After several years, during which time they were roundly criticized for stringing Mac users along with vaporware, Logos is finally accepting Pre-Pub orders for a native Mac version of Logos. But based on what I can gather, it looks like something of a misstep for Logos.
The biggest surprise to me is their decision to charge a $60 fee for the base engine. The base engine of the flagship Windows product has always been free, a fact I have little doubt has helped produce the significant market out there of third-party producers publishing books in Libronix format (platform royalties going to Logos), bundled with the free Libronix engine.
That seems to have been a very effective strategy for Logos, leading Libronix to become the dominant platform in electronic publishing in these early years of the industry, yet being able to differentiate themselves from other Libronix publishers in the Bible Study market by selling additional programming functionality in the form of Addins (typically bundled with their library packages).
Not that I think a failure to be aggressive on the Mac platform is itself going to be a serious blow to Logos, but it looks to me like a lost opportunity to bring Mac users into the Libronix world as equal partners with their PC-using cousins, one which may end up reflecting poorly both on Logos and – indirectly – on the third-party Libronix publishers.
Being able to publish a book electronically on a robust e-book platform that is universally accessible to users of multiple operating systems (current and future) would be a huge advantage to publishers who want to maximize their market reach while controlling their (ongoing) distribution costs. Just ask Microsoft how valuable it is to own the platform. However, there’s no advantage to anyone in making some people feel like they’re carrying a burden others don’t share, which this pricing model will undoubtedly do. But the perception of unfairness may eventually fall more heavily on the third parties than on Logos themselves – Logos can sell their packages at identical prices for either platform, but stand-alone products will need to carry a pricing asterisk that says Mac users need to make an additional investment in a Libronix engine – one that is provided free to PC users.
Logos could eventually move to correct this by giving third-party distributors free license to distribute the Mac engine with their books (alongside the Windows engine), but that would sure miff the Mac users who are running Logos for Windows today under emulation, who are stuck buying a $60 “crossgrade” fee to get the native Mac engine.
The problems with this initial Logos for Mac release, however, do not stop with the base engine marketing strategy. Despite identical pricing for the library packages, it is clear from the Logos marketing material – and certainly from the Macintosh newsgroup on news.logos.com – that this Mac release is not comparable to the Windows application in terms of functionality. Much of what is missing appears to be that which sets Logos apart on the Windows side. The Logos marketing verbiage is vague on the issue, except for pointing out that the acclaimed syntactical analysis resources do not work (and otherwise stating merely that: “Logos Bible Software for Mac lacks some of the features of the Windows version. We plan to add many of these features in an upcoming version.“). However, the marketing sheets for the Mac library packages do not list any Addins (unlike their Windows-based counterparts), and a scan of the relevant newsgroup seems to confirm that, beyond the basic Bible Tools, most of the functionality represented by those Addins is nowhere to be found in the Mac version.
So, why would the identical library package (book-wise) be sold for the identical price, when the application package itself is significantly inferior? Worse, why would a current Mac owner, using Logos for Windows under emulation, pay $60 to downgrade his application, just so he could run it natively on his Mac? And if you just want, say, that Anchor Bible Dictionary, or IVP’s Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, or any of the other many works published in Libronix format, you’ll have to spend an extra $60 to use it on your Mac. This looks to me like a raw deal for Mac users, any way you slice it.
Some of the Macintosh diehards on the newsgroup (including Logos for Mac beta testers) are celebrating news of this release as a kind of “Logos freedom from Microsoft,” but that kind of parochialism is just silly – it’s a textbook example of cutting off your nose to spite your face. Others seem to be adopting a fatalistic and perhaps slightly heroic position that imagines they have a duty to subsidize the poorly executed Macintosh effort of the Bible Study software industry’s giant – which I just don’t get: it looks to me like they’re being taken advantage of. I don’t see any winners in this picture – I think the users, the company, and the third-party providers all get a bad return on this strategy.
Clearly, Logos struggled far too long with the contract house that was supposed to deliver this Mac app for them many moons ago, but I cannot understand the logic of waiting this long, and then delivering a crippled product. Logos looks to me to have set themselves up for failure in this venture. If I’m Oak Tree Software (publishers of Accordance, the leading Bible Study software for Macintosh), I’m not losing any sleep over this. I’m predicting this will be a flop.