Product Guide to Multi-Volume Commentaries

Inspired by Vincent’s work on product guides introducing the dozens of Logos products related to biblical languages, I decided to write a product guide on commentaries available for Logos Bible Software. We offer a lot of commentaries, it’s a category of book that appeals to almost every user, and it seems like an area in which people would appreciate some guidance…
It soon became clear that I was sticking my arm into a hornet’s nest.

In the first draft, I classified each commentary series in the areas of technicality, theology, and methodology. So a series might bear the labels “Semi-technical, Expositional, Evangelical,” for example.

As it turns out, it’s difficult if not impossible to come up with labels that are sufficiently descriptive yet accurate…and inoffensive. Labeling commentaries is always a subjective exercise and no matter what labels you choose someone will disagree.

This I quickly learned.

I took some time away from the project and during that time re-visited a website put together by Tyler F. Williams, an OT professor at Taylor University College in Alberta. Williams offers an Old Testament Commentary Survey that seemed to me to strike the right balance of non-intrusive assistance. Its primary classification is by intended audience, with category descriptions that are somewhat elastic but still helpful.

Professor Williams graciously agreed to let us use his classification scheme, and the result is the Product Guide to Multi-Volume Commentaries.

The guide introduces more than 30 multi-volume commentaries available for Logos Bible Software, providing basic information about each one such as publisher, which Bible version is followed, how much Greek or Hebrew text to expect, and more. The accompanying brief descriptions come from each publisher, which lets the series “speak for itself” in terms of intended aim or purpose.

If you desire even more guidance in selecting and using commentaries and other reference works, you might be interested in F. W. Danker’s Multipurpose Tools for Bible Study (a Logos resource) or print resources such as John Glynn’s Commentary and Reference Survey or D. A. Carson’s New Testament Commentary Survey.

Of the Making of Books (Part 7)

Today’s guest blogger is Ken Smith, General Manager of Electronic Publishing Services at Logos.
(This is the next installment in a series of articles about our nearly 60 publishing partners who market their own electronic products using our technology.)

Liturgical Press
One of our earliest publishing partnerships was with Liturgical Press, the publishing arm of St. John’s Abbey and University, a Benedictine monastery and college in central Minnesota.

In 1997, Liturgical published an electronic edition of the Vatican II Papers. This was followed in 1999 by The Rule of St. Benedict Library, an ambitious project that includes numerous primary and secondary sources relating to Benedictine study. This product is a significant beneficiary of electronic technology, as the various translations of and commentaries on the Rule are able to be scrolled in parallel and set as preferred targets for keylinking.

In February of 2001, Liturgical released a set of reference titles in a collection they titled The Collegeville Catholic Reference Library, which was updated in August of 2002 to the Libronix Digital Library System. The set includes the most popular reference works from Liturgical Press: The Collegeville Bible Commentary, The New Dictionary of Sacramental Worship, The New Dictionary of Catholic Spirituality, The New Dictionary of Catholic Social Thought, The New Dictionary of Theology, and Consecrated Phrases: A Latin Theological Dictionary.

While they are clearly a progressive organization, the folks at St. John’s haven’t lost sight of their roots. As evidence, take a moment to appreciate one of their newest and most ambitious print projects, The Saint John’s Bible. “The first handwritten, illuminated Bible commissioned since the printing press was invented five centuries ago.”

SJBIB

Next: Caribe-Betania Editores

Theologies Boom

Two major, contemporary, theological works hit the prepub page yesterday: Berkouwer’s Studies in Dogmatics (14 vols) and Pannenberg’s Systematic Theology (3 vols).

You might be asking, “Are theologies really the kind of book that benefits from an electronic edition?” Absolutely.

Theologies are chock full of scriptural references, and as a Logos Bible Software book all those references get turned into hotspots…even if they’re buried in a footnote. This overcomes a number of limitations of the print:

  • It now takes zero effort to look up Bible references to confirm the author’s interpretation.
  • We effectively create a Scripture index for the entire series of books, not just each volume…no page-flipping needed.
  • By creating a defined collection of books and adding it to the Passage Guide report [learn how], the software will remember to search your theologies for references to whatever passage you’re studying…without you having to think about it!

That’s just a few of the benefits of owning theologies in electronic editions. I could go on and on about searchability, links to other works, the ability to copy and paste, automatic footnoting…but instead I hope you’ll check it out for yourself by pre-ordering Berkouwer or Pannenberg or both.

There’s only one question left, and that’s the inevitable…”Awesome…now how about Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics?” Which provokes our usual response…”Yes, we’d love to do that, too.”

Of the Making of Books (Part 6)

Today’s guest blogger is Ken Smith, General Manager of Electronic Publishing Services at Logos.

(This is the next installment in a series of articles about our nearly 60 publishing partners who market their own electronic products using our technology.)

Standard Publishing
One of the most rewarding aspects of our work at Logos is when we see our technology helping people to be more consistent and fruitful in their daily study of the Bible. When we partner with a publisher who values this as much as we do, great things can happen. Such is the case with Standard Publishing.

Beginning in the fall of 2001, Standard began issuing an electronic edition of their annual Standard Lesson Commentary using our technology. As you can see from the cover, the CD-ROM was considered a “bonus” and I’m sure both companies wondered just how many of the loyal purchasers of the print edition would actually use the CD-ROM.

SLC0102

In those days, we didn’t really have any way to track that statistic, but Standard seemed pleased enough with the reaction to continue the following year. Because the 2002–2003 edition was based on the Libronix Digital Library System, we were able to gather some information about the number of people who made the effort to take the CD out of the back of the book, load it onto their computer and complete the activation process.

Were we ever surprised. Thousands of people activated the software and gladly embraced the electronic format. The following year, the numbers were nearly identical.

SLC0203 SLC0304

For the 2004–2005 edition, Standard took a big step and decided to launch an electronic-only product. The product was named The Standard Lesson eCommentary and included a small library of reference books as well.

If one of your New Year’s Resolutions is to be more consistent in your daily Bible study, it’s not too late to pick up the 2005–2006 Standard Lesson eCommentary and get started. And don’t worry. Planning for the 2006–2007 edition has already begun!

Next: Liturgical Press

Camp Logos Cruise

Avast, ye scurvy dogs, are ye ready to set sail fer Alaska with “Cap’n Moe” and the Camp Logos crew?

OK, I don’t think it’s going to be a pirate themed event. But still, what could be better than hanging out with other Logos aficionados aboard the Sun Princess while eating great food, seeing some seriously impressive sights, and sharpening your Bible software skills?

The 7-day cruise leaves from Seattle, Washington, on July 23, 2006, and follows the beautiful Inside Passage to Alaska with 5 ports of call along the way. You will see Victoria, Ketchikan, the Tracy Arm Fjord, Juneau, and Skagway.

You’ll also benefit from a number of focused training sessions with Morris Proctor, certified trainer for Logos Bible Software. Morris will lead group and individual sessions to take your Logos-assisted Bible study to the next level and ensure that you’re using the tool with optimal efficiency. And, of course, spending time with other users will be just plain fun.

Get the complete details and sign up for the cruise at the Morris Proctor Seminars website. The registration deadline is coming up soon, so don’t wait.

Commentaries Alone or in a Set?

We received this comment from a blog reader back in December and I thought it deserved a little longer response than I could give it in the comments:

It would be helpful in this series of articles to explain the justification for making certain books available only as a part of the set (i.e., ICC commentaries) and not separately. Thanks for the great work you are doing! —Paul

Paul, that’s a fair question. Typically, you’ll see new commentaries made available first as a series and only later will they be broken up into individual volumes.

Often, this is due to licensing issues but it can also be the result of the way the prepub program works (we want to digitize the entire series, not just individual volumes). The deep prepub discount makes up for the fact that you may be getting volumes you wouldn’t buy otherwise.

A couple of years after publication, we often go back and split out the volumes for individual sale, if the contract allows. Many commentary sets are currently available as individual volumes, including Crossway Classic Commentary Series, College Press NIV Commentary Series, MacArthur New Testament Commentary Series, The Preacher’s Commentary Series, and Word Biblical Commentary Series.

Of course, you’ll always save money by buying the whole series instead of acquiring it piece by piece. But if you’re focusing on a particular book of the Bible or want to own a volume that has garnered special acclaim, buying one volume at a time may be the way to go.

Of the Making of Books (Part 5)

Today’s guest blogger is Ken Smith, General Manager of Electronic Publishing Services at Logos.
(This is the next installment in a series of articles about our nearly 60 publishing partners who market their own electronic products using our technology.)

Biblical Archaeology Society

From as far back as I can remember, customers were asking about making back issues of Biblical Archaeology Review (BAR) part of our electronic library offerings. We tried unsuccessfully for quite some time to license BAR from the Biblical Archaeology Society (BAS), but to no avail. (I guess they knew they had a good thing and wanted to do it themselves!)

Since we couldn’t get BAR, we pursued other content from BAS, including a Biblical Archaeology Slide Set. That project never came to fruition and I think we’ve still got a box of several hundred slides gathering dust in our basement somewhere (which may be an interesting find for some 23rd century archaeologist).

After several years of discussion, BAS decided the time was right for them to enter the electronic publishing arena. In October of 2002, that same dust-gathering slide set was released as The Biblical World in Pictures CD-ROM, fully integrated into the Libronix Digital Library System.

BWP

Those customers who had been asking for BAR in Libronix format didn’t have to wait long. In March of 2003, BAS published the first edition of The Biblical Archaeology Review Archive, containing every issue of BAR from 1975 to 2001. It has since been updated to include all of 2002 and 2003 as well.

We’re happy to say that BAS has continued to expand their electronic offerings for the Libronix Digital Library System. In 2004, they released two additional collections of magazine back issues. The Archaeology Odyssey Archive and The Bible Review Archive make the BAS family of electronic products a compelling set.

If you have a particular author, book, magazine, or any other content you’d like to have as part of your electronic library, we want to know! Send an e-mail to suggest@logos.com. No guarantees, but we’ll certainly consider any and all of your suggestions.

Next: Standard Publishing

Why a Vast Electronic Library is a Good Thing

Our customers need no convincing. A hard drive full of electronic reference books trumps a stack of dead trees, no question. But from time to time, I read comments from a reviewer or blogger who seems to doubt the utility or legitimacy of amassing a large electronic library.

Stories like the following testimonial from a pastor in Hong Kong, however, only confirm my deep belief in the soundness of our vision to digitize thousands upon thousands of Bible reference titles.
I’ll let the story speak for itself…

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I am a Filipino pastor sent by God to Hong Kong to help minister to Filipino domestic helpers in this city. There are about 160,000 Filipinos in this city.

I preach and teach almost everyday except on Monday. The way the church is set up is quite different from other churches. We don’t schedule our church services. We open the church whenever the believers could come and met. If they are out on a Tuesday morning, then we have a church meeting on Tuesday morning. If it is Thursday evening, then the church meets on Thursday evening. Most of our church people have about 6 hrs each week for rest. They work 16-20 hours everyday. Some have just one day in a month for rest.

Ministering to this special group of people requires a lot of emotional and physical support. Our job includes fetching them frantically crying in the middle of the night, forced to leave their employer’s house when they are terminated. It could be midnight or 3 am.

Here’s where I get a lot of help from my Series X Libronix Library. I bought WBC the whole 58 volumes; Life Application; Handbook of the New Testament and other commentaries. They save me a lot of time when preparing sermons.

This is not to mention how much help I personally receive as I study passages to continue growing in the Lord.

And here’s the best part: Whenever I go to visit our church friends in the underground church, to teach the leaders, I get so much help from these commentaries. I have over 150 volumes of fantastic, scholarly, and helpful books in my computer. It’s like bringing a whole library with me.

Thank you Logos for offering such a gift to the Body of Christ. There’s no help like these books on CD-ROMs.

Sincerely,

[Name Withheld]

ICC: A big job but somebody had to do it

Nearly two years after the initial prepublication announcement, the complete International Critical Commentary Series (ICC) is finished… The commentary series that took more than 100 years to write (and counting) has been digitized in just over 2.

As you can see, this is one big set of books. Fifty-three bound volumes to be exact. When we posted the prepub page on December 12, 2003, we had no idea how many people would pony up $1,000 for the set. But we knew the value of the series for biblical study and knew that of any electronic publisher we were in the best position to get it done.

The books were shipped off to the data keying center and came back needing lots of correction. In particular, the ancient language text (like Hebrew, Aramaic, Syriac, Coptic and Greek) required a team of developers to go through it word by word, correcting the files as they went. This turned out to be such a headache that we devised a new tool (dubbed Shibboleth and mentioned briefly by Bob on his own blog) to speed up the process.

The specifics about the ways Shibboleth speeds up and improves the process is fodder for another post, probably by someone who knows more about it than I do. But I can say that “there was much rejoicing” in the text development department the day the final volume was completed, ship-checked and ready to head off to replication.

And now, just over two years after announcing the start of this massive project, it is being delivered to users so that these important volumes can be utilized by seminary professors and students, preachers, teachers and other folks studying the Bible.

Of the Making of Books (Part 3)

Today’s guest blogger is Ken Smith, General Manager of Electronic Publishing Services at Logos.

(This is the third in a series of articles about our nearly 60 publishing partners who market their own electronic products using our technology.)

Fortress Press

With some publishers, we start small and work our way up to bigger projects. With Fortress Press, it’s been quite the opposite. The first project we did with them in October, 2001 was the voluminous Luther’s Works on CD-ROM, co-published with Concordia Publishing House.

This massive, 55-volume work is one of the most ambitious projects we have ever embarked upon. Luther’s Works is one of those products, however, where the simplicity and compactness of the electronic medium vastly understates the significance, complexity and value of the work. For the price of a handful of print volumes, thousands of pages from one of Christianity’s most prolific and influential writers are yours in a format that is portable, easily accessible, and exceptionally useful.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, Fortress Press has since released a series of single or dual book/CD combination products that have proven very successful in the academic market.

Beginning with their Christian Theology Set, they now have 17 different titles in this category, including Hanson and Oakman’s Palestine in the Time of Jesus, Walter Brueggemann’s Theology of the Old Testament and most recently, Jewish Literature between the Bible and the Mishnah by George Nickelsburg.

We’ve recently made all of these titles available for sale on our web site, both individually and in an all-in-one collection. We like to think of them as free paperback books with purchase of your Libronix-compatible electronic editions!

Next: Galaxie Software