How big is your Digital Theological Library compared to your traditional book library? When I went to Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary back in the mid-90s, our seminary President told us we should graduate with a library of at least 2,000 books. Compare that to the size of my digital library, and the digital library now blows Dr. Patterson’s challenge away! In Logos, I own nearly 8,000 books. Add to those libraries in Accordance, Olive Tree, Laridian PocketBible, and other mobile apps, and it probably jumps to 5 times Dr. Patterson’s 2,000 book library count challenge.
While my total book count soars past the 2,000 books my seminary President recommended, how many of those books have I read or do I use regularly? Far fewer! I’ve wasted a lot of money and hard drive space on books I don’t use or need.
Other people struggle because they can’t afford a huge library of books. They only own a selection of public domain books in e-Sword or some other free or incredibly low-cost app or program. How can a person like this grow their library to a useful size?
I’ve got 5 helpful strategies to build a digital theological library. Follow these and you won’t overbuy nor will you struggle with a meager library that limits your digital Bible study research.
Don’t Overbuy Your Digital Theological Library
It’s tempting when there’s a great deal on a new collection of books or low-cost add-ons to your digital theological library. However, many collections will include a large number of books, but few that you’ll actually use. I took a look at a collection from one major Bible software maker. It costs $1,000, but that price adds over $10,000 worth of books. You’ll get 250+ books. They offer a monthly payment plan under $60. In the collection, you’ll get…
17 English Bibles – only 5 of which would I ever use
137 Commentary Volumes – but I’d only likely consult 3 of them
11 Bible Dictionaries – 3 of which looked valuable to me
200+ Other Books – only about a dozen of these seemed valuable to me
Peruse the major Bible software maker’s websites, and you’ll find a similar situation. Tons of books bragging thousands of dollars in savings, but about 10% are books most average pastors or Bible teachers will use.
Buy a base package, but don’t overbuy. Get one that gives you all the features and an introductory collection of Bibles, commentaries, dictionaries, lexicons, and more. Resist the temptation to buy expensive collections to get more total books.
Try to Focus on One Bible Software Platform
At one time I owned…
PC Study Bible
I installed all of them on my computers, tablets, and phones. However, I never really used them all. However, I felt like I needed my favorite Bibles, commentaries, and language tools in each of them. That leads to buying books multiple times.
I’m unique because I write about Bible software. The average person should focus on one Bible software platform and use it on all their devices. That way, they avoid buying too many programs or buying more than one copy of books.
Which Bible software platform should people buy? If you own one now, then stick with it. That changes if you’re unhappy with what you use now. I can’t recommend one in this space. However, let me offer suggestions.
Make sure your chosen software runs well on all the platforms you use. For example, one maker has great tools for Mac and Windows, but their mobile software’s not as good. Another one focused on mobile, but the Mac or Windows programs don’t run well. Nobody makes an excellent Linux program.
Look for a program that lets you buy books and gives away the book reader or charges for one platform but doesn’t make you buy one program for each operating system.
Try before you buy so you can test what each program or app does. Buy the ones that do what you want really well and don’t settle. Take your time to buy the right platform for you. Scholars should avoid mobile-first applications. People who only need a Bible reader with dictionaries, study Bibles, and maps, should avoid paying hundreds for a complicated program.
Find Ways to Use 2 Bible Software Programs Together
Believe it or not, you can run 2 programs together. Why would you? Maybe you already own one program but see features in another program or app. It’s possible that some books don’t come on your favorite program or app. You may have to use two to get all the books you need for your work.
Look for ways that the programs can work together. This really applies mainly to two programs, Accordance, and Logos. Accordance includes a built-in web browser. Logos offers a web-based version of their program. So, you can open the Logos Web App inside Accordance. I wrote about this previously. However, the instructions are slightly out of date. But you can read it to get the basic gist of how to run Accordance and Logos together.
Save Money With Packages, Deals, and Training Opportunities
Earlier, we said to avoid packages full of books you won’t use. However, you can save some money by finding collections or packages of books that you will use. If you see a package that includes many books that you will use, get it and save money.
Also, sign up for alerts to learn when your software maker offers specials or deals, including free books. Most of them offer a freebie occasionally, and some offer them weekly or monthly. Also, you can save money by regularly looking at their website or subscribing to email notifications.
Take advantage of training deals. Some companies offer deals for people who sit through an online live webinar or attend a training conference. See if your software maker offers these kinds of deals. You’ll learn more about using your program, and you’ll get a deal on some books you want to buy.
Finally, you can sometimes get hidden deals by contacting the software maker’s sales staff. For example, I have a salesman with one program seller, and he often knows about specials that don’t show up on the website. So he sends me an email when one of these deals shows up.
Don’t Forget Free Content on the Internet or eBooks
Using one program for all your Bible study needs feels convenient, but it can cost more. Plenty of websites offer free content that can help you study the Bible, especially if you’re not a Bible scholar. Find free websites like those in my roundup of the 6 best Bible study sites, part one and part two.
Dr. Kevin Purcell is pastor of High Peak Baptist Church, an author and writer at Church Tech Today (www.churchtechtoday.com). He used to write for a number of other Christian and secular technology and mobile tech sites. Now he's one of the hosts of the Theotek Podcast, which you can find by checking the menu above or over at www.facebook.com/theotekpodcast.