that "both programs are, in essence, about accessing information in a library." He then went on to say that because the other program has a larger overall library, it is the better Bible software choice. He continued: "That's a big point for those wanting to do Biblical studies. A big library is important."
Is Accordance primarily "about accessing information in a library"? Well, we certainly offer a massive library of material, including many resources which no one else has. We have always led the field in offering resources for the study of the Dead Sea Scrolls, rabbinics, textual criticism, Septuagint studies, early Christian literature, ancient inscriptions, and the like. We have also long offered popular resources like Zondervan books and commentaries, the ESV Study Bible, the Thompson Chain Reference Study Bible, Hendrikson books and commentaries, and more which other developers either do not have or have only recently acquired. Finally, our Atlas, Timeline, and Bible Lands PhotoGuide remain the most powerful, flexible, and thorough resources for studying the history and geography of the Bible. We are continually working to expand our library of materials and offer the most complete library we can.
Yet while we recognize the importance of offering a large library, we would never say that library access is the primary function of Bible study software. Bible study software should be, "in essence," about offering tools for studying the Bible, and only secondarily about accessing a large number of secondary resources. It is this clear sense of priority which drives us to make interaction with the Biblical text primary in the Accordance user experience.
I was actually thinking about this last week, when I taught an all-day Accordance training seminar at Dallas Theological Seminary. I spent almost the entire day showing how to use Accordance's powerful feature set to exegete a passage of Scripture, and really only mentioned commentaries and other secondary literature in passing. Yes, I showed off the revamped Search All and how it lets you search your entire library in seconds, and I showed how you can view commentaries in a parallel pane which will scroll alongside the text. But I think all of the attendees will testify that I focused more on Bible study methods than on library science.
From a purely mercenary standpoint, our focus on the Bible is admittedly counter-productive. The Bible texts and Bible study tools I emphasized tend not to be the most expensive things we sell. There's money to be made in high-priced commentary sets, yet I spend most of my time trying to encourage people not to rely too heavily on commentaries. It's not that commentaries and other secondary literature don't have their place; it's just that their place is in the back seat rather than the driver's seat.
Interestingly, I see a strong focus on the Bible among our users as well. A while back, the person who runs our official Twitter feed asked people to list the Accordance modules they use most. Nearly everyone who responded mentioned favorite translations, original language texts, and tools for original language study. There was very little emphasis on secondary literature. In the same way, I recently started a forum thread asking pastors how Accordance helps them in their sermon prep. While they mentioned the convenience and portability of having an electronic library of materials, I was pleasantly surprised at how much they focused on the task of Biblical exegesis. For those Accordance-using pastors, understanding what the Bible says is far more important than mining a stack of books for information about what the Bible says.
Now, am I implying that we value the Bible more than other software developers? Not at all. Am I implying that Accordance users value the Bible more than those who choose to use other programs? Certainly not. I'm simply saying that we don't get up every morning excited to help people "access information in a library." On the contrary, our mission is, "in essence," to equip you to study the Bible more effectively. Every feature we add, every aspect of our program interface, and yes, every book we license for inclusion in your Accordance library, is directed toward that singular goal.