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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 ;)