PBB, or Not PBB: That Is the Question.

Everyone likes free. But it’s still often true that “you get what you pay for.” In this post I’d like to address the issue of free Personal Book Builder (PBB) public domain books vs. Logos editions of public domain books.

The question comes often and in a variety of forms, but the bottom-line issue is whether the added features and functionality of the public domain books that we produce are worth the cost when compared to the books created and freely shared by many of our users using the Personal Book Builder.

One user asks,

I am seeking an in depth answer to a question I’ve had trouble having answered to my satisfaction: What are the advantages of Logos public domain resources over PBB public domain resources?

PBB’s can be placed in one’s Logos library, hovering the cursor over a Bible version reveals the text, and, of course, PBB’s can be searched. So what can the Logos version do that the PBB version cannot do?

The Standard Edition of our Personal Book Builder tool allows users to create their own Libronix resources from their sermons, lectures, class notes, or books in the public domain (or any material for which they hold the copyright) and share them with other users who have the PBB Reading Key, which is included in all of our base packages. (A Private Use Edition is also available at a reduced price, but the books cannot be shared with other users.)

The PBB meets a real need for those who want to have their notes, lectures, and other materials searchable in Libronix, but is it the best solution for building your library of public domain titles? Some say yes. Others say no. I’m going to give you the facts and let you decide for yourself.

Advantages of PBB Public Domain Books

  1. Cost: PBB books are free (however, see #1 below). Most of the Logos editions of public domain books are not free, though they are often priced less expensively than copyrighted material. The Community Pricing Program enables you to pick up public domain books at very low prices. But still, they aren’t free.
  2. Control: This is not really an advantage of the books themselves, but I needed a #2. :) Since users can create their own resources with the PBB, there’s no need to wait until we decide to put a title on Community Pricing or Pre-Pub and no need to wait until it generates sufficient interest to send it into production. If you want it, you can do the work and make it. (But this assumes that you either (1) spend the money to purchase the Personal Book Builder or (2) have a friend willing to do your projects for you.)

Advantages of Logos Public Domain Books

  1. Accessibility: PBB books require the PBB Reading Key, which is available only in our base packages or by purchasing the Standard Edition of our Personal Book Builder (PBB) tool. So while PBBs are free, you’re looking at a $115 prerequisite at minimum (i.e., Christian Home Library with 25% off discount) to be able to use them. The public domain books that Logos produces can be used by anyone without a special reading key and without having to own a base package (though we would certainly encourage you to purchase a base package to get the most out of your public domain purchases).
  2. Appearance: PBB books do not follow your font choices. You’re stuck with whatever the builder decided to use when he created the files. For the most part, Logos books allow you to customize which fonts are used for Greek, Hebrew (and other Semitic languages), and English (with a special script code). PBB books also don’t zoom as nicely as Logos books (the scroll bar increases in size along with the font).
  3. Accuracy: PBB books are usually not as carefully proofed as our editions are. Since the individuals who build the PBBs are not being paid for their time, they usually don’t proof their work as carefully for accuracy. Logos books are OCRed and checked carefully to guarantee a very high degree of accuracy. Many are also updated to fix typos and other issues.
  4. Extensiveness: Many PBB books and collections are not complete; they are often based on partial texts that are available online. Many books lack footnotes and some collections lack entire volumes. In our editions we strive to provide you with as complete of a set of works as possible, even often bringing you more than is found in modern reprints.
  5. Tagging and Linking: Many PBB books are pretty sparse on Bible reference tagging and other tagging. Logos books usually include tagging for all Bible references and often lots of tagging to other resources available in Libronix. This isn’t to say that PBB books can’t be thoroughly tagged, just that, as a general rule, they aren’t.
  6. Data Types and Searching: For the most part the only data types that you’ll find in PBB books are the Bible data type and (sometimes) page numbers. This means that PBBs won’t be keylink targets and won’t be as searchable as Logos books. PBBs also lack fields and don’t allow you to limit your search to specific portions of text like footnotes, body text, etc.
  7. Citations: The source text of many PBBs is unknown or unspecified, so the auto-generated footnotes often don’t contact sufficient information to be useful for articles, papers, books, or other publications. Most Logos books contain all the pertinent information necessary for proper citations.
  8. Book Types: PBB books are not able to be categorized as Bibles or commentaries and therefore won’t function the way Logos Bibles and commentaries do (i.e., Bibles won’t appear in the various Bible version tools, and commentaries won’t appear in the commentaries section of the Passage Guide).
  9. Notes and Highlighting: You cannot add notes or highlighting and other visual markups to PBB books. Logos books can be extensively marked up and annotated.
  10. Support: Since we don’t make the PBB books themselves, we cannot provide the same level of support for them as we do for our own books. If there is a problem with the book itself, you will need to contact the book’s creator, who may or may not be willing to provide support or fix the problem.

The Personal Book Builder is a wonderful tool and serves its purpose well, but it may not be the best tool for building a library of public domain titles. If you are on a tight budget, want to accomplish very simple tasks like reading and basic searching, don’t always need exhaustive texts and a high level of accuracy, and can get by without advanced functionality, the PBB books might be sufficient for you. If any of the 10 items listed about are important to you, the Logos editions may be the better choice.


  1. Steve Maling says:

    Beautifully expressed, with tact and class!

  2. I am so glad you published this Phil. This is one of my major FAQ’s on Stilltruth.com as you can imagine since we host nearly 1000 PBB’s free for download.

  3. Thanks for the detailed answer, Phil. It is quite helpful. For many of us, it will come down to cost versus functionality. Your answer will help us make more informed decisions and should be on the Logos site.

  4. Hi Phil
    I think that the third advantage for the PBB is the ‘opportunity cost’, if I can get a PBB of a public domain resource that means that I still have funds available for purchasing non Public Domain works or Public Domain works not available on PBB.
    The fourth advantage is that ‘time is on my side’ by this I mean that the Public Domain resources are the ones most likely to appear in a future Christmas Special or an upgraded Base Package. This means that if I live with a PBB for a while I’m likely to get it ‘upgraded’ at a some point for a very reasonable price.
    Whilst I agree with the extensive list of benefits for a ‘proper’ Logos resource I think that you have to concede that most of the limitations of the PBB are imposed by Logos and that if these features were available then the community would exploit them to make a PBB that was every bit as good as a full resource. The PBB Updater is a clear demonstration of a member of the community using what is available and their own skills to solve a problem, in this case how best to distribute the available PBBs.

  5. My main goal with the PBB is not to produce resources Logos already has produced, but to produce resources that Logos either are not able to produce or can’t find the time to produce. If I can already purchase the resource all wrapped up from Logos, I’ll do it. For the resources you aren’t producing, that’s what the PBB is for.
    That’s my 2 cents.

  6. Phil Gons says:

    You’re welcome. I hope it is helpful.

  7. I believe if it was possible for PBB files to be recognized as Bibles, commentaries etc I would not think twice over choosing them over the Logos editions.

  8. Dion Houston Sr says:

    I have to agree with Nathan. Let me start by saying that I use Libronix and appreciate Libronix resources because of the extensive meta-data and effort gone in to producing them. I just got done spending a couple hundred dollars on a Septuagint and Hebrew O/T because I know I’ll be using them for years down the road. Without a doubt you do produce the best Bible software and most extensive query language out there.
    But the proprietary nature of Logos has always been the thing that’s really kept me from being a whole hearted believer. Why should it cost $100-$250 plus annual recurring costs simply to create products readable by Libronix? It just feels like it’s to make sure that your product has no competition. If I do get PBB it will be to create a LDLS compatible product where currently there isn’t one (e.g. the Bible in Tagalog).
    I love you guys, but sometimes the overtly commercial nature of your company is something else…

  9. Dion, thanks for your comment. In case you missed the announcement last January, the renewal fee is now waved for anyone who uses the PBB in conjunction with any sort of teaching. Hope this helps a bit.

  10. I probably have a unique user experience, as I only discovered Libronix by purchasing The Complete Works of Oswald Chambers in print form, which included a disc with the volume on Libronix. I then began to search for free resources and found a lot of PBB public domain titles. However, I never purchased Logos, so I do not have a reader key. I do not use my PC for Bible study and could just as easily use the internet to read volumes in the public domain that I want to read. So for me Libronix is a reader, much like a PDF reader, but unfriendly to me. It is frustrating to me that I cannot read other people’s PBB’s. I am not likely to purchase Logos and feel like the system is outdated philosophically, especially in an ever more open source world.