Recently, a major Windows Bible software developer released a preliminary alpha of their long-awaited Mac version. The reaction so far has been decidedly . . . mixed. On the one hand, recent Mac switchers who have long used this program on the PC are happy to be able to access at least some of the resources they once purchased without having to use Parallels or BootCamp. On the other hand, most people have reported that there is still a long way to go before this program is truly ready for release. In spite of claims that the "wait is finally over," it would appear that, in fact, it is not.
The most curious reaction I've seen is from those who are already predicting the inevitable demise of Accordance. It won't be the first time. In the early nineties there were those who questioned our sanity for developing Bible software for the "shrinking Mac market." In 1997 there were those who told us that Apple would soon go out of business and Accordance would sink with them. Three years ago, when this Windows developer announced it would release a Mac version in six months, some predicted that Accordance would be unable to survive the increased competition. This week, I stumbled across the blog of a book publisher who thinks that Accordance has effectively been "left in the dust" by the release of this alpha.
I'm beginning to feel a bit like Mark Twain when he returned from overseas to discover that most Americans believed him to have died: "Ladies and gentlemen, the rumors of [our] demise have been greatly exaggerated."
Normally, I wouldn't bother addressing these gloomy prophecies of our inevitable demise, but the blogger mentioned above actually gave reasons he thought the writing was on the wall. And since his position may give the impression that he actually knows whereof he speaks, I feel it necessary to point out that most of what he's written is simply inaccurate.
First, he argues that this Windows developer is the largest provider of digital texts. That much is true. But he goes on to say that "All major Christian publishers are using them as their platform of choice." That simply is not true.
By all accounts, I would think Zondervan would qualify as a "major" Christian publisher, yet most of their electronic materials are exclusive to their own Pradis software on the PC, and Accordance on the Mac. That means resources like NIDNTT and NIDOTTE, the Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, Expositor's Bible Commentary, the NIV Study Bible and Student Bible, Mounce's Basics of Biblical Greek grammar, etc. are simply not available for the "largest provider of digital texts." Then there's Hendrickson, which as far as I know, has not licensed materials like Spicq's Theological Lexicon of the New Testament, Jenni-Westermann's Theological Lexicon of the Old Testament, or the New International Biblical Commentary to the other guys. And of course, if we're talking about resources which are unique to Accordance, there are also numerous original language resources as well as our unparalleled Bible Atlas, PhotoGuide, and Timeline.
Personally, I would prefer not to list all the resources which are "exclusive" to Accordance, because I've always felt that Bible programs should be judged by their feature sets and interfaces rather than by who offers which resource. It is users who are hurt by being forced to use this program or that program in order to have access to a given book, and it's unfortunate that it has to be that way. This is partly the fault of we software developers, and partly the result of publishers' inability or unwillingness to support every conceivable software format. Thus, while unfortunate, the you-need-this-program-for-this-book syndrome in Bible software is not likely to change any time soon. And when pushed, I guess I'm not above listing the resources you can only get here! :-)
There's another thing which is misleading about this blogger's statement that "All major Christian publishers are using them as their platform of choice." It implies that publishers like IVP, Eerdmann's, Brill, University of Chicago Press, Thomas Nelson, Moody, Biblical Archaeology Society, Jewish Publication Society, Broadman and Holman, and countless others are working exclusively with that other software developer. On the contrary, some of these publishers have licensed their materials to multiple Bible software programs. Many have chosen to work with two, and only two, programs. Happily, Accordance is one of the two.
That means Accordance users don't have to go anywhere else for BDAG, HALOT, the IVP Reference Collection, the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, Word Biblical Commentary, NIGTC and Pillar, MacArthur's commentary, the JPS Torah Commentary, Context of Scripture, and numerous other major titles. This year we'll offer more journals, massive commentary sets, and lots of other materials I'm not at liberty to talk about yet. Right now, we have all the new material in the pipeline we can handle.
In short, we've worked very hard to put together a library of materials which exceeds that of nearly every other software vendor, including companies which are many times our size. We have a great relationship with a wide range of publishers, including some who have not shown an interest in working with the "largest provider of digital texts." Just as Microsoft's size and the greater number of software titles available for Windows were not enough to bring about the death of Apple, so another Windows Bible program ported to Mac does not make our demise inevitable. Apple didn't stand still in the face of Windows' hegemony, and we certainly aren't standing still either.
Well, I've spent more time than I had intended answering the first of this particular blogger's points. Ultimately, it all boils down to this: Yes, the other guys have more stuff, but most of the really good stuff we already have. Some of the really good stuff we have and they don't, so the available resources argument cuts both ways. Unfortunately, some really good stuff they currently have exclusive access to; and we may or may not ever be able to license it. For those who need that material, this company's new Mac alpha will be a welcome complement to Accordance. If Mac users showed a penchant for choosing quantity over quality, the fact that the other guys offer "more stuff" might be a serious cause for concern. Since Mac users do value quality, we're not likely to be run out of business any time soon!
Well, that's one leg of the argument this blogger put forward which is decidedly weak. As I wrote above, I hesitate to interact with such comments because I know most of you already see through them. But even the best of us can be misled by a little disinformation, so I felt it necessary to clear up the misconceptions being propagated. I'll deal with the rest of those misconceptions in a follow-up post.