Christian Mac User Launches Bible Software Review Site

An interview with the Founder of Bible Software Review

by David Lang (Posted: 2/24/04)


A Web-site devoted to Bible Study Software

If you've ever shopped for Bible Study software, you know how confusing it can be. There are literally dozens of programs out there, each touting different features, offering different collections of Bible texts and study aids, and available at different price points. While Mac users are confronted with fewer choices than their PC-using counterparts, the decision of what software to use can still be quite confusing. Where does one turn for clear and unbiased buying advice?

Comparative reviews of the various programs are typically hard to find, because almost no one has the time or expertise to learn every program well enough to compare them adequately. The same goes for word of mouth recommendations. You may ask a friend what software he uses, and he may be quite happy with it, but if it's the only thing he's tried, how can you be sure that his decision is the best one?

Thankfully, a new web-site has been launched called Bible Software Review, which promises to help cut through the confusion of the Bible Software market. The site is run by Rubén Gómez, one of the few people I know who really does have the expertise to sort through the myriad of Bible study programs which are available. Rubén is adept at using both Macs and PCs, has both the technical ability and Biblical knowledge necessary to put each program through its paces, and is intimately familiar with a variety of different programs. Best of all, he's very enthusiastic, and, by the looks of his site's layout, equally ambitious. Rubén was kind enough to share with CMUG a little of his background, his vision for his site, and his perspective on the current state of Bible Software for the Mac.

Interview with Rubén Gómez

CMUG: Please tell us a little bit about yourself: where you live, what you do, your background, etc.

RG: My name is Rubén Gómez, and I live in Minorca (Spain) with my wife and our three children (ages 18, 15, and 2). I'm a Baptist minister (on a long "sabbatical" since 1995), and for the last nine years I have worked as a freelance English-Spanish translator. My work is focused on the Spanish localization and development of Bible Software resources, and the translation of academic books and study materials in the fields of Biblical Studies and Theology. I have been involved on a regular basis in different projects developed by United Bible Societies (UBS), as well as various Bible software companies. I studied English and earned my first Diploma in Theology in the UK. I have since then continued my studies at Seville, Madrid, and London.

CMUG: What motivated you to launch your Bible Software Review site?

RG: Since my first contact with Bible software way, way back when I began using computers (i.e., my good old Atari!), I was stunned by its potential. I started as a user and soon became involved in beta testing and consulting tasks. It was such a wonderful discovery for me that I couldn't understand why others were not taking advantage of this superb technology. I guess you could say that after I became a "convert" I started to "evangelize" everywhere I went (with little success, I might add).

Time has gone by, but it is basically the same kind of enthusiasm and vision which has motivated me to launch a website like Bible Software Review. I believe the time was ripe for embarking on such a venture, as I was feeling very strongly the need to open up a space where I could interact with other people and share some of the insights and experiences that many of us have accumulated over the last twelve years or so.

CMUG: English is not your first language, and you have previously written a book about Bible Software in Spanish. Why have you decided to produce this site in English rather than in Spanish?

RG: That's right. English is not my mother tongue, although most of my training and work was done — and still is done — in that language. I published Guía práctica de software bíblico (A Practical Guide to Bible Software) towards the end of 2000. The book was very well received, but the Spanish-speaking market was rather limited at the time. My editor even said it was a book ahead of its time! So, based on that experience I decided to launch an English site in order to reach a much wider audience. Bible Software Review receives a good number of visits already, and if/when the need arises I will consider the possibility of opening a Spanish section.

CMUG: As someone who is familiar with much of the Bible Software currently available (both for Mac and PC), what would you say is the current state of the Bible Software market in general? Are there directions you think it should go? Problems that need to be addressed?

RG: As I see it, the whole Bible software industry is in a state of transition. The recent emergence of relatively new standards (e.g., Unicode, XML), the major revisions that the two leading operating systems (Windows and Mac OS X) are going through, and the increasing popularity of open source efforts, as well as the variety of computing devices (desktops, laptops, Tablet PCs, PDAs, multimedia cell phones, etc.) stand in sharp contrast with many users who feel "left behind" by this apparently unstoppable race towards "the latest, the fastest, and the cutest". There are, so to speak, too many open fronts, and Bible software seems to be at an impasse. Let's not forget that many users have not upgraded their hardware or OSes to the latest. So, Bible companies are torn between innovation and backward-compatibility. In what direction are they to innovate if the are no "de facto" standards? And how much (and how long!) can they keep their product compatible with earlier versions?

Concerning some of the directions that, in my opinion, would need to be explored, I would briefly mention these: Working on a standard publishing format, developing multi-level tagged texts, and implementing advanced features while maintaining basic functionality and ease of use.

As for problems that need to be addressed, I'd mention three:

1. It is unreasonable to expect Bible software users to pay a purchase or unlock fee over and over again for the very same tools.

2. There is a single standard for printed books, but not so for electronic books. This gives rise to a whole set of problems. If somehow a common publishing standard could be agreed upon, Bible developers could focus on offering added-value features. This would improve the quality of Bible software dramatically, and would be greatly beneficial for end users. Actually, I believe that sooner or later propriety formats will cease to be a viable alternative. Or, at least, there will remain no more than two or three of them, at most.

3. Greater care needs to be taken in order to ensure the accuracy of electronic works. There are still far too many typos. Proof-reading is as essential in digital books as it is on printed ones.

CMUG: I've written that Mac users need not assume Windows users are better off when it comes to Bible software (but then, of course I'm going to say that!). What's your assessment? I'm not asking for specific product comparisons, but what, if any, advantages do you think Mac users have with respect to the Bible software available to them? What advantages do Windows users have?

RG: Well, I certainly don't think Windows users are necessarily better off. Mac users have a number of advantages:

1. Mac OS X is far superior and more reliable than the various Windows incarnations. The same goes, generally speaking, for the hardware typically used in each platform. Let me illustrate this with a personal example: I "have" to work with Windows, but I "love" working with Mac OS X. That makes a whole world of difference!

2. Despite the fact that there is a fewer number of Mac-based Bible software, what's available is really excellent.

Windows users do have "some" advantages too:

1. More programs to choose from, which usually means (but not always!) that the combination of two or three different programs will most likely meet their needs.

2. The largest Christian digital library (with literally thousands of titles) is only available for Windows.

Running some kind of emulation software is a first step towards enjoying the best of both worlds, but that in itself is also subject to a number of problems.

CMUG: Where do you plan to take your Bible Software Review site in the future? What kinds of things would you like to accomplish?

RG: My expectations are very high indeed! If the vision catches on I am convinced that Bible Software Review can become to Bible software what the New Testament Gateway site is to Biblical studies. For me the key concept is "interaction", and blogging is a vital part of that.

In the future I would like to implement features like online surveys, forums and so on. But above anything else, I hope to offer quality articles, reviews, interviews, information, news, tips, etc. Obviously I cannot do all of that by myself, so I'm trying to recruit a team of people who will commit themselves to contribute in their particular area of expertise. I am also requesting regular readers and visitors of Bible Software Review to send me their feedback, so that we can finally cater to the needs and interests of a vast majority of people. You can be sure of one thing: some exciting stuff is on the way!

CMUG: Is there anything else you would like to communicate to the readers of CMUG? (In other words, is there a question you think I should have asked that I haven't?)

RG: I'd like to take this opportunity to thank all the CMUG community for allowing me to share a little bit about my dreams. Hopefully we'll see some of them come true in the coming months with your practical help and support. So, thank you and a big God bless!

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