I have been using Logos Bible Software since the early 1990s when I purchased a “Scholars Package.” This came on four 3.5” floppy discs and included a handful of resources. At the time, CD-ROMs were not yet standard on PCs and the average computer user had no idea what the internet was. I recall the thrill of purchasing the Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew Lexicon in a “facsimile” edition since it was the first serious Hebrew lexicon I had access to in the Logos Library. My Logos Library at the time was only a few megabytes, although that stretched my PC to its limits.
Obviously the power and capacity of computers have grown exponentially, and so has the Logos Library. I have upgraded my library countless times, purchased way too many pre-publication specials on classic commentaries, added numerous free (and almost free) books each month, and with the Perseus Collection I expanded my library with thousands of Greek and Latin classical texts (see my review of the Duke Papyri Collection, for example). There are large collections of books for the average Bible reader, pastors preparing to preach and teach the Bible, and for the professional scholar (for example, the “Second Temple Period Collection” from T&T Clark). Even my own book is available in the Logos Library!
Logos books have always been available across platforms. If you purchase a book you can read it on your desktop computer, a tablet or mobile phone. Any notes or highlights made while reading a book on your iPad will be available on your desktop, and vice versa. I have always argued the iPad Logos app is the best reading environment since the books have real page numbers and downloaded books place footnotes at the bottom of the page you are currently reading. This means you are reading a “real book,” unlike other eReader apps. For example, Kindle cannot do any of this, although some books now come with real page numbers. The downside is the Logos App only works with Logos books.
Logos Cloud is a new service from Faithlife. Rather than buying expensive resources, users pay a month service fee and get access to a wide range of books which are accessible from any Logos platform. This include both the classic Desktop software installed on a computer (PC or Mac) and the Logos Mobile App (iOS or Android). A new feature is the Logos Web App (still in Beta). Here is a short promo video which explains some of the features of this new Cloud service. Faithlife sells an Annual plan which discounts the monthly rate and every plan has a “free month” to test-drive the service for thirty days. There are plenty of training videos on YouTube to help the beginner get the most out of their Logos library.
The name Logos Cloud might sound as though it is intended as a web-based service, but it is not. It is analogous to buying a subscription to music streaming service. You pay a monthly fee in order to access to a huge library for as long as you need it, whether that is for a two-year seminary program or a month or two of intense study. But Logos Cloud is more than a “rent a book” service similar to the Kindle lending library. All the features of Logos on all platforms are available to subscribers. This includes highlighting, note-taking and many of the other features from the Logos Bible Software collection of tools. Of course users are always free to purchase other resources (or add “free books” from Logos, Vyrso, or Noet since the Logos Cloud subscription is added to your Logos account.
Cloud Essentials, Plus, Premium or Professional?
Faithlife offers four subscription levels. All levels include access on all platforms including the new Web based Logos app. In addition, there are a number of resources created by Faithlife and included in all collections, such as books from the Pastorum Series from Lexham Press (300 Quotations from the Early Church, for example) and commentaries in Lexham’s Not Your Average Bible Study series (for example, John D. Barry, 1 Peter: We Are Refugees) and in their High Definition Commentary (for example, Steven E. Runge, Philippians).
This also includes the Faithlife Study Bible and all the resources associated with that resources. I reviewed the Faithlife Study Bible when it was released and concluded that it was an excellent tool for the layperson who needs a good resource for Bible study or preparing lessons for a Sunday School class. It provides articles and illustrations on a par with the ESV Study Bible.
The Essentials level is exactly that, 150+ volumes. This includes the Evangelical Exegetical Commentary (seven volumes at present), Lexham Bible Dictionary (see my short review here) and Theological Lexicon, Baker’s Encyclopedia of the Bible. For original languages, the Essential level includes the Lexham Hebrew Bible, SBL Greek New Testament, the Lexham Theological Dictionary, Dictionary of Biblical Language for Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, Thayer’s Greek Lexicon and Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew Lexicon are the only original language resources included.
The Plus level includes 900+ volumes, including three older large sets: Schaff’s Early Church Fathers (27 vols.), Calvin’s Commentaries (46 vols.) and Spurgeon’s Sermons (63 vols.). The Plus level also includes the journal Themelios from the Gospel Coalition (40 issues) and Qumran Biblical Dead Sea Scrolls.
The Premium level includes 2000+ volumes, including the International Critical Commentary (33 vols.), Barth’s Dogmatics (14 vols.) and Black’s New Testament Commentary (13 vols.). For Greek, the Premium version adds the four-volume Greek Grammar by Moulton, Howard, and Turner (the website lists this as five separate books, but it is only four volumes in print).
The Professional level is quite pricey, but includes all the Old Testament volumes in the International Critical Commentary, a remarkable 382 volumes of the Library of Hebrew Bible / Old Testament Studies and 85 volumes of the Library of New Testament Studies (LNTS/JSNTS), plus another 800+ “classic commentaries” not included in lower levels. In addition the professional level pads out the library with Sehnsucht: The C.S. Lewis Journal, The Works of Dwight L. Moody (24 vols.), P. T. Forsyth Collection (24 vols.), J. A. Broadus Preaching Collection (3 vols.), The Works of Aristotle (12 vols.), The Works of Plato (24 vols.). There are literally thousands more resources in this collection. The addition of the JSOT/JSNT volumes makes this a serious, seminary level collection. It is possible most seminary libraries will not have all these volumes available in their collection.
Buy or Rent?
When I first heard about Logos Cloud, I was a bit unimpressed since most of the books in the lower levels I either already owned or had little interest in adding to my library. In fact, if you are a long-time user of Logos and have already made a significant investment in books, Logos Cloud may not be for you. Here are three possible scenarios where the Logos Cloud will be a great benefit (although there are others).
First, for a student going to Bible College or Seminary, it might be more economical to invest in the Plus or Premium levels rather than purchase the same resources in a Logos collection. There are many people going back to school to prepare for ministry as a “second career.” Even at the basic level Logos Cloud provides professional Bible software and some of the essentials for doing serious Bible study beyond simple word searches.
Second, Logos Cloud provides any layperson a collection of tools for their exploration of the Bible as they read the Bible, participate in Bible studies at church, or prepare to lead small groups. Some of the interactive features Faithlife has included in the Logos software could be used for all kinds of fellowship groups in a church context.
Third, it is possible a church might pay for a Logos Cloud subscription for their pastor and pastoral staff. Even at the basic level, pastors will benefit from high quality tools and resources for sermon preparation, Sunday school lessons, youth group Bible studies, etc. In the short term it would be less expensive than buying one of the larger packages for each member of the staff, and subscription could be stopped if the staff member moves on to a new ministry. In addition, specific books can be purchased as a pastor begins a new study.
Fourth, I would highly recommend anyone doing theological education in a cross-cultural context to consider subscribing to one of the higher-end levels. My own denomination has several pastoral training centers in Africa and the cost of getting quality books to these schools is prohibitive. Worse, books are often damaged or stolen and difficult to replace. But a subscription to the professional level would give a missionary teaching at a school like this thousands of university level resources which are kept safe on Logos servers. When I travel, I carry my iPad with hundreds of essential reference books, something impossible with physical books. I recall looking up the article on Mount Carmel in the Anchor Bible Dictionary to refresh my memory on the details of the site while our tour bus was driving to the location.
Real or Digital Books?
I admit I am far more likely to buy a real, physical book than a digital book on any platform. I will also freely confess I am afflicted with tsundoku (a Japanese word for people who buy too many books and let them pile up). All things being equal, I prefer reading a well-bound hardback copy of a book to staring at my iPad (or worse, my iPhone!) But there are reasons why some books are “better” on a digital platform than physical.
I think concordances ought to be the foundational tool for any Bible study, yet I do not own one anymore because the function of looking up every occurrence of a particular word in the Bible is easily done by the software. What is more, I can search for a particular word in any book in the Logos library. For example, I have often search for a word or phrase in the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament and found valuable references to my topic in articles I would have read in my physical copy. There is no concordance for TDNT, but my digital copy functions as a concordance.
A second advantage of a digital library like the Logos Cloud is the ability to search through my entire library for a reference or topic. This means a topic may appear in a systematic theology, a commentary, a journal article and a devotional guide. It is possible to find insights in places where you might not ordinarily look.
Logos has developed a nice set of tools which do in fact save time. For example, the Bible Word Study tool scans your library for resources normally used in a Word study. By selecting a Greek word and running the Word Study tool, a window with clickable links to lexicons, charts showing how the word is normally translated in your favorite translation (and for Greek words, how the word translates various Hebrew words in the LXX), numerous syntactical observations and links to the word in any other associated resources in Greek (LXX, Josephus, Philo, Apostolic Fathers, Greek Classics, etc.) All this is quite easy to do with a professional seminary library, but it is much faster using the tools created by Logos.
One criticism which any Bible program like Logos must face is that many of the resources not particularly valuable. The claim of thousands of resources sounds great, but in reality I will use only a very small percentage of these “thousands.” For example, I have ninety-four books in my library from Charles Spurgeon, including all sixty-three volumes of The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons and another eighteen volumes of The Sword and Trowel, a monthly magazine published between 1865 and 1884. It is possible someone else may be very excited to have these huge collections, but I will probably never open these books. I could add the works of Wesley, John Owen, the Pulpit Commentary, The Numerical Bible, and quite a few other larger collections.
A related criticism also is the bloated “print price” associated with these books. For The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, Logos claims the print price is $2268.00, they offer it for $249, although at the time I wrote this it was on sale for only $199. While that seems like a savings of 90% or more, who actually buys the The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons at all, let alone for over $2000? This strikes me as a smarmy marketing tactic and I really wish Logos (and other digital book companies) would simply drop the pretense and sell books for what they are actually worth.
Many readers will no doubt point out that Spurgeon is out of copyright, so all this material is available on the internet for free. This is true for hundreds (if not thousands) of the resources Logos includes in the larger packages to inflate the number of books and the “print price” of their collections. This is a fair criticism, although I will always point out that reading a digital book in the Logos apps is a far better experience than reading it in a PDF reader, or on a Kindle, iBooks, or just about any other app I have used. What you are paying for is the conversion of these free books to the Logos library so all the Logos tools for reading, note taking, and searching are available to you. If you wanted, you could search the massive The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons for every reference to a particular biblical text or key word. This is impossible in freely available PDF versions of the books.
For me, these criticisms do not detract from the value I get out of the Logos library. Even if I do not use 90% of the library because it is old, out-of-print shovelware, the 10% I do use is so valuable to me on a daily basis it is worth what I have paid. Quality tools are valuable and will cost more than free/old resources. If you are looking for cheap/free resources, you will have to settle for the out-of-copyright sermon collections.
These criticisms aside, I think the Logos library is essential for the pastor or Bible teacher and extremely valuable to the layperson who wants to dig deeper into God’s Word. Be sure to enter the contest to win a Logos Cloud Premium Annual Subscription from Logos.
I appreciate Faithlife’s willingness to partner with Reading Acts for this contest! The contest ends on January 18, so enter right away.