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News, How-tos, and assorted Views on Accordance Bible Software.

Friday, November 24, 2006  

The Little Company that Could

When I tell people that I work for a Bible Software developer, they naturally ask, "Oh really, which one?" When I say, "Accordance Bible Software," I'm always a little amused by the blank stare I get. I then explain that we're basically a "Mom and Pop" company which develops the software for Macintosh computers.

This lack of name-recognition admittedly has me feeling a little like David trying to compete with Goliath Windows developers which are many times our size. That is, until I come to the annual conventions of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) and the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL). At ETS/SBL, from which I've just returned home, the tables get radically turned, and I feel a bit more like Goliath than David. Here are a few examples of what I mean:

The Accordance booth covers an area of 30 feet by 10 feet, with no less than seven computers available for doing demos. Though the exhibit hall traffic certainly ebbs and flows, with less activity during major sessions and around lunch time, we're almost always busy. At peak times, we're absolutely mobbed, with nearly all the computers being used for demos (often with two or more people gathered around them), with two or three sales stations working feverishly to help all the customers making purchases. At the same time, there might be customers hanging around the booth getting help with installations, publishers standing in the hallway chatting with our people who handle licensing, and other people just trying to figure out what all the fuss is about.

Occasionally I would walk the show floor and cast a not-so-furtive glance at how our competitors were doing. Most of the time they would have at least one or two customers, but never did I see anything approaching the kind of activity happening at the Accordance booth. I'm sure our competitors did well and found the show worthwhile, and they certainly could have been busier at the times I didn't happen to be strolling by, but anecdotal evidence sure seemed to indicate that our booth was consistently the most active.

By the way, I would be remiss if I failed to mention that one of our Windows competitors, with whom we're on quite friendly terms, consistently referred Mac users to our booth. We're grateful to be able to support one another where we can, and we were glad to hear that they too had a very successful show.

Another bit of anecdotal evidence of Accordance's Goliath-like stature at these shows came from the Biblical Archaeology Society booth which was located right next to us at SBL. The second morning of the show, Hershel Shanks, the editor of Biblical Archaeology Review and president of BAS, strolled into the booth and asked the girl working there how the show was going. She told him that things were going great because "that Accordance booth" next door brings in a lot of traffic. There was a time when we would have been pleased to be next to BAS because of the traffic they would bring to us, so it was a great compliment to hear that we are now the heavy hitter drawing traffic their way.

Speaking of heavy hitters, the Accordance booth is the place to be if you're a student wanting to make the acquaintance of big name scholars. I'll resist the temptation to name-drop, but the list of people who drop by the Accordance booth every year reads like a who's who of Biblical scholarship. Even well-known scholars who don't use Accordance (usually because all they know is the PC and they fear they're too old to learn new tricks) stop by the booth to see the latest things we're offering. It really is quite remarkable.

Without a doubt, my favorite thing about ETS/SBL is seeing the reaction of new customers who never even realized the kinds of things that are possible with Accordance. Many of them have been hearing about Accordance from their colleagues and have been skeptical that Accordance could really be that powerful and easy to use. A few minutes into the demos these folks are sold, and when I keep showing them feature after feature, they just start shaking their heads and wondering why they took so long to learn about Accordance. Other people just stumble across our booth and are amazed to discover all that Accordance has to offer. Still others come by with specific challenges, such as "I want to find all hapax legomena in Luke and then search for those words in the Septuagint book The Wisdom of Solomon." "Oh, sure," I say, and in a few minutes I've shown them just how easy it is to do.

Basically, there's so much positive energy and so many excited customers in the Accordance booth that I always leave ETS/SBL feeling excited and encouraged. Our competitors may be larger and better known in other markets, but in the little pond of Biblical scholarship, it's the little fish that is making the biggest waves.


P.S.: Thanks to all of you who came by and expressed appreciation for the Accordance blog. Now that ETS/SBL is out of the way, look for more frequent postings.

I'm curious... given this clearly evident popularity, why is Accordance a David in the marketplace? I mean I understand that the PC market is substantially larger than the Mac market but it seems to me there are niche Mac companies like yours that are able to grow into significant companies. Is there actually a desire not to grow much beyond the "Mom and Pop" operation?

Also, why does Oak Tree so fervently resist going into the PC market with such a powerful product? Wouldn't this allow you to grow your company and start on a road to compete more favorably with the libraries offered by certain other companies? Isn't that in your interests, your customer's interests, and in the general interests of biblical scholarship and learning?

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