Reading this blog will prove to you that I love Bible software. Part of the reason is I use it in my day job as a pastor. But I’m also a tech junkie!
The only problem with good Bible software is that it often is expensive. Before you free software producers or fans comment, I am not saying all good Bible software is expensive. Some great programs are free or very inexpensive, especially in the mobile sphere.
As someone who has been using Bible software for nearly two decades and been covering it for many years, I have heard all the arguments for and against charging for Bible software.
Free Software Proponents
The Bible is not owned by any one person. If a Christian truly loves God and his church he should give away his services. After all you cannot out give God. Software is only bits/bytes and not a real tangible product, so it should be free since the recipient isn’t really getting a thing. Also the cost to produce one copy is the same as it is to produce a thousand copies of the software itself. Only the delivery mechanism costs money and in the case of downloads, that cost is negligible.
Pay Software Proponents
A servant is worthy of his hire. How can a person produce good quality software without receiving something to cover his living expenses or her costs of development (computers, software to code with, advertising, paying publishers for content, electricity, food, clothing, shelter, etc)? And if one charges for software he or she can also offer quality support or training for the software to people who are not skilled enough to figure out how to use it on their own.
What’s the Answer?
There may be other arguments in both camps, but those are most of the common ones. So who is right? Put another way, “Should Bible software be free or should it be pay?” The answer is a resounding YES!
It is true that some people have a calling to help the church and Christians by producing tools to help study the Word, learn about discipleship via eBooks, and organize their personal Bible related content like sermons and Bible studies, notes, highlighting and bookmarks and Christian writings in computer software tools. Just like a pastor is called to a full-time vocation of preaching and teaching and caring for the flock, a software developer is called to write software. In order to do that the person will have to be paid or have a way of providing for him or herself. In some cases, people have made enough money in another career that they can take care of those provisions themselves. In the case of e-Sword developer Rick Myers, he used to say on his web site that God had blessed him in the computer industry so now he is donating his time and talents to producing his great and free Bible software. For him and people like him, Bible software should be free and only the resources that cost too much for him to provide are pay software.
In the case of Logos Bible Software, the engine to read their content is actually free. To get all the use of their tools you will have to pay for one of their packages. For them, and companies or individual programmers like them, they have chosen to offer some free content and some pay content. It works making them one of the largest Bible software companies around.
Finally, there is the model of great products like BibleWorks, PC Study Bible, QuickVerse, Laridian PocketBible and more. They charge for their software and for much of their content. Sometimes you can find free books to add onto their packages. The result is a base of users who love their products and keep them in business.
The point is that no one model fits everyone. If you believe that anyone producing anything for the benefit of the church, including Bible software, should give away their services, then you have a number of options to choose from. You can use those products never needing to pay once for any Bible software. But if you don’t mind paying, then you can also get some great content for a small fee sometimes or for many thousands of dollars if you are so inclined and financially blessed.
I can find no Biblical mandate that says all Bible software (or another other service to the Christian church) should always be free. However, there is some support for paying and providing for those who serve the church. Thank God for great people who devote their time to creating the incredible tools available to us today, sometimes for free but often for very reasonable costs. Keep it up! We need you and appreciate you greatly!!