Just got back from BibleTech:2008 in Seattle. About 90-100 developers, ministry leaders, academians, content-owners, and end-users met for two-days of in-depth technical sessions on the current state of technical challenges facing Bible software.
I handed out several of our Gold Edition USB Library devices to blog readers who were in attendance. Unfortunately I put the same serial number on all the devices, so they’ll have to contact tech support to get a fresh serial number. Sorry about that.
I did a session late in the day on Saturday on synchronizing user-created data and proposed the possibility that we could exchange notes, highlights and bookmarks (and potentially other user-created data) between various Bible software based on our model. There was some interest, but these things always sound more exciting when you’re right there than when you get back to your desk on Monday morning and there’s a pile of work to do. So it’s hard to say where that will go.
As part of my presentation I demonstrated creating a note and highlighting a verse on my Pocket PC, then sync’ing that to the desktop where it is displayed in PocketBible for Windows. I then edited the note and changed the highlight color and sync’ed to my iPhone over the internet. When I selected the verse number in iPocketBible I saw my note, which I then edited again. While I was there I changed the highlight color yet again, then sync’ed up to the desktop. There was my note, with all the edits from the Pocket PC, desktop PC, and iPhone; along with the verse highlighted in the color I’d chosen on the iPhone.
We made some good business contacts there and perhaps you’ll see something come of those in the future. However, I also took away a number of small points that are worth mentioning here.
- One publisher admitted that digital rights management (DRM) was a losing battle. He cited several cases where DRM schemes were defeated within days of a new product being introduced. He lamented the opportunities lost by publishers who are waiting for a perfect solution to security of their data. This is something we’ve been preaching for twenty years.
- The open-source/freeware community was chastised by one Greek professor in attendance for distributing and promoting “classic” commentaries from the 19th century. While her calls for publication of these materials to be suppressed were perhaps over-the-top, she makes a good point: We have so many more manuscripts and archaeological evidence today than we had 150 years ago that it’s a shame that we promote these dated materials just because there’s no royalties on them (they’re old enough that they’re in the public domain). Since the open-source/freeware guys aren’t in business to sell things (and thus collect and pay royalties) they tend not to have the more contemporary resources available to them that are the bulk of what we do here at Laridian and at the other commercial Bible software houses.
- Crossway gave quite a presentation on the marketing research they have done with respect to the English Standard Version (ESV). It was pretty impressive to see how much time they spend thinking about who their readers are and where, when, why, and how they’ll be reading the ESV. This allows them to better tune their product development and marketing to meet readers where they are instead of where Crossway wants them to be.
- The Crossway presentation also included a couple quotes from Business Week. One, from 1998, stated that “practical e-book devices have finally arrived”. None of those devices are available today. A second recent quote said the new Amazon Kindle is the “iPod of e-book readers”. We’ll see.
- The only commercial Bible software companies represented there were us, Logos, OliveTree, and e-Sword. I was disappointed not to see anyone from the major Bible software companies like Findex (QuickVerse) and Biblesoft (PC Study Bible). I realize these companies are not generally considered “leading edge” when it comes to technology, but it would’ve been nice to see them all again.
Ironically, a Logos employee won the prize for answering my trivia question correctly at the beginning of my presentation. Twenty years ago this month I started work on the product that would become QuickVerse. The question: What was the name of that program when I first started selling it in September, 1988?