Don’t Pay for Something You Can Get for Free.

Last week I read some advice that a seminary student was giving to potential Logos users. It went something like this: when trying to decide whether to invest in Logos, calculate the print value of the books that you think you’d actually use and, if that amount exceeds the cost of the package from Logos, buy it. But in your calculations make sure to exclude any books that are available for free elsewhere (e.g., from Google Books or Amazon’s Online Reader).

I think the first part of the advice is generally* sound, but the second part has problems. While it’s often a good idea not to spend money for something you can get for free, this is not always the case. The advice above leaves out two important factors: quality and convenience.


First, the advice above is not really comparing apples with apples. The quality of Logos digital books exceeds the quality of books available at Amazon’s Online Reader, Google Books, and other places on the internet.

So it may very well be worth paying money for books that are available for free online, if you want the ability to perform incredibly powerful searches, copy and paste text into papers or sermons with automatic citations, get instant access to Bible passages with a hover or a click, jump to cited books and articles, and all the other things that make Logos digital books so valuable.

So the advice would have been better if it had said, “Exclude any books that are of equal quality and available for free elsewhere.” But that still doesn’t quite do.


Second, even if we were comparing apples with apples, that is, books of equal quality—or let’s assume you are the rare person who doesn’t need any of the benefits I mentioned above—there is value in the convenience of an integrated digital library. When your digital library is spread across multiple platforms and websites (e.g., Google Books, PDFs and Word docs on your computer, Amazon, and other places), it takes time (1) to remember where you have access to x, y, and z books and then (2) to perform multiple searches on multiple websites and desktop applications. That extra time spent can be quantified in terms of value, so it may be worth the money for the added convenience and time-saving benefit.

Let’s say you use iTunes for your music library. Numerous legal sources allow you to listen to music for free online, but you have to be connected to the internet and go to the website to listen to it. You can’t download it and integrate it into your digital music library in iTunes—or listen to it on your iPod. Perhaps for many songs that would be fine, but the benefit of convenience may make it worth it to purchase some music that is available for free elsewhere.

So I think we could further improve the advice by saying, “Exclude any books that are of equal quality and available for free elsewhere in a medium that offers equal convenience.”

Everyone has different needs and different financial abilities, and there are definitely times when it is financially wise to be content to use good secondary tools like Google Books and Amazon’s Online Reader. But if quality and convenience are important to you, it may very well be worth paying for something you can get for free elsewhere.

* However, I think you could make a case for why it might be wise to buy Logos even if the digital cost exceeded the print cost, but that is perhaps for another day and another blog post.


  1. I think Logos goes far beyond convenient. I have many books in my Logos base package (Scholar’s Library) that I never would have purchased (or probably even heard about).
    Yet, when I do a search for something like “God within 5 words mercy”, I (almost) instantly get results from every resource in Logos. I am seeing things I would never see if I were using print or different online resources.
    Logos opens my eyes to perspectives that I didn’t even know exist. This is something that is very difficult to get if you are hand picking all of the resources you use.

  2. Andy Anderson says

    I had a very large paper Christian Theological Library, and purchased the Scholar’s package with some other collections about 3 years ago. I found myself not using the paper library, due to the convenience and integration that you are talking about with Logos. In fact my paper library began to collect a lot of dust, so began to sell off the paper, and with that money buy more digital resources. Even if it cost money with Logos and it’s perhaps free elsewhere, I will purchase the Logos books, because libronix is a fine tuned machine that maximizes my biblical studies. Logos is an investment in time savings and resources that can all be accessed in one program. It’s money well spent!

  3. I won the Schollar’s library free in a contest and while I did not get every book I would have liked with it, it sure was close. Having Logos is like having a personal library available to to me to to research whenever I want. Best thing is that it is open 24/7

  4. I took a long time out of my day to explain a counterpoint to your claim, and you don’t publish it. Very Christlike behavior, guys. Hide the truth. Way to go.

  5. Hi, Chad, sorry about that. This is the first comment that I’ve received from you today.

  6. James Macleod says

    I would be interested in hearing the counterpoint but Logos has a right to control their own blog.
    I would add that there is more than just equal convenience. There is also the benefit of having all resources in one place. I would prefer to search one convenient source than say 5 convenient sources. In other words there is a benefit simply to having all your resources in one place.

  7. As a seminary student I have access to a lot of free material via our library and online sources available only to academic institutions. I also have all the Theological Journals and an extensive book library in LBX. Without a doubt I could not imagine doing the research I am able to do without Libronix. Even the best library in the world is limited by the person using it (and the time and ability they have to access all the books).
    I would only encourage someone to use the free sources if they absolutely could not afford it. In fact, to the one fellow student who asked, “How far in seminary can I get before buying it?” I responded, “depends on how much pain and suffering you want to experience.”

  8. I have owned Logos for about almost 2 years now and I am more than satisfied. I do agree that there are books that I have paid for that are available for free on the internet, for example: the Lange commentary series. But to use them was very slow and you could only open up one volume at a time. Therefore, I decided to purchase them from Logos.
    It doesn’t matter if a book is free if you can’t use it.
    I second James’ point that there is a benefit of having all my resources in one place.

  9. I also would be interested in hearing the counterpoint.I am happy with my Logos library, so chad can you repost your counterpoint?

  10. I agree with the original student’s comments. I regularly use three commercial packages, plus downloaded content, plus my own software. For routine Bible study, the downloaded content is almost always the most convenient. Only when I need to get the shovel out for some in-depth digging, does my Logos become the preferred source (mainly because (a) it’s slower and (b) it has a high user-commitment quotient). But when I need that odd article, more often than not, Logos the only source. So, convenience is relative to the next alternative.