Do you want every ebook in the world in Logos?

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Bob Pritchett | Forum Activity | Posted: Mon, May 18 2015 9:25 PM

I need your advice.

Bottom Line: If we could offer every ebook Amazon offers, but only if we did offer every ebook Amazon offers, should we? And if so, how?

Background:

As more and more schools adopt Logos Bible Software as an essential tool for their students, we're getting request for an even broader range of books in the system.

Our users already want many books to which we don't have the rights, and we keep working to acquire them, but these are usually in or near biblical studies. 

Schools see that Logos meets their needs for a biblical library really well -- and once they appreciate the power of the platform, they want that functionality available for all their classes. If students are going to use the Logos platform for biblical studies, why not English literature? Great -- we've got Noet. But what about the physics textbook? The chemistry book? The biography of Bob Dylan for the class on American pop culture?

It's impossible to predict what books we'll need, and the list is changing constantly. Moreover, many of the titles we would need to support a Christian college undergraduate program come from large secular publishers. They are set up to license their books 'all or nothing' in EPUB format, the way we get EPUB titles for Vyrso now. Preliminary conversations indicate that they are willing to license us their books, but not one at a time -- we can take the whole catalog, or not.

Now I love our platform, and would really like to use it for the history, biography, and business books I read on the Kindle (because we don't offer them). But these catalogs are huge -- and include a lot of books I don't want to be associated with.

We decided long ago that we will offer a broad library, and accepted that it would include a lot of heresy and error. That's the cost of being a library. And, at the Noet and Vyrso stores, you'll see we offer a wide variety of genres, including cookbooks. But these are either specifically chosen for academic study (Noet) or from Christian publishers (Vyrso).

What do we do with a publisher's catalog that includes everything from academic biography to erotic fiction? The same massive publisher that has Timothy Keller's Reason for God also publishes 50 Shades of Grey.

What if we can't license one without the other? Should we not take any of the titles then? Or should we create yet another ebook store where we put 'everything' without any particular Christian label or endorsement? Or should we use the Noet storefront for not just 'scholarly' books, but rather everything that isn't specifically from a Christian publisher (Vyrso) or useful for Bible study (Logos).

What do you think?

Posts 178
Kendall Sholtess | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, May 18 2015 9:59 PM

  Hi Bob,

 In my opinion, I would rather do business with Faithlife than Amazon any day. It would be wonderful to have a much greater selection of books to choose from.

 I also understand the feeling you have of not wanting to be associated with books like 50 Shades of Grey. I wouldn't want to be associated with it either.

But I think that the benefit of having Keller's Reason for God and other such resources outweighs the negative feelings I have for books I will never consider reading. I can't imagine someone wanting to index junk on their hard-drive. However, if people don't like it, they don't have to buy it. Most of the people who want to buy 50 Shades of Grey will be doing so from another retailer anyway.

 If such a decision in favor is made, I feel that the best route is to create a separate store. I don't think the Noet customers would feel happy having their store swamped with non-scholarly literature.

  The other option is to reinvent Vyrso. That would be ok with me.

  I feel that in offering a greater selection would be healthy for Faithlife.

Thanks, Bob, for asking us. And thanks for all the hard work you guys are putting into this. God bless!

 

Posts 507
Sarel Slabbert | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, May 18 2015 10:40 PM

I think the ability to add Epub/Mobi formats as PBB would be great. Logos already work with Kindle, so buying books on Amazon (even with DRM rights) would present no problems. This way users can "create" their own library according to their needs from Logos and Amazon.

Posts 1841
mike | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, May 18 2015 10:42 PM

The sages said "don't let anyone tell you that you can't do it"...

But Jesus said "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God"

and He also said, "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs"

I say, maybe secularism and compromise is coming.. 

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, May 18 2015 10:49 PM

My inclination would be for separate stores for much the same reason I go to either a Christian bookstore, a University bookstore or a general bookstore -- and love to find small niche bookstores for children, cookbooks, mysteries ..... It is easier to find what one wants in a bookstore that is design for a specific type of books. Or if you don't like the model of separate stores think of Powells books in Portland which is a combination of separate sites and separate rooms for different subject areas.

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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Bradley Grainger (Faithlife) | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, May 18 2015 11:02 PM

Sarel Slabbert:
I think the ability to add Epub/Mobi formats as PBB would be great.

This is not about putting functionality into Logos 6 to add arbitrary epub/mobi books. This is about publishers licensing their existing ebook catalog for Logos to resell in Logos format. You would not be able to buy an arbitrary title at Amazon.com and use it in Logos 6.

Posts 32
Sean Emslie | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, May 18 2015 11:04 PM

There are various books that I needed for my recent Masters in Pastoral Ministry that were not available on Logos or only available in large collections for $300, of which I only needed only one book for my class.  I was able to get the Kindle version and make them into Personal Books for a few of them.  

It would be great for Faithlife to make an agreement with Amazon to be able to easily turn a Kindle book into a Logos Resource.  I am sure that you can create a program to do this.  I did it with several programs on my own, with a license from Amazon it could be a one step process to choose a Kindle book to become a Logos Book.  It would be great to have access to all the books available in Kindle for Logos but I do see the concerns of taking all of the books of secular presses, not that I see many Logos users buying 50 Shades of Grey for their Logos Library.

MA in Christian Studies - Emphasis in Pastoral Ministry, Grand Canyon University

Logos 6, Logos Now

Posts 1120
Sean | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, May 18 2015 11:05 PM

This is not an easy question to answer, and whatever answer you give, Bob, some are going to be unhappy with it. It's a difficult call. But I, for one, would love to see as many books in Logos as possible. I like Amazon & the wide range of titles it offers, but the Kindle apps are awful & nearly useless in comparison to Logos. If I could just shop through a Logos/Faithlife-affiliated store (MJ's thought is a good one) and never have to go to Amazon again for ebooks, I'd be very happy.

Posts 7
CuTOP | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, May 19 2015 12:18 AM

For me personally, I would love to have one platform and one library for all my digital books.  I would love to have the power to search through all my books for illustrations, ideas, and the such.  I am not bothered by having junk also available for purchase.  I won't be buying it anyhow, but having access to great books otherwise unavailable would be a huge advantage. 

And personal opinion, there is already plenty of "junk" on Vyrso anyhow.  Christian publishers are not immune from publishing worthless or junky material.  But that doesn't prevent me from enjoying Vyrso and purchasing the books that I would like to read or that I think would be useful in other ways.

Thanks for seeking to offer your customers choice and options.

Ben

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Reuben Helmuth | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, May 19 2015 12:26 AM

Bob Pritchett:
What do we do with a publisher's catalog that includes everything from academic biography to erotic fiction? The same massive publisher that has Timothy Keller's Reason for God also publishes 50 Shades of Grey.

Wow! Tough call...

Avoiding my knee-jerk reaction of "stay away!", I would most like to see a separate store with rigorous filtering/sorting abilities. The homepage could make in very clear that this is a GENERAL bookstore and that Faithlife does NOT endorse all the books available. It would be nice if that store could remember my preferences to filter out all genreX, authorX, keywordX, and ect.X content.

Related to this...I've wished for a way to filter out certain genres on Vyrso rather than being limited to selecting the alternative ones, one at a time.

Will pray for you as you make these important and potentially far reaching decisions!

Posts 487
John Duffy | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, May 19 2015 1:18 AM

Reuben Helmuth:
Avoiding my knee-jerk reaction of "stay away!", I would most like to see a separate store with rigorous filtering/sorting abilities. The homepage could make in very clear that this is a GENERAL bookstore and that Faithlife does NOT endorse all the books available. It would be nice if that store could remember my preferences to filter out all genreX, authorX, keywordX, and ect.X content.

Reuben, I think that filtering, which you have mentioned, is a positive way forward.

On occasions I have needed to purchase academic books on theology which would not be found on the shelves of a good Christian bookshop (I don't always agree with the theology of all the books I own either).  I have had to go to Amazon to purchase them. 

On the other hand, I greatly respect the fact that such bookshops only stock (or supply) such good Christian books, and I have confidence to be able to recommend others to just go in and know that whatever they come out with that it will be edifying.

Filtering good books (which is a variable definition, I know) has often been done physically in bookshops in town - they just don't put the books available from the publisher on the shelves of their shop.  Filtering can also be achieved in online stores by other means, such as community ratings.

One way of filtering the massive listing which publishers offer, to make a storefront more like the 'good Christian bookshop' in town, might be through community rating of titles.  If an option in our preferences on login to such an online store were to only display books which have already been rated above some threshold by a given number of users with Logos/Vyrso accounts (validated users who have actually purchased books), then the combined wisdom of Logos users could function in a similar way to the decision-making of the manager of the 'good Christian bookshop' in town.  Different rating tags for different denominations could further refine people's choices too, and so on.  As a starter, books which fall within certain categories might be given sufficiently high interim community ratings, which could be distinguished from actual community ratings which would build up over time.  Users could be asked on signup whether they want to be shown all books, or only those rated sufficiently highly by the community, or choose to see displayed only books from within certain categories.

That way, all books can be offered, but the user and the community could do the filtering, not Bob.

Edit: I would also prefer such books to be made available through a different store front/website than Logos/Vyrso, though, even if my Logos account applied to that new store.  Not sure if Noet might be the best channel for them either, as that runs Logos tagged resources.  Another storefront might seem best for me.

Posts 3691
Francis | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, May 19 2015 1:48 AM

Thank you, Bob, for asking our opinion. A couple thoughts:

Since you mention Amazon, it brings to the fore the difference between Logos Bible Software and the Kindle readers (on any platform), namely, Logos is not just a reader but a specialized study tool. Because of its close association with biblical studies, the tools are correspondingly adapted. To have the equivalent in subject matters such as physics or maths, one would imagine that there would need to be calculators, function drawing, etc. This cannot all be done in one software. In other words, if as a company, you expanded business to become more a general book provider, Logos Bible Software would not be the right tool for it. You might want to create a different reader for that, but then how would it be different from Kindle? 

I agree with some of the previous posts that there is also the question of the company's identity. Becoming a distributor of shades of grey should not be a necessary condition for providing better access to Christian books. If some publishers try to impose the all or nothing approach, I would prefer personally that Logos retains a Christian distinctiveness even if it means less access. The intersection of ethics and business still matters to many of us.

A model that would be closer to the mark of broadening access to educational resources without swinging to the amazon model would be something along the lines of services like ebrary/proquest. The contents are strictly educational and academic. If you went that way, it would need a reader of its own (and a different branding than faithlife) and a feature that I requested before already, the ability for users to manage their resources so as to choose to have some in Logos desktop only, some in Noet only or Vyrso only (with the option to have some resources present in all platforms, something like the current devices setting in the resource info pane).

One last consideration, there have been concerns in the past that FL was trying to do too much and that quality had suffered for it. Though it does not need to be that way, the question arises as to what impact such a broadening of focus would have on the company's operation and for us longer term customers and our investments, whether it would -- even if you don't intend it -- result in a diluting of sort, a double-mindedness as it were when it comes to focus, and less resources/priority going to the current platform.

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NB.Mick | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, May 19 2015 1:52 AM

Bob Pritchett:
Bottom Line: If we could offer every ebook Amazon offers, but only if we did offer every ebook Amazon offers, should we?

For me: clearly yes.

As to the how: I personally don't really mind if you would use Noet or Vyrso for this, but this would of course mean going back on the purpose statements etc. you have established for these. I don't know if you had e.g. ads in ChristianityToday describing Vyrso as "your Christian bookstore on the web" - if so, you wouldn't want people to visit the NewVyrso and getting not only confused but upset. If you clone the Vyrso store page and call it something else you avoid this. Since Noet never carried a decidedly Christian flag, you might as well use this, but currently I prefer the look and feel of Vyrso (familiarity only?).

I'd of course ask for a robust genre etc. selection (Vyrso has some of it already - too much like ownership, price, genre deselection is not in the UI but functional on URL level and should be made clickable to better facilitate drinking from the waterhose) 

Running Logos 8 latest beta version on Win 10

Posts 623
Stephen Steele | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, May 19 2015 2:00 AM

If Faithlife wanted to make every ebook in the world available, that would be fine with me - as long as they were kept separate (Either in vyrso or in a new separate store).

I would be particularly keen for monographs from the likes of OUP or CUP which the publishers already offer in ebook formats but for which there may not be the demand to produce as individual Logos resources.

It would also be good if this new category of books followed the current pattern of books which start out in Vyrso/ebook format and then 'graduate' to Logos format.

Posts 591
Rayner | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, May 19 2015 2:09 AM

Bob Pritchett:
Bottom Line: If we could offer every ebook Amazon offers, but only if we did offer every ebook Amazon offers, should we? And if so, how?

Yes. In terms of "how", it would be good if there were opt outs e.g.that all were licensed, but not all actually could be bought. Failing that, a different Store front for different types of books sounds like a good suggestion.

One part of me quite likes the idea that even the profits from disreputable books would go into improving features for Logos. However, I can also see an issue with the fact that Christians disagree concerning what is considered disreputable. I suspect half of my Library (almost all of which is theology) might be consisted off limits to most Logos users!

In terms of falling down into the "licence all" or "licence some" camps, I'd fall firmly into "licence all", but package differently.

Posts 246
JC54 | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, May 19 2015 2:09 AM

Well, I would say yes, but hesitantly.

Would this mean millions of books in Pre-pub? Of wich millions of books would never get out? Or would it mean that the majority of books would never have Logos functionality? I believe the Logos.com website should have only Logos-quality books and a reasonable percentage of books in pre-pub.

*second thought* Really, how much time and energy would all other books cost? Couldn't you just drop them on a website somewhere, where no-one is ever bothered by them?

*final thought* I really do not know, make a wise decision!

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Fr Devin Roza | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, May 19 2015 2:18 AM

Bob Pritchett:

I need your advice.

Bottom Line: If we could offer every ebook Amazon offers, but only if we did offer every ebook Amazon offers, should we? And if so, how?

Edited - Am thinking more about this and will probably post later.

Posts 1367
JimTowler | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, May 19 2015 2:40 AM

Bob,

You ask a most interesting question, and my initial answer is that yes, I’d like it if your company carried “everything” I might ever want to buy, borrow or rent.

My concerns however include the following kinds of angle:

Is your company, and hence my investment to date, better protected or more put at possible future risk if you went with the “All” option? My investment is best served if the company continues to exist for as long as I can still read or listen. (I know you know how to see if my library is $500 or $5000.)

Would some of the Christian publishers refuse or prefer to not have their titles sold by “EveryBook.com”?

As others already have commented, there is the whole focus and branding matter to also consider. Would you in fact draw the line at “50 Shades …” or maybe fiction by Penthouse? If there was a line, where do you draw it? Or do you do it the Amazon way and for the most part sell anything that is lawful and let the buyer chose to buy or not buy?

It would be important to continue to improve the tagging and collections ability within the client software. I would not want it to find “50 Shades …” if I was searching for all examples of [something] when I was wanting to plan a bible study outline. I also might not want the client software to keep offering me books about Genesis and Creation when I was studying for my biology exam. In much the same way I generally already don’t want to find all the Amish Romance novels when I’m currently searching for something about life in early Corinth.

Take the examples when people have returned the free Harvard Classics etc, as it makes the indexing and searching a pain. The solution is for people to have all the free ones, yet be able to have better control over the collections.

It would also be nice if I could have my 200 GB library on my Intel i9, 23 GHz PC at home, but only a 20 GB subset downloaded and indexed on my Microsoft Surface Pro 5. Right now we get a choice of all or all on our desktops, which does not fit on small portables so well.

In summary yes please – bring it on, but I need the company to continue so my investment to date and beyond is not at risk.

Thanks and Regards, Jim

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Francis | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, May 19 2015 2:44 AM

Fr Devin Roza:
Yes, although insofar as publishers are willing to let you opt out of morally offensive works

Or, is it possible to buy the rights to everything if it is the only way to gain access to the titles you really want, but only distribute some?

Posts 692
Kevin A Lewis | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, May 19 2015 3:14 AM

Francis:

but only distribute some?

I suspect that is not an option - or Bob wouldn't have asked the question!

Shalom

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