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

Tuesday, June 12, 2007  

The Story Behind Anchor Bible Dictionary

This month's featured module is Anchor Bible Dictionary, which is being offered for just $199 through the end of June. A six-volume Bible dictionary first published in print in 1990, its list of contributors reads like a who's who of Biblical scholarship. It's a tremendous resource, and it's the one I personally have set to open whenever I triple-click on any English word in Accordance.

But rather than tell you how important Anchor is as a work of scholarship, let me tell you a little about how important Anchor Bible Dictionary has been to Accordance. I'm a little fuzzy on the time frame, but I believe it was early 1997 that I was given an e-text of Anchor Bible Dictionary. We had just released version 2.0 the previous year, so Tool modules were still relatively new. I had done a handful of relatively simple tools: Louw & Nida, Easton's Bible Dictionary, Matthew Henry's concise commentary, etc. Anchor was a whole new order of magnitude, with a wide variety of hypertext links, images, tables, transliteration, and overall complexity. Each time I would run across a new aspect of Anchor which our current tool implementation could not support, we would have to do programming to support it. Many of the cool features in Accordance tools today are the direct result of our early efforts to support Anchor.

There was a bit of risk involved in developing the module at that point, since we did not yet have a signed contract with Doubleday. We needed to "sell" them on our ability to represent Anchor Bible Dictionary well, and the best way to do that was to show them what it would be like as an Accordance tool. But if they ultimately decided not to license it to us, a lot of work would have been wasted.

Some time around the summer of 1997, we made a trip up to New York City to meet with Doubleday and show them our sample module. This was my first trip to New York, and I remember being surprised that Doubleday was housed in a huge building right off Times Square. After ascending to whichever ridiculously high story of the building our meeting was in, we were ushered into a waiting room, where I began to get nervous about the prospect of demonstrating Accordance to a couple of publishing executives.

As it turned out, the demo wasn't the hard part. They made a few suggestions for additional minor features, but they were generally very impressed with our implementation. Much more difficult were all the questions they had about the size of the Macintosh market, the size of our user base, how we would market the product, etc. Prior to the meeting, I had made a few fumbling attempts at market research, but I certainly didn't have a lot of hard statistics I could rattle off. I realized half-way through all this that I was basically being asked to sell the viability of the Macintosh platform.

On the other hand, I also realized that the only reason Doubleday was even considering working with us was because Accordance was Mac-only. They were very concerned about creating market confusion by offering Anchor Bible Dictionary for multiple programs, which is why I believe to this day it is only available for a single Windows program. Because we served a different platform, they were willing to consider licensing to us as well.

Though our meeting went well, it was some time before the contract for Anchor was finalized, so I had to shelve a partially developed module and move on to other projects. When we finally did get the go-ahead to produce an Accordance version of Anchor, I had to pick up where I had left off and then hurry to get it done. I believe Anchor Bible Dictionary was finally released in the Fall of 1999.

Looking back, Anchor was well worth the risks we took, the time we invested, and even the long wait for the contract to be finalized. We've enjoyed an excellent working relationship with Doubleday over the years, and that relationship has given us added credibility with other publishers. Likewise, having Anchor Bible Dictionary has given us credibility with users. Every SBL, we have people drawn to Accordance by the fact that we offer ABD. In addition to all this, the information in Anchor was of invaluable help to us when we developed other products such as our own Atlas, Timeline, and Bible Lands PhotoGuide.

All in all, Anchor Bible Dictionary has been a significant factor in the growth and development of Accordance. If you've been waiting to buy it, I hope the current sale will be of help to you. Even if it's not a resource you're personally interested in having, you should be glad we offer it. We certainly are.

Great story David. That your work on ABD influenced the evolution of Accordance does make sence to me. I remember when the print Anchor landed on the reference shelf of the Public Library. It quickly became a major reason to spend more time there. Accordance and Anchor are tools both directions for me in Accordance. I also can appreciate that the people at Doubleday not wanting to be asscociated with perpetually confusing non-Mac personal computers.
Thanks to everyone at OakSoft for keeping my Bible Study exciting and thorough. Wesley Miller

I own both the print and Accordance versions. Each has its benefits. The print version is great for browsing--flipping pages just to see what's there. I've never found that easy in a computer version of anything. I, too, have Accordance set to go to ABD when clicking on English words, It just provides so much information, immediately which is the advantage of Accordance ABD module--no flipping pages, or picking up (not necessarily an easy task given their heft) the wrong volume. This is a module worth saving for, and a must purchase when on sale.

Its a great news that its again back for sale. I have also seen one more bible dictionary to boost your Biblical studies.

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