Friday, August 25, 2006

On Electronic Bible Software and the FREE Variety


Essentially, I hate it. I am a book fanatic. I don't want to look at a computer screen all day when I can have a book in my hand. But, I must confess, it makes concordance searching, cross-referencing, and language study much easier and faster, so I use it. What do I use? Well, in a word, I use whatever is cheap and whatever will do what I want it to do. The computer works for me, not the other way around. On my laptop right now are:

  • Bible Navigator, which I received free from SEBTS
  • Libronix, many libraries of which I have received free
  • Bible Windows, again, free because a friend gave it to me
  • WordSearch, which I paid for when I bought Tan's Encyclopedia of Illustrations on CD-Rom
  • Online Bible, free
  • PC Study Bible, a gift
I have also used QuickVerse in the past, and have a few libraries on disk for that program. Most of that was also received free or as gifts. I used to have the Zondervan NIV Study Bible software, which I loved (also got it free because someone returned it to a Christian bookstore where I worked as defective, but I used it for years with no problems). I can't use it anymore because it didn't "Pass Windows XP Logo Testing," whatever that means. I miss it. It was very easy to use. I have a drawer-full of other software I have received free (being a pastor has to have a few perks in this life) which I never installed. Notice that I do not have every seminarian's dream package: BibleWorks (if any readers would like to gift it to me, I will gladly receive it, but it is too expensive to purchase).

I suppose if I paid full retail for all this software, I would have invested thousands in it, but then again, I would have never paid full retail for any of it. And if I had paid full price for any of it, I wouldn't have as much as I do. I just like books too much.

What's the point? After pulling out my hair trying to install all my old Libronix/Logos collections onto my wife's new computer, and then realizing that I needed to upgrade the installation on my own, I decided to look into a package that I have heard about but never explored before -- E-Sword. I am not on commission for them, this is not a paid endorsement, I haven't even used it yet. I just downloaded it FOR FREE! Not only that, but a TON of extras were free for the taking too (unfortunately the NASB is a paid add-on, but the ESV is gratis). As I looked over the free downloads available for E-Sword, I thought to myself, "Who in their right mind would pay the astronomical prices for expensive Bible software, when you can get all this FREE?" After all, most of the commentaries and reference works in Bible software packages are the same -- all public domain stuff. How many copies of Matthew Henry does one need? Love him, but don't need 16 copies of him.

So, I write this to you in the blogosphere to encourage you to support FREE software. E-Sword is one, another is the E4 group, whose discs you have to pay shipping on (they used to be Libronix platform, but now I think they are using Quickverse or something else). But by all means, my absolute favorite FREE Bible software is the NET Bible. I used to use it online so much that I bought a print edition when it was first released as a "Beta Edition". However, it has been revised and improved and can be downloaded in several formats FREE (though there is a paid version available on several platforms as well. The NET Bible is a decent translation in its own right, but the selling feature (or the giving feature as the case may be) is the 60,000 translation footnotes that are virtually unavailable in any printed forum except the most technical (and expensive) commentaries.

Hope this rambling is of use to someone.

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