BibleWorks and Wise Words of Caution

BibleWorks has been my choice for textual study for a few years. Recently I acquired version 10, and as expected, I like it a lot, although I need to spend a few days just going through the excellent tutorial videos provided by their team.

As I was exploring the Module page on BibleWorks' site, I came across some brief comments at the bottom of the page titled "Some Thoughts About Electronic Libraries." 

Now, just so I'm clear, I am by no means against electronic libraries. For those who invest solely in them and have found them to be the best option in their study routine, that is great. I use electronic resources frequently, as they make research efficient through search capabilities. Resources that I use a lot, I may decide to acquire the digital edition, but I always choose the print edition over the electronic edition if I am purchasing one or the other. Personally, I prefer to have a book in my hands to read rather than an iPad or some other eReader.

However, I have also had reservations about investing my money into resources that I actually do not own. What I mean by that is, when buying an electronic resource, most of the time one is merely purchasing the rights to use or view it, such as commentaries, books, etc. This concerns me a little bit, but perhaps I have read Nineteen Eighty-Four too much.  

In this regard, my respect for BibleWorks has greatly increased. As a digital company whose mission is to "provide pastors, teachers, students, and missionaries with the tools they need to 'rightly divide the word of truth,'" it is impressive for them to caution customers with what they perceive to be weaknesses of technology and to think historically. We, as humans, can easily forget the past. We don't even have to turn the clock back one hundred years to make the point. We take many things for granted and can be prone to assuming that it will always be this way. Here are the points they make:

"We continue to encourage our users to think carefully before building large electronic libraries, for three reasons:

1. There is no guarantee computers will, in as few as ten years, be able to read today's electronic media. For example, read "Cerf sees a problem: Today's digital data could be gone tomorrow " from ComputerWorld (June 4, 2013), "At Libraries, Taking the (Really) Long View" from Inside Higher Ed (July 23, 2008), and "The Digital Ice Age" from Popular Mechanics (December 2006).

2. Even more significantly, almost all electronic libraries are in proprietary formats: there is no standard. Proprietary formats, and the software that reads them, come and go (remember DOS?). A recent article in Christian Computing, "Is It Time for a Second STEP?", noted the unlikelihood of a standard format emerging. When an electronic library's proprietary format is abandoned, one's investment in the library is lost.

3. Finally, in most cases one cannot purchase anything more than a license to use the content of an electronic book. Such a license is vulnerable to being revoked, as this April 2014 article from World magazine points out:

Books, on the other hand, are independent of computers. If you use certain reference works on a daily basis, it may make sense to purchase electronic editions, and, for this reason, we are providing (and will continue to provide) a limited collection of locked electronic resources for those who want them. But in our opinion it makes sense to buy print editions first, then electronic editions if you find you really need them."

I don't need extra reasons to like BibleWorks, but I certainly won't disregard them when they come along. Thank you, BibleWorks, for offering wise words of warning.

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