The following is a guest post from John Fidel, partner with Fidel Perner & Michnovicz, LLC Certified Public Accountants in Albuquerque, NM. He started reviewing and writing about Bible Software in the 1990s with a website called The Unofficial STEP Newsletter, followed by several other websites and blogs. John takes part in several ministries as financial advisor, small group teacher, board member and elder. We thank John for his contribution and think you’ll appreciate it.
In August 2010 we posted an article entitled Tired of Buying the Same Books Over and Over Again. In that post, Kevin Purcell proposed an idea that would allow for bible software customers to buy a digital resource once and then make it available via other Bible software at no additional cost. From a ministry perspective the plan was a good idea. Here we are three years later and the situation remains the same. We still must buy multiple copies of books to use in various programs.
Things have changed since Kevin’s wrote that post in 2010:
- Digital resources are mostly available for purchased and downloaded online (no more DVD or CDs);
- Companies authenticate digitally mostly online (no more entering long pass codes);
- Bible software companies are making past purchases easily available for re-download on another device;
- Contracts with publishers now include multi-platform and multi-device licensing;
- Most of the major Bible software companies have much of the same content available, especially the major commentaries, dictionaries and lexicons.
These changes call for us to reevaluate Kevin’s original proposal.
First a bit on my background. I am a certified public accountant, practicing as since 1978. As such, I approach this subject from a business perspective more so than a ministry perspective. I’ve been involved in ministry for many years, but I’m not a pastor or biblical scholar. I understand the financial issues related to ministry.
Long ago I had a website called The Unofficial STEP Newsletter dedicated to discussing and supporting the STEP. I understand the customer’s perspective and the benefits of a STEP standard.
Changes in Book Publishing in Digital World
Kevin’s original proposal did not sufficiently reward the Bible software companies for their work. What I outline below is essentially Kevin’s plan, updated for technology and market changes that occurred since 2010 and provides compensation for Bible Software companies.
A bit of an overview of the publishing business models first. In the old days customers went to a bookstore and purchased a book. The price of that book provided for compensation to the store, the publisher and the author. Digital publishing complicated things a bit due to the many different platforms, software and devices that customers use. Still the business model allows for compensation to the software company, publisher and author. One difference however between a bookstore and a Bible software company is the “value added” to the digital book. For the most part the books are no longer “generic” as a paper book would be, but enhanced by the software company to allow each specific program to search, research, analyze and incorporate those books into a digital library. Providing this “value added” is a sometimes significant cost to the software company.
A New Digital Publishing Business Model
Publishers license a purchased Bible or resource is for use with one or multiple software programs. They receive their royalty on this sale the same way they do with physical book purchases. However, this is the only royalty they will receive from this customer on this resource. The resource purchase compensates the software company for development of the “value added” element upon this sale similar to the current model.
Editor’s Note: The value added elements include things like links from one book to another in a software library, like a commentary referring to a passage or another commentary. These take time and personnel, which costs money.
The customer can buy a software license for resources previously purchased from a different Bible software company, if they are available. This software company sets the price to recoup the costs of the “value added” to the resources. Since the customer already paid for the resources which supplied the software maker with the royalty costs, they second company can lower the price significantly and will only need to recoup their work to add value.
The current technology and online delivery methods make authentication and authorization of these licenses efficient and effective. The publisher license will be standardized, while the software licenses would stay proprietary.
Check out John’s video on Logos workflow ideas below:
Issues to Address
Complex contracting with publishers providing for multi-platform, multi-device and multi-software
These issues are currently being addressed, only by each and every software company. If this process could be more standardized it would make the process from publisher to customer more efficient and more cost-effective.
Determining if there is a enough market of multi-software users to make the plan practical
Many readers already own multiple Bible software programs. However, many users use one program and are more than content. Perhaps we shouldn’t try to fix what’s broken for only a minority of the market.
Most customers will not buy major resources more than once. If that is the case, then what sales and royalties are they losing? In addition, more customers may be willing to buy major resources digitally if they know they can use those resources in another program for a reasonable cost. The risk of loss of resources due to a software company’s failure is reduced significantly.
Software licenses will still be too high
An argument could be made that providing previously purchased resources from another company at a reasonable price would allow for expansion of their current market share. Additionally, the resources most multi-software customers will want are going to be bibles, commentaries, lexicons and dictionaries. Expanding market share allows for users to buy more resources from participating software companies.
In summary, this proposal provides a win-win for the publisher, software developer and customer. Writers, publishers and developers will continue to receive incentives for “value added” features and for selling bible texts and resources to customers. It also allows for the customer to affordably have these resources available for use in multiple programs if they wish. It allows for software companies to continue to innovate and compete for market share.
We welcome comments, challenges and suggestions. Each participant in the proposed business model has to buy in for it to work. In the end, the market determines direction. Customers will need to let their opinions and needs be known. The publishers have to be the starting point for this to work.
Thanks for reading John’s post. Look for a follow up counterpoint from me coming soon.
People interested in helping out by posting Bible software and church technology related posts here can contact me.