Evangelical Bible Dictionary: Logos goes head to head with Baker and Zondervan

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Logos have not announced, but rather let slip1 plans to prepare a native digital Bible Dictionary.1With apologies, if I was not in the middle of my summer holiday I hope I would not have made such a silly mistake :( ">2  11Jan11], the aim is to produce something nearer the easy reference end of the scale. Even so, the fact of making no public announcement or call for articles, and writing only to graduate students, suggests that Logos is flying a kite, and hoping to downplay the project if it fails to catch the wind. In another “industry” I’d suspect fear of commercial rivals, but I doubt that the Bible software business is quite that profitable or cut-throat ;)

Targuman quoted the email:

This Bible dictionary is intended to fill the niche between popular-level and academic resources by providing in-depth articles free from the scholarly jargon that would be confusing for a reader who does not have a background in Biblical Studies. The articles should give an in-depth look at current scholarship in each area, but in a non-technical language. We are looking for writers to contribute articles of about 1000 words in length. We’re offering compensation in Logos Bible Software products. Currently, the final date of submission is January 31st, 2011.

Below my email signature is a list of 1000 word topics that still need entries written. If you are able to write 10 entries for us before the end of January, you’ll earn $200.00 in Logos software products. If you can take on five entries, that will earn you $100.00 in software.

He and his commenters (on the two posts) raise questions about the process, not least the absence of any indications of the processes of quality control (editorial or peer-review or ?) and the very tight deadlines (5 or 10 entries before the end of the month).

Bob Pritchett [name corrected as above] attempted to allay some of these concerns in a comment:

Just to clarify, we are not planning to have a Bible dictionary written completely by graduate students. We are inviting scholars and subject matter experts to contribute specific articles.

A comprehensive Bible dictionary includes thousands of articles, though, and many are on subjects about which there is little recent discovery or scholarship. We believe these present an excellent opportunity for graduate students to contribute while building their CV.

(We also find graduate students more receptive to the idea that scholarship can appear digitally, not just on printing presses. )

I want to assure you that we have the highest standards for scholarship, and are working to build a quality dictionary for the digital generation. If you Google the forthcoming Evangelical Exegetical Commentary you’ll see a list of well-known scholars already working with us on a digital edition.

This information (from the mouth of the chief horse) makes the whole thing both more interesting, and more frustrating. It will not be a Bible Dictionary written entirely by grad students, but will have some articles from established figures. However, the list at http://www.evangelicalexegeticalcommentary.com/3 suggests that the contributors have been picked more for their solid “Evangelical” (in the narrow sense) credentials than as a broad and inclusive representation of Evangelical scholarship.

However, this is where the two projects taken together get really interesting. The multi-“volume” commentary series together with the Bible Dictionary positions Logos in direct competition with (other) Evangelical publishing houses, like Baker and Zondervan. By taking the publication straight to digital much (or, with Logos pre-publication system, almost all) the risk associated with conventional print publication is removed.4 By making their works more obviously “safe”, and both Zondervan and Baker have been publishing increasingly works by evangelical authors who either fail to fit the ETS bold, only fit with some wriggling, Logos also positions itself to become the default Evangelical Bible study publisher.

Can it work? You bet! Will it work? Probably, though as Bob P mentions in his comment persuading more established scholars to publish digitally is difficult. Perhaps Logos is offering them more than $100 per 10,000 words ;)

  1. By writing to research students asking them if they’d like to write articles. See ePublished Bible Dictionary? []
  2. The method of non-announcement is really interesting, as far as I can tell from the two blog posts I have found dealing with the topic: ePublished Bible Dictionary? and More news on the Logos Bible Dictionary, and comments there by among others  Logos founder Bob Pritchett [name corrected ((With apologies, if I was not in the middle of my summer holiday I hope I would not have made such a silly mistake :( []
  3. A domain that Google seems not to rate highly enough to feature when it’s own name is the search term!  PS I am not sure what happened there, now even when I go into “history” and click the link to the search there the expected site shows at the top of the rankings as one would expect. Wierd! []
  4. A later possible cut down print version would be icing on the cake ;) []

Notes   [ + ]

1. With apologies, if I was not in the middle of my summer holiday I hope I would not have made such a silly mistake :( ">2  11Jan11], the aim is to produce something nearer the easy reference end of the scale. Even so, the fact of making no public announcement or call for articles, and writing only to graduate students, suggests that Logos is flying a kite, and hoping to downplay the project if it fails to catch the wind. In another “industry” I’d suspect fear of commercial rivals, but I doubt that the Bible software business is quite that profitable or cut-throat ;)

2 comments on “Evangelical Bible Dictionary: Logos goes head to head with Baker and Zondervan

  1. Bob Pritchett

    If only we were half as clever as you imagine us to be!

    The simple explanation is that we’re really busy. You’re missing lots of important data points about the dictionary project (and, it appears, making some up). But that’s our fault, since you are correct on the important point: we haven’t made any announcements.

    The new Bible dictionary is just one of around a dozen data projects we’re running. We usually don’t bother putting up a web page about any project until it’s ready to sell, simply because we don’t want to waste our limited access to your attention telling you about something you can’t buy yet.

    The dictionary is breaking new ground as a digital-first scholarly publication; we’re trying new processes to speed up the workflow and exploring alternative sales models. There are a number of creative new ideas we’re hoping to incorporate, and we need to try them out before we commit to them publicly.

    Since there appears to be interest – and an information vacuum that’s going to be filled one way or another – I’ll get with our team and start working on some more detailed descriptions.

    The Evangelical Exegetical Commentary is a separate project that we inherited; for what it’s worth, different people are involved in choosing the contributors to it and the dictionary.

    Logos is committed to serving everyone who wants to study the Bible; we are not denominationally or theologically aligned. Most of our own content creation is more technical and theologically un-aligned; works we re-publish (or in the case of the EEC, publish) are generally labeled if they are focused on a particular perspective.

    We plan for the Bible dictionary to be released under the Lexham imprint, already known for accessible reference works that don’t take a particular theological position.

    — Bob
    Chief Horse
    Logos Bible Software

  2. tim

    Bob,

    Thank you for this helpful and informative response, and my sincere apologies for remembering your name wrong!

    I have been impressed by the smart and effective ways Logos has used (rather than either adapted to or, as with traditional print publishers, failed to really understand) the characteristics of the electronic medium to create an effective system for digital publishing and loyal customer base of such products.

    [I have also, of course also been consistently impressed by the neat and impressive technologies and the effective ways you harness them for study of the Scriptures. Though often also frustrated that my often a couple of years old PC struggles to keep up.]

    However, despite some exceptions (mainly material that is nearer the database than the conventional codex book), Logos has mainly been a re-publisher, rather than a publisher. This has made good sense, avoiding the need for a whole range of skills that you may not have in house. But , as I noted above these two publications (even if they are not part of the same series, though I think your comment on Targuman suggested they were?) change all that. Logos will soon be a publisher as well as a re-publisher.

    Since Logos really does understand digital media, and since print publishers either do not, or lack the institutional will to really act on their understanding, you will be a formidable competitor for a range of specialist print publishers.

    I don’t know if you are half as clever as I imagine, but I do hope that along with being wise as serpents you are indeed harmless as doves ;)

    BTW as your colleague Sean Boisen remembered in an email he and I discussed just such a Bible Dictionary at the close of the 2006 SBL. Since our (the Hypertext Bible project team) plans have not progressed as we hoped I have a special interest in seeing how yours develop!