More Goodies

The developers and e-scribes at Logos Bible software have been very hard at work. A few days ago, Kent Hendricks called my attention to a Logos-compatible version of Migne’s Patrologia in preparation; in looking into that, I noticed that they have an alpha version of their software available for Mac OS X; and now, they’ve begun working on a digital version of the works of Francis J. Hall. This is all very good news.
Since they’ve not produced a Mac-friendly version to this point, I’m not conversant with Logos products. They have a strong positive reputation among the scholars I know, but I can’t speak to the software from first-hand experience. I will note, though, that all of these are rather pricey — not unfairly so relative to the labor that Logos has put into producing them, and their integration into a system that affords digital access to many other works should be applauded — but I don’t have that money, and if I did I’d probably expand and upgrade my Accordance software holdings.
The cost of Logos packages brings to mind another e-book phenomenon, the proliferation of books available in iPhone-friendly formats. Most of the reviews express something short of wild enthusiasm; the tables of contents aren’t always complete, or the searching capacity is (allegedly) unsatisfactory. One of the problems seems to be that the present organization of the App Store requires that a software offering be an “application,” not a readable file. Surely it’s more efficient for Apple or a third party to offer a straightforward PDF reader than to make each individual text file include its own tagging, searching, hyperlinking apparatus. Second, though, the interests of writers and readers are both best served if a simple, non-specific publishing format could make transferable enhanced-text files readable on iPhones and other pocketable devices. (I know the App Store offers several ebook readers; I haven’t detected one that permits easy construction of one’s own “book” files, or that doesn’t elicit testimony decrying various important bugs).
In other words, good as the Logos project and the ebook section of the App Store may be, they’re still interposed between the actual capacities of digital publishing and a future in which author/publishers can readily produce well-formatted independent books, zines, tracts, comics, or what you will. I remain convinced that such a future lies near at hand — an adept developer who can marshal the iPhone SDK to produce a portable version of Preview, for instance, might provide all the impetus that future needs to leap over the obstacles that today’s mediators impose.
(I don’t say anything about the Kindle here. It’s because I don’t know enough to comment productively. I’m sympathetic to Mark Pilgrim’s concise skepticism, but also to the positive responses of bloggers like Shelley and David whose judgment I trust. I’ve asked Amazon if they might lend me a review unit, since I’ll be giving a presentation on this topic in September and I’d be sure to discuss the Kindle at that symposium if I had the chance to fiddle with one. But I haven’t heard back from them; I suspect that they, understandably, don’t account me sufficiently buzzworthy to let me test-drive their device. If Kindle users have feedback that would illumine my murky perspective, please don’t hold back!)

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