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Entries in OliveTree (12)

Wednesday
Mar312010

Is It Time to Sell My (Dead-Tree Format) Books?

I realized something in the last few days. As I've acquired digital copies of books in software like Accordance, WORDsearch, and Logos, I rarely pick up hard copy equivalents anymore if I have them on the shelf.

As these programs transition to devices such as the iPad, their functionality as replacement engines for physical books increases. Even a product like Olive Tree's Bible Reader—the clear superior product of its type on the iPhone—stands to take on whole new significance on the iPad.

Kathy and I have an entire room in our house that holds a personal library of somewhere over 2500 volumes. But I've got at least that many books on the MacBook Pro from which I'm writing this right now. Probably more. And my MacBook Pro weighs a lot less and takes up much less space!

My neglect of the physical wasn't always this way. I used to use Accordance to find an article in the Anchor Bible Dictionary and then I'd oven pull the book off the shelf to read it—especially if it was a longer article. But I just don't do that anymore. It's simply more convenient to read it in Accordance.

And as I look around, I've got a lot of significant duplication: the already mentioned six volume Anchor (Yale) Bible Dictionary, the 10 volume Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Colin Brown's four volume New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Willem VanGemeren's five volume New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis, 50 or so volumes of the Word Biblical Commentary as well as hundreds of other commentaries, the entire Encyclopedia Britannica, scores of individual references such as BDAG and HALOT, hundreds of theological journals (yes, I even have duplicates of these) and so much more.

I don't know for certain, but I bet that I could eliminate at least a third of my physical library that duplicates electronic texts I have, allowing us perhaps to throw a pullout futon bed in there and create a guest room!

Of course, having fought (and mostly lost) the battle with being a bit of a bibliophile, such parting is no easy task. I like my (physical) books! I like the look of a room with multiple floor-to-ceiling bookcases. I can fool guests into thinking I'm much smarter than I actually am. And although I increasingly find digital books more useful, I often still more easily "bond" with physical books. True bibliophiles will understand. But maybe this is just emotional sentimentality.

The key factor in my decision rests in the fact that, as I've already mentioned, I've found I simply don't use the physical copies once I have electronic duplicates. And to hold on to things I don't use or need makes me a hoarder and a glutton of things.

There's always the risk that in 20 years, I might not be able to access my books if they are in an abandoned digital format. Physical books generally outlive the original owner. But I'm going to bet against such pessimism. There's comfort in numbers, and the fact that vast numbers of the population are moving to digital books makes me feel somewhat safe that they'll still be around in the future.

In the meantime, even selling the books at a significant discount, I think I can make a pretty decent amount of money on them. I imagine I'll probably list most of the books on Amazon, although I might sell a few combined sets like the NIDNTT & NIDOTTE on eBay. Because of shipping, Craig's List would be a good place for my entire Encyclopedia Britannica. Generally, encyclopedias don't have a great resale value, so I may have to see what kind of "best offer" I can get. Regardless, I'm not using them, and they take up a lot of space.

What about you? Have you sold large quantities of physical books because you had them duplicated on your computer? How did you sell them? What worked best? Please leave your thoughts in the comments.

Sunday
Nov222009

SBL: Software Bible Shootout

softwareI had the opportunity on Saturday to sit in on the "Bible Software Shootout" at SBL. This event was described in the program in the following manner:

Invited software vendors will showcase their products by demonstrating how their software solves five real-world problems in back-to-back comparisons. Each vendor will have 30 minutes, with the exception of SESB which will have 15 minutes.

Keith H. Reeves, Azusa Pacific University, Presiding

Logos Systems
Michael S. Heiser, Logos Systems, Respondent [replaced by Bob Pritchett]


Stuttgart Electronic Study Bible
Oliver Glanz, Stuttgart Electronic Study Bible, Respondent


BibleWorks
Jim Barr, Bible Works, Respondent
Glen Weaver, Bible Works, Respondent
Mark Cannon, Bible Works, Respondent


Accordance
Roy B. Brown, Accordance, Respondent
Rex A. Koivisto, Accordance, Respondent


Olive Tree
Stephen Johnson, Olive Tree Bible Software, Respondent
Drayton Benner, University of Chicago, Respondent


Each presenter was challenged to use their respective software packages to solve the following tasks:


  1. Give the parsing of a word and its meaning from a standard source.

  2. Show all the occurrences of a word in the NT and LXX and show the Hebrew word which corresponds withe the Greek in the LXX (if there is a correspondence).

  3. Find all the occurrences of οἰ δὲ in Matthew's gospel followed by a finite verb within the clause.

  4. I want to study a part of speech, e. g., demonstrative pronouns or interjections. How do I get all of the lemmas for that part of speech, get all the occurrences of those lemmas, and the results organized in such a way that I could write an article/monograph on that part of speech from the data?

  5. I want to study the inflections of the Hebrew middle weak verb, and I want to see what the range of possible variations are for each of the conjugations (perfect, imperative, etc.) person, number, gender, stem. This means I need to find all the middle weak verbs, find all their occurrences, and organize them in such a way that the variation of their inflections are immediately apparent. The goal of the data organization would be to allow me to write an article about the variations of the Hebrew middle weak verb.


I do not know if the session was video recorded, but it should have been. The Accordance team was the only one to provide a paper presenting the steps in putting together the solutions to the problems above. If the Accordance folks decide to post their paper, I'll create a link to it here.

Now, let me say up front that I'm biased towards Accordance. I won't try to hide that fact. I'm so biased, in fact, that I've agreed to work the booth with them here at SBL. But I should also point out that my bias is neither random nor based on anything but my own experience with Bible software.

I've been using Accordance for over 11 years. I own the Scholar's Unlock All, Library Premier, and scores of other modules I've added over the years. But you should know that I also own Logos 4 Gold Level (and other resources bought separately) and have it installed both in Windows (via Bootcamp & Parallels) and in Mac OS X (although the Mac version currently is an alpha version that is of minimal use). I have a very old version of BibleWorks (v. 3.5) which I had from my Windows days before I switched to the Mac in 1998. All of the above, I have paid for with my own funds. I also have a copy of Olive Tree's Bible software on the iPhone, some of which I bought and some of which was given to me by Olive Tree.

Here are a few reflections:

I still don't understand why Oliver Glanz was demonstrating the Stuttgart Electronic Study Bible, since it runs on the Logos platform.

My familiarity with Accordance vs. my lesser familiarity with Logos and my almost nil experience with the current version of BibleWorks made it difficult for me to follow some aspects of the latter two's presentation.

Logos 4 continues to be extremely impressive visually, but I have to wonder how much all the many charts and graphs would be of significant help if I was needing it to solve the problems that were part of the challenge. A good way to describe Logos 4 is "visually overwhelming." And while I don't mean that in a totally negative manner, it's not completely positive either. There simply seemed to be too much thrown at the problems during the presentation, and it wasn't clear how helpful some of the supposed solutions would actually be.

Although Olive Tree could not perform every aspect of the last two challenges, what they could do was very impressive, indeed. The representatives from Olive Tree showed that their "pocket" software can be used for very serious work if someone is so inclined to do so. It's been over a year since I wrote my initial review of the iPhone app, and it's probably time to post an update.

Of all the presenters, only Roy Brown of Accordance provided a handout describing his solutions to the problems. In fact, his handout was 12 pages long! This meant that anyone with access to the software could easily go home and duplicate his solutions, step-by-step. That would really be impossible with the other software unless the attendee was keeping extremely meticulous notes.

Roy is undoubtedly the "father" of Mac Bible software. The maturity and straightforwardness of his presentation, combined with his knowledge of the software as an engineer as well as his insight into the biblical language gave his presentation a certain level of gravitas that the other presentations could not match.

There was an ongoing query during the Q&A sessions regarding the availability of critical apparatuses. Accordance fared best here having a total of eight combined for the LXX, Hebrew Bible, and Greek New Testament, including the near exhaustive CNTTS. Olive Tree does not currently have any. BibleWorks only had one, but an older one of less value (Tischendorf). I don't remember how many Logos had, but I know that have at least one for the NT and one for the OT.

Finally, after the competition was over (no winner was actually announced), I spoke briefly with a former classmate of mine who is now a professor in a prestigious seminary. He told me that in watching the different presentations, he thought Accordance had the most logical and straightforward solutions to the problems. While he said that he did not know how to use Accordance yet, he felt confident that it was something that could be easily learned as a valuable tool for biblical studies.

Let me be clear: no one gave a bad presentation. But if I had to pick a winner, biased or not, I would pick Accordance because of its simple, straightforward and logical approach. The methods employed were both useful (and often multiple in number to achieve the same results) as well as direct and to the point, avoiding the temptation to "wow" an audience with impressive features that do not necessarily or directly address the issues at hand.

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