In my previous post, I announced the addition of the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture to Accordance. You'll be seeing many such announcements in the coming weeks and months. In fact, our biggest problem right now is keeping up with all the new resources we're working to release.
Yet while you'll be seeing lots of new resources made available this year, one thing you won't see is a quantitative measurement of how many electronic books are currently available. You see, we just don't bother to count them all.
One reason for this is that it's not all that clear what constitutes a "book." Does each volume of a multi-volume work count as a "book," or do you just count each "title"? What if you have a module which contains the equivalent of multiple print books? For example, we offer one module containing three books by E. M. Bounds on prayer. We list it as one module, but we could easily advertise it as three "books."
Things get even murkier when dealing with things which are not "books" at all. How does one count the various Theological Journals or the archives of Biblical Archaeology Review? Does each issue count as a "book," or each year of issues, or should each journal or magazine be counted just once?
Similarly, we offer a few modules on the Library CD-ROM which are more like pamphlets than books. It seems a stretch to list such things as books, and we've actually been criticized for even releasing them and listing them as distinct modules. Do we count these separately, or lump them together so that they'll be big enough to count as one "book"? If the latter, how many pages or megabytes of information would be enough to qualify as a "book"?
All of this ambiguity surrounding the term "book" only serves to illustrate the vagaries of replicating books in software. That's why you'll hardly ever hear us using terms like "e-Books" or "electronic books." An Accordance module is so much more than an electronic version of a print book that we find the term "book" too limiting—it may communicate the idea that you can read a work onscreen, but it doesn't communicate the ability to search; the division into logical "fields" of content; the integration with other modules; the ability to show or hide things like red-letter, poetic formatting, superscripts, and verse references; or any of the other benefits Accordance modules have over print books. In fact, the ability to be read enjoyably is the one area where a print book still has some advantages over its electronic equivalent.
When we create an Accordance module, our primary concern is not how we can replicate a print book in software; but how we can best accommodate the way a user is going to want to access the material. If a user buys a multi-volume commentary, does he want to have to remember which volume to choose for commentary on a given passage? Does he want to go through the trouble of creating a tool set or Search All group just so he can search the whole thing at once? Of course not. So whenever we can, we combine multiple volumes of a single work—or occasionally even distinct but related works—into a single Accordance module.
Even when we have to publish multiple volumes separately, we still go through the trouble of offering a complete alternative. For example, when we developed the Pillar New Testament Commentary, the publisher wanted users to be able to buy individual volumes rather than having to pay for the entire set. So we developed eight separate modules: PNTC-Matthew, PNTC-Mark, PNTC-John, etc. But we also realized that users who did buy the whole set would not necessarily want to deal with eight separate modules. So we combined all eight volumes into a single module called Pillar NTC. That way, our users have the option of buying individual volumes, along with a convenient way to access the entire set.
For all of these reasons, we don't tend to emphasize the number of resources that are currently available for Accordance. We don't give totals for each package we sell, and we don't give a grand total. We've never bothered to count, because it's too ambiguous, and because it's just not our primary concern.
Please note that this post is not meant as a criticism of those Bible software developers who do advertise the quantity of resources available. There are many who do it, and they each tend to count in slightly different ways. I certainly understand why they do it, and I sometimes wish I had such a convenient way to convey the massive amount of material which is already available for Accordance. My purpose here is not to criticize others, but to point out something which I feel is a distinctive about Accordance. It's just one more way in which we tend to "Think Different" about Bible Software.