Why Libronix isn’t there… yet.

If you’re the sort of person who looks for the most efficient and satisfying ways to get the job done, regardless of the conventional wisdom, then read on. If you’re the sort of person who conforms to the expectations of others, and believes that the most popular or the most widely adopted way of doing something is always the best way to do it, then you may as well stop reading now.

I am not one of the latter types. Your way of doing things might work fine, but it won’t necessarily work best for me. I want the freedom to work my way.

That’s why I like the Unix environment, and why I use Linux for just about everything. It fits me. I have the freedom to do things in the ways that work best.

For about ten years now, give or take, I’ve been using a collection of utilities and systems that provide the following important features:

  • High quality desktop publishing with a high degree of automation. I’m not talking word processors here.

  • An extremely efficient and powerful editing environment in which I rarely have to move my hands away from the home row of the keyboard, even when executing complex procedures using multiple programs, like importing some extracted Bible verses, or search results.

  • Independent programs where each does a specific task in a predictable and efficient manner, which can be interconnected easily to perform complex functions, even from the comfort of my editing environment.

  • Efficient archival of important changes to my work, so that mistakes can be reversed, old versions found, etc.

  • Network access to all of this work, so that I can use the system equally well here at my primary computing location, or anywhere I have connectivity.

  • Freedom and access to adjust the way I work in any way that I might see fit. (This may be the most important feature.)

  • The ability to expand and augment the system with tools of my own creation.

I enjoy these and other important features in my daily work, because I use Linux (Debian GNU/Linux, to be precise), Vim, LaTeX, Python, Git, SSH, Mutt, Gimp, and a many other programs and projects, representing many thousands of programmer’s hours. I also use programs I’ve written too, though they’re not so famous.

If you know what Libronix is and does, you probably already know where it falls short in my view. The problem is not that I want to rip off lots of copyright holders and distribute their work indiscriminately by means of the Internet. The problem is that I want to use those copywritten works fairly, yet without being hamstrung by a computing environment that (a) doesn’t give me the freedom and power I need, and (b) charges me a lot of money for my loss of freedom, power, and stability, too.

Unfortunately, the Windows environment is automatically disqualified. (Case in point: DRM is supposed to be a step forward for Vista. It’s actually a big step backward for someone like me.) The constant upgrade cycle alone is too expensive, though I’m sure MS shareholders think it’s great. I’m probably one of them, come to think of it.

I’ve enjoyed using the Macintosh environment, mostly because I can use the same Unix tools that work together so efficiently. The next time I have $2k I don’t know what else to do with, I might just drop it on a Mac. Macs are just priced out of my league, and they have an expensive upgrade cycle of their own.

As for Libronix, I understand the philosophy: control. It’s like the Matrix. All those snazzy features: searches, hyperlinks, notes, etc. — it’s all about control. The software is written that way in the hope that you never want to leave it. The proof of this is that you can’t export works from the digital library. Oh, you can export tiny bits and pieces, but not whole works. So just leave Libronix running all the time, and you’ll always have access to your digital library. Do you need to search? Just enter the Libronix application. Do you need to extract something? Switch over to the mighty Libronix app. It’s your go-to guy for everything related to your digital library.

I’m sure the approach works. It’s one way to do it. But sometimes it doesn’t work. (It locked up on me more than once when running it in Windows 98 under VMWare.) It also takes a while to load and run. It also interfaces only with whatever editing environments the Libronix designers anticipate, and that their marketing model will support. In case you haven’t guessed, that doesn’t include Vim. It also can’t be used remotely over SSH. And so on and so forth. Meanwhile, I’d like to grep through a UTF-8 file of Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions and get the results in my text editor, for possible use in my next Bible study. Something wrong with that?

Libronix probably works great as a money-maker for Logos, though I’m sure that’s not their (only) purpose in producing it. Libronix probably does a good job of protecting the interests of copyright holders. It probably seems great to the great herds of computer users who don’t care to look for “a better way to do it.” But Libronix doesn’t work for me.

So if you are a copyright holder wishing to publish your work digitally, consider those of us who don’t appreciate being locked in to one vendor, even a vendor with good intentions. Frankly, I value freedom. I’ll respect your copyright, but if you won’t publish your work in a way that I can use it, then your hands are tied. Wouldn’t you prefer that your work gets used?

And if you work for Logos, please consider a release for Linux that includes quick access to the digital library from the shell. I’d be happy to work with you on it.

7 thoughts on “Why Libronix isn’t there… yet.

  1. I understand you arguments. I am not a skilled Linux user, and code is mystery to me. However, I agree with the ideas. I am curious, what bible software do you use on the Linux platform?

  2. I’m using something I’ve put together myself and have called Bible Tools. I developed it to a point where it’s useful to me, and haven’t moved it beyond that yet. (Now, though, I’ve been doing a bit more experimental development with it.) It’s freely available, and I’d be happy to help someone get it running. The problem — as always — is the non-free nature of most present-day versions, where the copyright holders do not explicitly allow uses like this.

    For users on Linux, I’d recommend looking at the end-user programs related to [the Sword project](http://www.crosswire.org/sword). There may be other options, too.

  3. I use Libronix and love it, however I am in the same situation. I hate M$ OS yet I feel beaten to use it as most software is coded to use it. I understand the reason, money. I have found some people who use Virtualbox and other VMs to accommodate this one application they need. I am currently working on my migration back to Linux, Ubuntu.

    The painful process of getting back to Linux. Ahhh, I feel so constrained by windows!!!

  4. I echo this sentiment. The closed nature of this drives me crazy. Unfortunately as well, Libronix is a resource hog. The concept of Libronix is great, but it is just too painful to use.

  5. Regarding your comments on Libronix software and why its not there yet;

    While I can certainly understand the points made, and even agree with a majority of them, in my humble opinion you have overlooked a couple issues.

    Every person and there needs are different. If the Sword project will suffice for yours, great. However, for many, in particular those who work with the biblical text on a daily basis professionally, Logos (or Libronix) has a number of pluses that cannot be found in any other software nor can it be duplicated or worked around using other methods. The DRM issues that are so cumbersome and that we all hate have also allowed Logos to put tens of thousands of GOOD resources into its library while most others still have only hundreds. This is due in part because publishers feel comfortable that their works will not end up on a newsgroup for download.

    The other reason they have been so successful in obtaining so many resources is because they have made huge technological strides. Part of their technology has been licensed by most every large corporation including most branches of the US gov’t such as the CIA, FBI, Treasury ect. They also worked up a scanning machine capable of scanning in the NYC phone book in less than two minutes without tearing a page. They then loaned this out to various seminaries which were able to digitize there libraries – many have copies of works that are the only known ones in existence. Now you can have a copy of that work.

    Unfortunately, they tied their platform to IE. The whole software platform runs off IE, possible the worst piece of software ever foisted on the general public.

    The newest version of Logos will search my entire 15gb library (doing a full text search) for any complex string in less than six seconds. Of course it maintains an index, but that is still impressive.

    And there have always been scripts written by private individuals that will let you pull information from Logos into your word processor without opening Logos. When I right click in either of my wp’s I get a list of 20 or so Logos oriented options, some of which have submenus of more.

    for what its’ worth…

  6. Thanks for the comment! I agree that Libronix is an amazing piece of software in many respects, and that the abundance of texts available in that system is great — probably unparalleled in any other digital form. But as one who would possibly use and even promote such features professionally, I’m still left hanging. Sure, others may be satisfied, but for the reasons I stated, I’m still hoping for improvements to Libronix that will make it useful for people like me. Not holding my breath, but hoping, and willing to contribute my own effort, if I’m allowed to.

  7. More often than not I find myself using the free online biblegateway.com website, although I do have an entry level Libronix system (about $200 invested so far) on my laptop and I love using it for my personal indepth Bible and Seminary studies. I also do disagree with the lack of open-ness in its file formats. There are many fine PD resources in PDF and other formats that could be added to our libraries and searched as well from that interface were it more open. Also, as you pointed out it points to a fundamental issue, one of control and income. What is our fundamental and primary goal in studing all of this Christian material? Isn’t it to train ourselves up in the Word so that we can reach the world for Jesus Christ? That is kinda hard to do on a pastors salary from donations and then having to purchase expensive resources. What ever happened to freely you have received so freely give? I understand it cost the makers money to build the resources, but some of the costs seem excessive and then to not allow additional free resources to be integrated into the system seems a bit harsh IMHO.

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