Access to Logos Content without Windows: Priceless

Yes, friends, I’m using Logos Bible software on Linux. (But don’t tell Logos that Android is really Linux underneath, or they might decide to pull the plug.)

My Logos purchases of Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions and Luther’s Works: American Edition have been gathering digital dust the last year or three since I bought them. I’d hoped to be able to run the Libronix application under Wine, a set of Windows-compatibility libraries on Linux capable of running a large number of Windows applications as though they were native to Linux. But alas and alack! I have Libronix installed, and the icon stares me in the face from my Gnome desktop, but apparently Libronix relies on some of the proprietary features of Internet Explorer that are integrated into Windows, and not (yet) duplicated by Wine. Its runs with Wine, but the interface is mostly useless.

Now, I do have one or two Windows XP Professional installations available to me. One is on my old ThinkPad T43, gathering its own digital dust while I happily boot that machine 99% of the time directly into Ubuntu. It seems every time I do boot Windows, it wants to update some of the software. That could either be a measure of the infrequency with which I use Windows, or simply the price of running an OS with the security vulnerabilities of Windows. Suffice it to say that I didn’t choose to put Windows on that machine, but I’ve kept it around for “legacy” purposes. Until now, it was my only means to access the Logos content I’ve bought, and I’ve probably only used it a handful of times. The limitations, headaches, and expenses that always accompany a commercial operating system like Windows (and to a lesser degree, OS X) are just not worth the hassle of figuring out how to get things done in that environment, so even though I’ve bought Logos content, I’ve had to live as Paul recommends in 1 Corinthians 7:30.

But as you may have read in the previous post, I’ve now acquired an Android tablet for entirely different reasons. Though priced comparatively to a Windows or OS X license, the Nexus 7 is actually useful to me. Today I wondered, “Hmm. Even though Logos doesn’t have an application compatible with the Linux desktop, do you suppose they’ve made one for Android?” The answer, to my delight, is yes.

So now I can read my Logos content. I haven’t tried yet, but maybe I can also search through it. That would be most useful.

Now, all of this could make a person wonder why Logos wouldn’t make an application for the Linux desktop. Let’s speculate. The most likely reason is that they don’t think enough people would use it, so that the cost would not be justified. Okay, I can understand that. Logos is a business, after all. But…

Linux is built of Free software. While that may sound like it’s contrary to the principle of business-for-profit, it’s not. In fact, it can be used to the advantage of a business like Logos. You see, there are thousands of people with programming capability who literally donate their time to write software of every quality (from poor quality to better-than-commercial), which can be used in Linux. In fact, this phenomenon spills over into the Windows and Macintosh environments, but most of it happens in connection with Free computing environments like Linux. Some of those programmers (including me) would be happy to help create a Linux-compatible application for Logos.

Now, you might object, “But then Logos couldn’t sell it!” Ah, but they already have decided to give away their applications for Windows, Macintosh, and apparently Android too. Their money is not earned by selling their application, but by selling and supporting the content. So an open-source, Free Logos application for Linux would fit their business model like a glove. All we need are the specs needed access the Logos digital library. That brings us to another possible objection.

The Logos digital library and its inner workings are a kind of proprietary property of the company. The company probably believes that if any other programmers learn how to access it, they will lose their ability to generate revenue, and even to protect the rights of those who own the content. That’s a legitimate concern, because Logos has a responsibility in this area. However, I think the security record of Free software speaks for itself, especially when compared to proprietary software in the Windows environment.

There are plenty of Linux applications that are responsible for the security of their users, administrators, and the owners of the systems on which they run. Technologies like GnuPG, SSH, SSL, TLS and others are relied upon daily by people all over the world for their security, and they are implemented in Linux, with Free software. The security comes not from keeping the source code, algorithms, and apis secret, but on the contrary, by making them publicly available, with the widest-possible review base. These technologies protect important data from falling into the wrong hands. In the same way, Free software could protect intellectual property in the Logos Library System from falling into the wrong hands.

“But that doesn’t guarantee that legitimate purchasers of LLS content will not misuse it!” True. Neither does the current Libronix application for Windows. At some point already, Logos’ responsibility to copyright owners ends, and the end users’ responsibility takes over. That would still be true with a Free software Logos application. Nothing would change there.

While some might think that the Linux community has no regard for intellectual property, the opposite is generally the case. Through long conditioning, Windows users reflexively click past EULA screens when installing software, but the copyright stipulations that make open-source software Free are very important to a great many Linux users, especially the programmers. We tend to care about whether a bit of intellectual property is used in the ways intended by the copyright-holder, because that’s where we find the most basic difference between the programming of proprietary software and Free software. The copyright of Free software is what makes it Free. Not necessarily free as in “free beer,” but Free as in “freedom to see the source code and use it elsewhere.”

If the security model of the Libronix library system is based upon truly secure ways of safeguarding the intellectual property of copyright-holders, then I would only expect improvements to the interface and the security, and maybe even improvements to the system itself. If, on the other hand, the security model relies upon keeping the API secret and proprietary, then it’s a failed proposition from the start, and the copyright holders should already be nervous.

For today, though, I’m happy finally to have practical access to the content I purchased. So thanks, Logos, for the Android app.

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