01 February 2010

If I had a million dollars (to grow Logos Bible Software)...

Quoting Bob Pritchard:
  • Keyboarding the entire Patrologia Graeca
  • Hiring 10 more software developers for one year
  • Hiring 15 new sales representatives for one year
  • Mailing $50 to every seminary student in North America (20,000) to entice them to watch our introductory video
  • Building Logos compatible editions of 300 public domain books and giving them away to get people on our platform
  • Mailing $2 to every pastor in North America (500,000) to entice them to watch our introductory video
Paying people to view a video is a waste of money.

Spend some of the money to create a video, and let the fans of the program distribute it. (108 fans on Facebook --- Students using Logos Libronix Bible Software. 70 fans at
Logos Libronix Digital Library System Free PBB Books - personal book builder. 4,998 fans at Logos Bible Software. Remember Guy Kawasaki's message, when he worked for Apple.){Those were the numbers when I wrote my original draft. Some of them have increased significantly.}

Discounts tend to imply that the product is not worth the MSRP. When Sears switched to "everyday low prices", their revenue plummeted, because people were waiting for the non-existent sales. The virtue of discounts, is that people can think that they are getting a bargain. A not uncommon sales strategy is to determine the break even price, double that, then offer the product at a 25% discount. { The group discount that Logos offers is akin to the discount that a wholesaler would receive. That groups don't charge the individual members MSRP is a matter between the group and the individual, not Logos and the individual. As far as the gratis distribution of Logos goes, that is akin to the practice of virtually every retailer, wholesalers, and manufacturer --- some product is given away gratis to build goodwill, market share, or just sommor. }

The strength of Logos is in its resources. Specifically, Academic resources. Nobody is going to buy Logos just because it is the only Bible Study Program that offers
Patrologia Graeca.
What the potential user will do, is add that resource to the list of other resources, when deciding between Libronix, Accordance, and BibleWorks. (For seminary, those are the only serious choices. The SBL Bible Software Shootout --- http://mobileministrymagazine.com/2009/11/report-on-bible-software-shootout-via.html --- provided a pretty convincing example of why those are the only suitable choices. )

On the face of it, adding 300 public domain resources sounds like a good idea. More to the point, adding one or two programmers to do nothing but convert content from Project Gutenburg, CCEL, The Internet Sacred Text Archive, etc sounds like a very good idea. Alternatively, adding the ability to integrate ePub, Mobi, or other common eBook format to Libronix would also add some useful functionality.

It probably would be far more useful to create tools that could be provided to publishers, that would automatically, and correctly convert their ePub, Mobi, PDF, or other e-Book reader formatted material into a format the Libronix reads. Tools whose quality output was such, that they would have no objections to commercially selling it. (Take a look at the results of the generic multi-output e-book generators and the results that they produce.)

However, the big question is: "What does this do for your core user --- the Seminary student and the Academic Professional?"

At this point in time: "Very Little".

Matt W's suggestion on lobbying Seminary professors and the like to submit a list the books on their required list, reading list, and supplementary lists, and converting that content to Libronix format focuses on the core strength of Libronix.

That enhances the value of Libronix for your core user.

Adding sales reps always sounds like an easy way to increase revenue --- especially if they a re paid straight commission. The eternal question is what functionality do sales reps add to your core products that five thousand fans on Facebook don't have? And don't forget that there are at least that many, if not more followers on Twitter. Go to any of the social networking sites, and you will find Libronix users. That is the real sales force. Not the individual that is hired to pitch the product at every church, seminary, and Bible Study group in the city.

If you know what you'll use those programmers for, hiring ten of them might be a good idea.
* Logos 4 for Mac to be functionally equal to Logos 4 for Windows;
* Logos 4 for Android;
* Logos 4 for Windows to run on *Nix using CrossOver or WINE. Obviously, it would be far better to have Logos 4 for Windows, but I realize that even at the current fifteen to twenty five percent market share, Linux does not appear to have the commercial software viability that is required for that big of an investment.

To the best of my knowledge, e-Sword is one guy, Rick Meyers, who works at home.

Phil Stoner runs eStudySource, which is the commercial distribution point for e-Sword.
There are a couple of others who are periodically contracted to do specific things. That, essentially, is the core of those who are paid for e-Sword support, research, and development.

Everything else is run by volunteers, who are also users.

There probably are closer to 1.5 million users of e-Sword, than 9 million users. (There were 2.5 million downloads of e-Sword in 2009, but a number of them were people downloading it two, or more times. ) e-Sword-users.org currently (20100902 ) has 13 168 registered members. The eSword list currently (20100902 ) has 7 364 subscribers.

>Of course, nine million users sounds great. So we do keep experimenting with free low end stuff. http://bible.logos.com is free, and the Logos iPhone app offers 31 books simply for registering. In three months our iPhone app has had a number of downloads equal to three years of new customers for our desktop software. And some of those people have bought Logos 4. But the total sales volume of new users found via the free iPhone app hasn't yet covered our iPhone development costs.

The issue that Libronix is facing here is that good enough is the mortal enemy of perfect. For most people, e-Sword is good enough. But it goes deeper than that. Gratis undermines non-gratis. By focusing on the low-end market, you end up in a race to the bottom, if the competition is "good enough", and gratis. Furthermore, gratis does not pay the bills.

Giving the iPhone Logos app away makes sense, as a defensive measure. People with Mac OS X or Windows systems will be more likely to use Libronix on their desktop, than one of the other programs. (The ability to synchronize between desktop and mobile device is increasingly critical, even though people are not doing so. )

Peter Li suggested using the money to produce a technical solution for Bible Study Software developers to be able to "come up with a business and technical solution for the various major Bible software to work more seamlessly, and lessen the need for users to invest in overlapping resources from different Bible software vendors?"

That was tried with STEP: Standard Template for Electronic Publishing. AFAIK, Libronix didn't participate in that project. At BibleTech2008, Craig Reardon outlined some of the problems that STEP had.

There are three major issues that need to be considered here:
* What presentation markup language is to be used;
* Flat file, database, or a combination of the two;
* How cross platform are the resulting specifications?

The Crosswire Bible Society uses a flat file for its resources.
e-Sword and Libronix use a database for its resources.

Olive Tree uses their own presentation markup language in their resources;
e-Sword uses either RTF or no presentation markup language in its resources;
In the Beginning was the Word uses HTML for its presentation markup language.
If I understood the talk correctly, Bible Navigator X on the X-Box does not use a markup language.

OSIS and ThML are two proposed file formats/presentation markup specifications that could be used. The essay What a Biblical Scholar should know, at ( http://bibleandtech.blogspot.com/2007/12/html-xml-osis-xsem-thml-usfm-what.html ), covers it partially. Do we need an Open Publishing Standard or What at ( http://www.bsreview.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=71 ) is a slightly different take on the subject. Michael Johnson's essay Bible File Encoding at http://ebible.org/usfx/Bible-encoding.htm and remains that only comprehensive general purpose essay. The wiki page File Formats ( http://www.crosswire.org/wiki/File_Formats ) covers file formats from the perspective of The Crosswire Bible Society.

I'll won't rant about database engines here, other than to say I'm extremely glad the e-Sword switched to SQLite.

From the POV of the other Bible Software Developers, why should they switch to LLS, or some variant thereof? From the POV of Libronix, why should they have to share the details of the LLS structure to their competitors? [For all practical purposes, there is only one organization whose software has a chance of taking over, and dominating Libronix --- if it sets its mind to doing so. It is not Oak Tree Software. Nor is it e-Sword.]

Peter Li's suggestion about going to the cloud sounds nice. Just explain how you do Bible study on your desktop when there is no cloud? The Crosswire Bible Society solution is for that problem is for user to setup their own Bible Study Software cloud, if they don't want to use a front end with the content locally installed.

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