Logos Updates and Upgrades and Ebooks and Data Sets

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Bob Pritchett | Forum Activity | Posted: Fri, Nov 30 2012 2:39 PM

This is an attempt to clarify our terminology, and will be the basis of a definitive web page on the subject. Your comments/feedback welcome!

Logos Bible Software is a product that consists of code and content

Long ago, we sold the product and sold periodic upgrades to the product, with revised code and new content. The code was essentially a reader for the content, which was exclusively ebooks -- content with a direct equivalent to a paper book.

This created some awkward situations, though:

  • Sometimes an operating system upgrade would be incompatible with our code and users would be unable to read their content without an update. We would either have to go back and patch an old version of the code, or the user would have to upgrade the product to get the latest code (and maybe some content they didn't care about), just to keep reading the content they had already paid for.

  • Sometimes we would release a new ebook for sale that would require features in the latest code. Some users just wanted to buy this new ebook without paying for an upgrade to the newest version of the product

  • Some users were reluctant to buy ebook content because they worried that they would be stuck on a perpetual treadmill, being forced to buy periodic upgrades to the entire product every few years, just to maintain access to what they had already purchased, as operating systems and computers changed over time.

To better serve our users, we decided to separate code and content in the upgrade process. We announced that updates to the code required to read the content you purchased would be free in the future, ensuring continued access to your purchased content at no additional cost.

There was a subtle distinction between these code updates and product upgrades, since code was just what was required to read your content, and the product was a mix of code and content. Sometimes this distinction was lost in conversation, or streamlined in messages, or simply not understood.

But the point has always been to ensure continued access to purchased content through various platform and operating system upgrades, at no additional cost.

In recent years Logos has begun creating content specifically for digital use. This content does not have a direct equivalent to a paper books. To distinguish this content from ebooks, we have begun calling it data sets.

For example, an ebook might have readable text, designed for humans, like:

AHAZ —  possessor. (1.) A grandson of Jonathan (1 Chr. 8:35; 9:42). ...

A data set is designed for a computer. It would have:

#Ahaz, Type=Man, Related Concepts=%Ahaz_Person, Family Relation=#Ahaz_Child_#Jotham is_childmanparent_of #Jotham ...

Some new features in the product are highly integrated with these data sets, just as in the past some features were integrated with specific ebooks. Where the code might once have retrieved the definition of a term by opening an ebook and extracting the text of the article whose headword matched the term, now it retrieves information from a data set and does special processing and presentation of this content.

Over time, more and more of the new features of the product are a mix of highly specialized code and these new data sets. Some new features have no value or usefulness without the data sets. And these data sets are, like ebook content, not part of the free code update, but are part of the paid product upgrades

This is no different than in the past, when a feature that required a specific ebook only worked if the ebook content was purchased and installed. (You could not see Greek text and morphological analysis in the Exegetical Guide if you had not purchased a Greek text with morphological analysis.)

This describes the situation as it is now, and explains the difference between a free update and a paid upgrade to the product.

What follows is a discussion about the future...

We believe there are diminishing returns for innovating purely in the code that reads ebooks. Our software can already search, display, analyze, slice and dice that content every which way. We will continue to keep the code up to date and functioning on new versions of the platform operating systems (Mac and Windows), and we'll continue to implement and support code that reads the ebooks on iOS, Android, etc. These updates and basic readers will be free.

But the most exciting and interesting features of future versions of Logos Bible Software the product will most likely involve a combination of code (for presentation and manipulation) and unique, hand-edited and curated data sets, which are the modern/future format for much of the content/intellectual-value previously delivered in paper books, and their ebook equivalents.

These data sets will continue to be sold, either as stand-alone content you can add to your digital library, like ebooks, or bundled into products you can buy or upgrade to.

To make it easy to price products, pay royalties, and retain the distinction between code and content, Logos has described and sold data sets much like ebooks. They are line items in comparison charts, sometimes have individual prices, and are unlocked internally just like ebooks

In the future, this will create logistical and technical frustration: because a data set is not exactly like an ebook. When a book is written and sold it is essentially a complete resource to which a price can be assigned. The author is paid for the completed work, and has no future obligation to expend more effort or write more words. (The occasional typo fix, or corrections in a future printing, can be delivered as a free update digitally, but this is a trivial enhancement.)

The Logos data sets, however, are potentially never-finished projects on which unending resources can be expended. Descriptive limits can deal with some of this -- we can split the reverse interlinearization of every Bible into separate databases, organized by Bible, and account/charge for the work on each Bible separately. We can even count whole new "lines" of content on a Bible (referent analysis, contextual word senses, etc.) as separate data sets.

But what to do with a timeline data set containing 8,000 items? This unique data set, the equivalent of many paper books (e.g. "The Timeline of Church History"), was compiled at significant expense. We label and sell it as a data set and get paid for that work.

But what if we want to add 3,000 more items to the timeline before the next upgrade of the product? In the paper book world you would either revise the book, and sell the 2nd edition at full price as a new product, or create a new volume. ("The Timeline of Church History: Volume II" or "The New Timeline of Church History"). Either way this would be a salable product from which production costs could be recovered.

It seems silly to create a "More Timeline Events" data set and charge for and deliver it separately. The whole point of the data set is to make for smoother integration into the timeline feature

But if the data set is simply updated with 3,000 more events, and there is no way to collect money for that enhancement, Logos will not long be able to afford to make these enhancements.

(What if we want to create just three new thematic maps to add to the existing set of 60+? How do we cover costs?)

We have a similar project with our enhancements to ebooks. We are continually revisiting ebooks and adding tagging to their content. Much of this work is done by hand at significant expense, but we never charge again for the same ebook content. But in many cases the book is becoming more valuable because of the new tagging, and many new features we would like to offer in the future will require new tagging to be hand-applied to old ebooks.

What is the best way to monetize enhancements / additions to content already sold?

- Deliver it for free and make up the revenue on other sales. We do this now for some enhancements, but it doesn't scale well and limits our budget for improvements. We put more energy into things we can explicitly sell.

- Describe enhancements as data sets and 'lock' them in the user interface for users who don't purchase them. There is a "More Timeline Events" data set in the product configuration, but it really just enables the next 3,000 events in the existing timeline data set. A resource might be fully tagged with new metadata, but it doesn't get used if you haven't upgraded to a product containing the "Enhanced Resource Metadata Volume I" data set.

- Sell data sets by subscription, not as discrete content items. Don't sell the timeline data set or Bible People or Bible Places data sets for a one-time price. Sell them only by subscription, so that a smaller, but continual, revenue stream can fund continued improvement and addition to the data sets

I welcome your ideas!

-- Bob

 

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Bruce Dunning | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Nov 30 2012 3:06 PM

Bob, thanks for opening up to help us better understand the behind the scenes thinking of Logos. I knew that it was complicated but I now have a window into the fact that it is much more complicated than I ever thought.

If I understand what you are saying I'm not opposed to paying for some locked elements of future developments for Logos. I would assume that they would probably also be sold in an upgrade like you are doing now. Of course it would be nice to have it for free but the complexity of when data sets become resources in themselves is complicated indeed.

Thanks again for inviting input.

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Mark Barnes | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Nov 30 2012 3:18 PM

Thanks, Bob, for this very helpful post.

Bob Pritchett:
What is the best way to monetize enhancements / additions to content already sold?

Definitely, absolutely, certainly not a subscription, which has never worked for Logos (think the original Personal Book Builder licence, or the current FSB). Users hate this model for anything that they intend to use over a long period of time - unless the product is very expensive and a subscription makes it affordable. Logos 5 Portfolio for $100/month would be attractive to some, but probably only those who wanted something for college but didn't intend using it much afterwards.

Personally, I would suggest using the Collections Model, which we're already used to. When you update the Timeline, create a collection called Timeline (2 vols), and include two datasets to that collection: Timeline 2012 and Timeline 2013. When you next bring out a new Timeline, create a new collection called Timeline (3 vols), and retire Timeline (2 vols). Give users dynamic pricing options, so that users who already own the 2 volume collection, and upgrade to the 3 volume collection at 66% off.

Posts 337

I like it how the system already works. Want upgraded features? Then buy the upgraded product with the new features.

I really dislike the subscription idea. Perhaps that could be another option in your marketing for some users who might like that idea, but I sure hope you don't get rid of "base packages." I would rather own the license all paid for, than have to pay a monthly or annual subscription. Especially since I can transfer my license to someone else. It would be pointless to transfer a "subscription." I would rather have all features paid for in full. If that means a NEW or ENHANCED feature costs more money, then so be it. I could either pay for it or go without it, but would not get a subscription.

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Mark Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Nov 30 2012 4:12 PM

Mark Barnes:

Definitely, absolutely, certainly not a subscription, which has never worked for Logos (think the original Personal Book Builder licence, or the current FSB). Users hate this model for anything that they intend to use over a long period of time - unless the product is very expensive and a subscription makes it affordable. Logos 5 Portfolio for $100/month would be attractive to some, but probably only those who wanted something for college but didn't intend using it much afterwards.

Personally, I would suggest using the Collections Model, which we're already used to. When you update the Timeline, create a collection called Timeline (2 vols), and include two datasets to that collection: Timeline 2012 and Timeline 2013. When you next bring out a new Timeline, create a new collection called Timeline (3 vols), and retire Timeline (2 vols). Give users dynamic pricing options, so that users who already own the 2 volume collection, and upgrade to the 3 volume collection at 66% off.

I'm with Mark about all he says.

It isn't straightforward, though, unless you get very specific about what is and isn't in a dataset so a buyer can make an informed decision. Just listing a dataset and giving no detailed info won't work under a purchase or upgrade system. People know what they are getting with an ebook. Your datasets are unknowns. In fact even today we don't know how much data and functionality is actually going to be included in Timelines, Clause Searching, Roots, and the Bible Sense Lexicon. If I had to buy those separately I'd want a very clear idea of what I was getting.

In addition, I wonder with the way Logos releases new upgrades whether you can wait to get all your datasets and the features that use them finalized before you want to release new product. You could promise a certain amount of data or additional functionality, but there was an awful long wait for promises to be fulfilled after L4 was released and I wouldn't like to see you do that again.

So some things have to be run differently if you are going to start selling datasets and upgrades to datasets as discrete products. I understand the need for it, but I wonder if you can do it.

 

 

Pastor, North Park Baptist Church

Bridgeport, CT USA

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Erwin Stull, Sr. | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Nov 30 2012 4:15 PM

My vote is NO to subscription based services (other than the magazine). Although a subscription based product will pretty much ensure a continued cash flow on a currently owned/licensed product, is it really necessary to consider? I have never liked subscription based software, as if the funds are no longer available to continue the subscription, the investment is lost, because the software no longer function.

The current model for purchases is good, as one has a choice whether to upgrade/add additional resources or not, without losing their current investment.

As for me, and the reason for my votes/suggestions, my cash flow is erratic. I may have a certain amount of cash this quarter, and another amount next quarter. So, if I am not able to afford more resources or upgrades, and my current investment was lost, it would be tragic. Payment plans can be a curse to some, but they are a blessing to me, as they keep my payments for the resources to a manageable level, and I know that one day it will be paid off and I can still study God's Word with this great software.

 

 

Posts 982
Edwin Bowden | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Nov 30 2012 4:26 PM

Bob Pritchett:

What is the best way to monetize enhancements / additions to content already sold?

- Deliver it for free and make up the revenue on other sales. We do this now for some enhancements, but it doesn't scale well and limits our budget for improvements. We put more energy into things we can explicitly sell.

- Describe enhancements as data sets and 'lock' them in the user interface for users who don't purchase them. There is a "More Timeline Events" data set in the product configuration, but it really just enables the next 3,000 events in the existing timeline data set. A resource might be fully tagged with new metadata, but it doesn't get used if you haven't upgraded to a product containing the "Enhanced Resource Metadata Volume I" data set.

- Sell data sets by subscription, not as discrete content items. Don't sell the timeline data set or Bible People or Bible Places data sets for a one-time price. Sell them only by subscription, so that a smaller, but continual, revenue stream can fund continued improvement and addition to the data sets

I welcome your ideas!

Bob,

Thanks for sharing this info about your publishing decisions.

I spent over 20 years in Christian publishing so I have some insight to some of the difficulties and understand the dramatic differences in digital publishing. Too many critics see Logos as merely a reader of content. Logos does a terrific job on both the engine and making a wealth of content available.

When I began using L5, I realized that Logos had made giant leaps in the way that it enhances our Bible study.

I don't think there is a single solution to the whole problem.

Although I understand the costs involved in updating current ebooks, the fundamental principle that Logos users are not willing to budge on is that we do not have to buy a resource more than once.  Users feel like there is a contractual obligation on that. At the same time, I see that users also want tagging updated in existing titles (Exegetical Summaries, etc.).

I agree with Mark Barnes (who I think speaks for the majority of users) that subscriptions are another hot button.

L5 introduced us to a better understanding of data sets and their value. Once users have experienced the value that those represent, it will be easier to use this model for future enhancements.

BTW--I noticed that after 4 weeks, the information available about the L5 enhancements and customized upgrade pricing has finally matured to the point that it should have been originally. As much as I love Logos, both as a company and a product, clear communication with users has always been the weakest aspect of Logos. If the marketing of L5 had at its current status on Day 1, there would not have been nearly the uproar.

Users (and Logos staff) were spending a good deal of their time explaining to other users what Logos failed to make clear on its website. Having the information on the upgrade page is much preferable to digging through hundreds of forum posts. Before upgrading, I spent a week utilizing charts others had posted to analyze my upgrade options. The current version of the custom upgrade page would have saved me many hours. It took 2 weeks to get the info out about the MC. I made my upgrade decision not knowing for sure how the MC would affect my decision.There are still problems with people who upgrade to MC and find that it now costs them more to upgrade to a base package.

I thought one of the biggest blunders Logos made on the upgrade page was not making clear the awesome values available on the CUSTOMIZE button. Logos should have been getting additional multiple sales on those add-on titles.

In reflection, at least the problems this time were primarily marketing and communication. L4's introduction complaints were primarily about the product. We still don't have all the details about the free L5 engine. . The introduction of both upgrades appear to be the result of releasing product without being fully prepared.    

I do appreciate your frequent posts on the forums and dealing directly with some of the problems.

Posts 926
Randy W. Sims | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Nov 30 2012 4:33 PM

I like the subscription model IF:

1. you are talking about a subscription to updates as opposed to a subscription to the data set. In other words, if a user cancels the subscription they keep what they have, but no longer receive updates;

2. and IF there is also an option to pay a one time subscription for all future updates of the current product version. I.E. Pay $5 a month OR pay a one time $100 to receive all updates to Logos version 5.

Also, I think it will be important to be explicit about updates. From what I understand, some of the existing data sets are not finished and there is at least an implied promise that those data sets will be completed as part of the original Logos 5 product at no additional cost. I suspect people will be unhappy if the find out that they will have to pay to get the complete product they think they already purchased. What is an update? What is already paid for?

I have no problem paying for updates. Not that I have much money; I certainly don't. But, I do believe in paying for quality products and services that have value.

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Anon | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Nov 30 2012 4:34 PM

Mark Smith:

Mark Barnes:

Definitely, absolutely, certainly not a subscription, which has never worked for Logos (think the original Personal Book Builder licence, or the current FSB). Users hate this model for anything that they intend to use over a long period of time - unless the product is very expensive and a subscription makes it affordable. Logos 5 Portfolio for $100/month would be attractive to some, but probably only those who wanted something for college but didn't intend using it much afterwards.

Personally, I would suggest using the Collections Model, which we're already used to. When you update the Timeline, create a collection called Timeline (2 vols), and include two datasets to that collection: Timeline 2012 and Timeline 2013. When you next bring out a new Timeline, create a new collection called Timeline (3 vols), and retire Timeline (2 vols). Give users dynamic pricing options, so that users who already own the 2 volume collection, and upgrade to the 3 volume collection at 66% off.

I'm with Mark about all he says.

It isn't straightforward, though, unless you get very specific about what is and isn't in a dataset so a buyer can make an informed decision. Just listing a dataset and giving no detailed info won't work under a purchase or upgrade system. People know what they are getting with an ebook. Your datasets are unknowns. In fact even today we don't know how much data and functionality is actually going to be included in Timelines, Clause Searching, Roots, and the Bible Sense Lexicon. If I had to buy those separately I'd want a very clear idea of what I was getting.

In addition, I wonder with the way Logos releases new upgrades whether you can wait to get all your datasets and the features that use them finalized before you want to release new product. You could promise a certain amount of data or additional functionality, but there was an awful long wait for promises to be fulfilled after L4 was released and I wouldn't like to see you do that again.

So some things have to be run differently if you are going to start selling datasets and upgrades to datasets as discrete products. I understand the need for it, but I wonder if you can do it.

 

 

Agreed.

 

 

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Posts 222
Justin Cofer | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Nov 30 2012 4:43 PM

I vote no subscription.  I concur with Mark Barnes.

Posts 222
Justin Cofer | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Nov 30 2012 4:46 PM

I also believe that Logos needs to start generating a lot more content like Runge's work and the EEC and start packaging it in their packages.  Since it is Lexham, you don't need to fight with the publishers to include the content in your packages.  Logos is clearly in the business of generating content, whether that be data sets or ebooks.

Posts 692
Erwin Stull, Sr. | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Nov 30 2012 4:48 PM

Randy W. Sims (Shayne):

I like the subscription model IF:

1. you are talking about a subscription to updates as opposed to a subscription to the data set. In other words, if a user cancels the subscription they keep what they have, but no longer receive updates;

2. and IF there is also an option to pay a one time subscription for all future updates of the current product version. I.E. Pay $5 a month OR pay a one time $100 to receive all updates to Logos version 5.

Also, I think it will be important to be explicit about updates. From what I understand, some of the existing data sets are not finished and there is at least an implied promise that those data sets will be completed as part of the original Logos 5 product at no additional cost. I suspect people will be unhappy if the find out that they will have to pay to get the complete product they think they already purchased. What is an update? What is already paid for?

I have no problem paying for updates. Not that I have much money; I certainly don't. But, I do believe in paying for quality products and services that have value.

This is like a support contract. I have seen this done with success. I have subscribed (if that word can be used) to these in the past, and felt pretty good about it. Smile

I agree with this model, and would vote for it.

 

 

Posts 5
Marty Brownfield | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Nov 30 2012 6:52 PM

I think that the only way a subscription service will be attractive is if the customer is assured of frequent updates (perhaps monthly).  If we pay a certain amount each month, it could get frustrating if several months go by and we see nothing from our investment.  I guess it depends on how often these data sets will be updated.  Will it be (assuredly!) frequent updates?  Then perhaps a subscription service makes sense.  Will it be huge changes once or twice a year?  Then an upgrade pricing might be better.

Even if a subscription model is available, I would like the option to have an upgrade instead.  Of course, the upgrade price should not be lower than what the subscribing users have been paying!  The upgrade price should (in all fairness) be somewhat higher than the collective cost of what the subscribers have already paid.  But this would allow users to still gain the value of those updated data sets in one fell swoop, as it were, perhaps after 6 months or a year of updates have been applied.

I hope I'm being clear here!  One thing I have refrained from doing is to criticize Logos for their marketing communication, because I feel rather vulnerable throwing stones while standing in my glass house.

Posts 1250
Divinesoteriology | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Nov 30 2012 8:10 PM

"What is the best way to monetize enhancements / additions to content already sold?"

It seems to me that  significant database updates would be best sold as a upgraded version of the software. Right now logos is offer the minimal crossovers, which the customer can purchase to get all the new features. If the software can now do more things with our books, then that would justify the cost of the upgrade. That is my perspective...

I know it changes the free software idea, maybe it means cheaper books? A guy can be hopeful ..



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Posts 163
Alan | Forum Activity | Replied: Fri, Nov 30 2012 11:46 PM

Thanks for a very informative post.

On any pricing model please take into account users who do not have the luxury of dollars. Many of the users live in countries where the currency exchange rate severely penalizes them. As such I would also not recommend a subscription as many of these markets are volatile and I wouldn't make a commitment ahead of time without knowing what it would actually be costing me. By way of example I ordered  a book which I returned within a week - the exchange rate varied to such an extent that I was refunded R50 (about $6) less than what I paid. (Of course if it went the other way I would have had a little bonus, but it rarely goes that way!)

I know that I cannot expect resources/datasets for free just because I'm in Africa, but please do think of us when prices are set.

Pietermaritzburg, South Africa

Posts 276
Armin | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Dec 1 2012 1:29 AM

I also would like to vote against subscription. But I am willing to pay for upgrades to datasets if my wallet allows.

Armin

Posts 361
Charlene | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Dec 1 2012 3:13 AM

Mark Barnes:

Definitely, absolutely, certainly not a subscription, which has never worked for Logos (think the original Personal Book Builder licence, or the current FSB). Users hate this model for anything that they intend to use over a long period of time - unless the product is very expensive and a subscription makes it affordable. Logos 5 Portfolio for $100/month would be attractive to some, but probably only those who wanted something for college but didn't intend using it much afterwards.

Personally, I would suggest using the Collections Model, which we're already used to. When you update the Timeline, create a collection called Timeline (2 vols), and include two datasets to that collection: Timeline 2012 and Timeline 2013. When you next bring out a new Timeline, create a new collection called Timeline (3 vols), and retire Timeline (2 vols). Give users dynamic pricing options, so that users who already own the 2 volume collection, and upgrade to the 3 volume collection at 66% off.

 

YesYes

Charlene

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Graham Criddle | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Dec 1 2012 3:33 AM

Hi Bob

Many thanks for the post - greatly appreciated.

In addition to what Mark has said:

Mark Barnes:

Personally, I would suggest using the Collections Model, which we're already used to. When you update the Timeline, create a collection called Timeline (2 vols), and include two datasets to that collection: Timeline 2012 and Timeline 2013. When you next bring out a new Timeline, create a new collection called Timeline (3 vols), and retire Timeline (2 vols). Give users dynamic pricing options, so that users who already own the 2 volume collection, and upgrade to the 3 volume collection at 66% off.

how about using the Prepub model to introduce new datasets into collections?

This would allow users to "sign up" to purchasing new timeline events, verb tagging in the BSL, introduction of new maps, etc.

This should provide a mechanism for covering up-front development costs and then ongoing revenue as these new datasets are added to expanded collections as per Mark's suggestion.

I appreciate it might introduce complexity when an individual "user feature" utilises capabilities from multiple datasets!

Graham

Posts 954
toughski | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Dec 1 2012 7:25 AM

I vote for option2 below

Bob Pritchett:
- Describe enhancements as data sets and 'lock' them in the user interface for users who don't purchase them. There is a "More Timeline Events" data set in the product configuration, but it really just enables the next 3,000 events in the existing timeline data set. A resource might be fully tagged with new metadata, but it doesn't get used if you haven't upgraded to a product containing the "Enhanced Resource Metadata Volume I" data set.

 

I am definitely against a subscription

Posts 1121
Ward Walker | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Dec 1 2012 7:52 AM

As always, Mark Barnes' perspective is one that I can harmonize to.  

I've often wondered why Logos didn't sell version of it's reading engine, accompanied by options for capability plug-ins...when I work with sound/video/photo-processing software, it often works that way.

When I work with Microsoft corporately, I have options to purchase software and then to add software assurance for a recurring fee.  Of course, for me the S/A has always been a losing proposition...but great for them because it normalizes base cash flow.  If I don't get S/A, then I just get critical patches for a few years.

It is important to me to know that I'll keep having what I've paid for to date (at least until technology makes that not work anymore).

I'm always concerned that Logos has a future-day time bomb in it's sales model...how to keep the lights on once you've saturated the market??  Once again, I am concerned that I could see all the "reach-back" features suddenly go away someday if Logos hits a cash flow problem.  I dont even know how well the stand-alone code would function if there wasn't a Logos to call home to...the product is increasingly dependent on back-end support/services.

I'm OK with paying for a substantial upgrade to capability--like a data set (aka enhanced plug-in), but agree with Mark that I'd understand it better if it was explained in familiar language like collections.  The danger I see in this is that what good is half of a data set?  It would be like selling a resource with the vowels removed... consider the case where a data set may be found to have substantial error/flaw and needs to be wholly revamped.  Is that a "patch" or a "new volume"?  Why would someone want to pay for the "old volume"?

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