Since Sunday afternoon when Bill Combs and Rod Decker called attention to Five Reasons Not to Buy Logos, my little blog has received an unprecedented number of hits. In writing the post, I didn’t set out to kick over a hornet’s nest, but there seems to be a bit of a stinging buzz coming after me anyway.
The post was more of a philosophical critique than a product review. What concerns me is not the functionality of the program but rather the assumptions that seem to be driving Logos’ popularity. Perhaps it would be helpful to revisit my argument in another light.
1. Books That Look Nice on a Shelf Are Likely to Remain There
We have all bought books to complete a set or because we like the idea of having them. Has anyone actually read their two-volume Works of Jonathan Edwards with the microscopic type? I have bought a lot of books from people making the jump to Logos. Often the books are so unused that I’m the first to break in the binding. If you do not profit from a book in print, a searchable digital edition is unlikely to receive much more use (unless of course your problem is simply that you need a good reading copy of Edward’s Religious Affections or something).
I understand collecting print books. It costs thousands of dollars but your office looks amazing. However, I have never understood why people want thousands of mediocre books filed away somewhere on their computers. Most of the books in Logos base packages aren’t the first books that you would want to consult. They aren’t bad books, but one would be hard pressed to argue that they are the best books. If you’re going to make the Logos plunge, don’t sell (or choose not to buy) the best books to get it.
2. Recommendations Must Consider Budgets
People who amass theological libraries are seldom wealthy people. The choice to buy one resource usually comes at the expense of not having others. I am amazed that so many seminary professors recommend Logos when the books included in the base packages tend not to be the books they recommend in print. Compare a list of recommended books put out by any seminary to a logos base package. The money you would spend on Logos would go a long way towards buying the best resources.
3. Borrowed Cards Make for Bad Research
When I competed on my college’s intercollegiate debate team, my teammates and I used to put all our research onto 4×6 index cards. The cards were just big enough to contain about a paragraph of text in addition to the bibliographic data. We would make hundreds of cards, organize them by topic, and use them to cite sources in our extemporaneous speeches. We essentially created our own little Logos for our debate topic.
Our coach strictly prohibited borrowing each other’s cards in all but the most exceptional circumstances. Other teams didn’t have such restrictions, and we made mincemeat out of them. They had what looked like research, but it would never stand up to close scrutiny. Research requires one to read entire articles, chapters, and books. Good reading habits do include the ability to effectively skim. However, the entire source must be read in some manner else one will constantly miss important qualifiers and will often fail to understand the main argument entirely. Logos gives you in one click what appears to be hours of research. However, you have not done any research until you have read all the material.
4.You Don’t Need a Huge Personal Library; You Need a Good One
If you have Moo on Romans or Hoehner on Ephesians, how many other commentaries do you really need on these books? Perhaps one or two others would be helpful, but when you need more than that, what you really need is a trip to a library. Sure, missionaries can’t just visit a theological library any time they would like, but then again, how often does a missionary need to write an academic paper? For that matter, who can adequately do academic research using only Logos? What most people need is a small personal library of very good books.
5. Ebooks Are the Wave of the Future
I’m not critiquing Logos because I think paper is better. The world is going digital, but I don’t think it is time to jump aboard the digital bandwagon quite yet. I am concerned that the rise of ebooks in popular file types like pdf and epub are going to replace both print and proprietary digital formats. While print books will always have some place in the world, programs like Logos may very well become obsolete once ebooks become the norm.
Logos is a nice software program, but its popularity has created a kind of groupthink that seems to be blind to the software’s limitations and encourages bad research habits. On a limited budget, paper still seems to be the way to go for the time being. If you really like Logos, buy it. Just don’t buy all the hype.