[sword-devel] John Gill

Bob Pritchett sword-devel@crosswire.org
Sun, 2 Jul 2000 21:31:16 -0700

Chris, I'd like to take exception to the "serious avarice" comment.

I believe that, in the majority of cases (not all!), commercial institutions
produce better software faster. Some of you apparently disagree, and I
respect your right to that opinion. 

But attributing our pricing and distribution policies to "avarice" is a
vicious an unfounded slur on your Christian brothers and sisters. You don't
know us. You are not in a position to judge our motives. 

Moreover, you're judging us only by your priorities, with no allowance that
others might have other priorities. You apparently value "free" Bibles and
software over everything else. We understand that has its place, but we're
serving a different audience. We're serving people who are willing to pay
for commercial texts in exchange for getting very high-power tools and a
huge library of non-public domain texts. I appreciate the contribution that
Larry Pierce, SWORD, and others have made to making basic Bible software
available to anyone who wants it at no cost. Can't you appreciate, or at
least not tear down, the effort we've made to make a huge library of
otherwise-unavailable resources (because of publisher copyrights, not ours)
to hundreds of thousands of people?

What comes to mind when you think of "serious avarice?" Old guys smoking
cigars in lush boardrooms as they plan new ways to rob widows and orphans?
How about a bunch of people who, in a white-hot, low-unemployment,
Seattle-area high-tech economy work for below market wages in a drafty old
barn on a rural island where rent's cheap? How about shareholders who work
at the company or live in the little rural community who have their money
tied up in a small private, illiquid company that produces Bible software
instead of riding America's big tech-stock boom? How about people who sit
next to you at church?

Logos is, amazingly, a company of real people.

For the record, the first Bible software I wrote was public domain, when I
was in high-school. (For some time perspective, one of its features was
re-formatting the text from 40 columns to 80.)

In 1991 my partner and I wrote Logos v1.0 on our own time, while working at
Microsoft. In those pre-web days we intended to distribute it as shareware,
via BBSes. It was the hurdle of getting distribution rights to the NIV
($10,000 up front, $10/copy, minimum of 1,000 copies a year) that forced us
to choose between a shareware KJV version and a commercial package with the
NIV. It was pretty clear that the users wanted the NIV and that they were
willing to pay for it. So we raised a small amount of money from family and
friends and started a company. My partner and I left thousands of unvested
stock options behind at Microsoft. My father, a former VP of a
multi-national, took a _huge_ pay cut to join us in sales and marketing.

For nine years I've worked full time designing, writing, and distributing
Bible software. I know that I'm not a missionary and I don't claim to be
one. We are a for profit company (although no profit has ever come out of
the company -- what little there has ever been was re-invested in R&D).

But how can you look at what we've put into the company (up to nine years of
our lives and in some cases abandoning a pretty good financial situation)
and accuse us of "avarice?" How can you look at what we've done (1,200+
electronic Bible reference books and some pretty good software made
available to hundreds of thousands of users around the world) and say that
we hinder the spread of the Word?

Without the commercial enterprise the breadth and quality of these tools
would not be available. 

If a non-commercial effort (SWORD?) can produce and distribute better
software _and_ more Bible reference works then we'll quit our efforts and
join it. (We'll have to -- no one will pay for our products if the free one
is better/easier/has more books.) And I will be happy for it -- because,
despite being a co-founder of a commercial enterprise -- I'd like to see the
Word spread further and studied more, too.

Right now, today, dozens of us work full-time producing Bible software and
electronic Bible reference works. They're sold in collections for 60% or
less of the print prices. If I were to quit today and work on SWORD or some
other open project I would have to go get a full-time job to support my wife
and two children. (It would probably pay better, though. :-) ) How then
could I do more to spread the Word than I do now? I'd only have part-time to
work on Bible software. Maybe if hundreds of people worked part-time on it,
evenings and weekends, they could write as much code, license as many books,
and process as many texts. Pastors and professors could write open-source
reference and study books, going straight to digital and skipping the
avaricious publishers. Then we could together, for free, make as
high-quality Bible software available, with as many books, as the dozens of
people who work full-time at Logos (and the publishers) do today. 

It's a wonderful vision. I even think that it's a reasonable way to address
"baseline to mid-level" tools -- good software and a small reference
library. I'm glad that the Online Bible and SWORD projects exist. But I
don't believe that the method scales well -- to great software (which I
personally think requires reasonably centralized design and full-time focus)
and a _large_ reference library. 

And, more importantly, I believe I contribute more today to distributing the
Word then I would tomorrow if I shut-down Logos, let go dozens of people,
and joined you on the weekends.

It's ok if you disagree. But I hope that my email will at least cause you to
reconsider your charge of avarice, and the implication that we actively
"hinder" the spread of the Word. And I hope I can open your mind, and heart,
to the possibility that the people at Logos love the Lord and His Word, too,
and are your brothers and sisters in helping equip His church, just
addressing different needs in a different way.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

-- Bob Pritchett, Logos Research Systems, Inc.

P.S. Some things to consider:

-- Yes, we sell our editions of public domain works. That's because our
engine is free and these books have value when working with our engine and
because we do work to create these editions. If we charge for it when it's
avaiable for free elsewhere and people still pay for it then it's pretty
clear we're charging for something that has value, isn't it? Or else people
wouldn't pay when they could get it for free.

-- We don't stop anyone from obtaining PD texts elsewhere. We in fact point
them to them if they're concerned about the cost in our format. And when we
pay, at our expense, for a public domain text to be made electronic, we
don't assert a copyright or stop anyone from using it. You might be
surprised that a number of texts at CCEL and elsewhere were keyed at our
expense. Others were done at our initiative, through our creation of the
Electronic Bible Society. (We initiated the Early Church Fathers project,
for example.) So if we charge for a PD text it isn't avarice, it's an
option. You can choose to exercise it or not -- it's not like we keep PD
texts suppressed under dubious copyright.

-- Many texts we've processed simply would not be available electronically
if we were not commercial. The new Unabridged TDNT (Kittel), for example,
which we're releasing next week. You may be unhappy that publishers
copyright Bible reference works and that authors get paid for writing them,
but neither you nor we can change that. But we can help make them available

-- If no English Bible was available for free that would be a tradgedy.
However many are, and the copyright and profit motive which many of you
attack is the REASON we have so many options for English translations. Every
major publisher wants their own copyrighted Bible text. Yes, profit drives
their translation efforts. But profit also drives them to want the
translation done well and to be widely accepted. And that "evil" motive to
profit from Bible translation is the reason you, the English Bible student,
have a richer, better, more recent selection of texts to study with. And
none of these publishers is "hindering" distribution of the word -- they
aren't suppressing PD Bibles, and many of them make their copyrighted texts
available for free in various media and outlets.

In a recent conversation with a global missions group I was told that their
hope isn't for more funds to ship books around the world but rather the
ability to help set up more commercial publishers in foreign markets -- they
believe that only commercial publishing can address and grow the market for
Christian works, respond appropriately to specific local needs (instead of
just importing translations of US works), and become locally
self-sustaining, rather than a dependent arm of a foreign mission board.

-- FYI, we just finished re-doing our web site and the online unlocking
mechanisms last week. The ISV will be available as a free unlock soon, as we
finish our review of the system, make changes to the distribution
mechanisms, etc. It is also widely distributed on a _free_ CD-ROM.

-----Original Message-----
From: Chris Little [mailto:chrislit@chiasma.org]
Sent: Sunday, July 02, 2000 5:54 PM
To: sword-devel@crosswire.org
Subject: Re: [sword-devel] John Gill

We shouldn't necessarily jump on Larry's case over his placing a copyright
notice on the Gill Expositor.  He didn't merely type it in, but also did
some corrections and markup for Online Bible presentation.  Still it's not
enough to copyright according to the US copyright office.  But Larry may
have placed the copyright notice in there to scare off people intending to
sell the work he'd typed in (well, he along with volunteers) as part of
other Bible packages. While not at all legal or defensible, it's better
than actually thinking he owns the work outright.  I'll drop him a line
when I get back home and ask if he'll allow us to use Gill for SWORD.
Maybe he'd be interested in a trade or something.  On the bright side, he
does allow free download of the Gill module in OLB format from TOLBSS

Kevin Knight of New Advent has a similar copyright on the Catholic
Encyclopedia because he and volunteers typed it in but he hasn't responded
to any emails I've sent him.  And Sulu Kelley is doing the same for the
Wesley notes and others, of course he is actually selling and trying to
make profit from the notes upon which he claims copyright.

Of course if you want to see some serious avarice, you have to look no
further than Logos.  They like to charge $20 a pop for free translations
like KJV, ASV, Darby, Louis Segond, YLT, etc.  Even ISV, which they are
legally forbidden from selling, they charge $20 for because they only way
to get it is through buying a CD-ROM (nice circumvention of the ISV
license there guys).  The only books they give out for free are the BDB
lexicon and a Christmas Carol (which is oh-so usefull in Bible study).
Good thing Logos is diversifying away from strictly Christian works.

Sorry to rant.  I've just been a little annoyed for the last couple
years at people who twist the US Constitution and copyright law to their
own ends and who will hinder the spread of God's word or its elucidation
if they aren't making a buck from it.

-Chris Little