In a day where serial print media is rapidly fading into history by going digital, it is either a brilliant or bizarre move for a digital publisher to step out in print. The sharp minds at Logos Bible Software have stepped out with a new magazine printed on real, not virtual, paper. It may be the only thing I have ever received from Logos on actual paper. I was recently asked by the publisher to review Bible Study Magazine here at Expository Thoughts and I am glad to do so. I’ve reviewed many books but have never reviewed a magazine, especially one that has only produced one copy thus far.
Full disclosure: I am an avid fan of Logos software. It is a product that suits me very well which my friends will tell you has not always been the case. Nevertheless I believe I can maintain objectivity. When it comes to software and hardware I am a true pragmatist. I represent a minority that believes my computer and all that it contains should serve me as its master. Therefore I am not a believer in companies but a believer in products which is why my computer is a MacBook Pro, my software of choice is Logos, and my drink is Coke Zero. It’s all about me which is not unbiblical so long as we’re talking about computers. So even though I have mucho dollars invested in Logos products, I am hopefully objective enough to offer a fair review of their newest product.
Clearly this is a product that will scratch various itches. It is well produced, polished, and assembled. It has a very high quality feel and appearance. From a design point of view it is top of the line. From a content perspective, I believe their selling point is mostly accurate: “There is simply no other magazine on the market that focuses entirely on the Bible and Bible study.”
There are fifteen featured sections that include interesting items like basic Greek word studies, brief book reviews, and in-depth studies. The magazine maintains a good balance of helpful articles and interviews from the very basic to more challenging subjects (e.g., the relevance of the Dead Sea Scrolls). In this particular issue, there is an insightful bible study that takes the reader on an eight-week study tour of Hebrews. One observation is that there seems to be more “about” Bible study than actual Bible study.
The theological tone is broadly evangelical but the “about us” disclaimer makes it clear that it is a non-denominational publication. This is further reflected in the guiding statement of faith, which is the Apostles Creed. I have no heartburn about the Creed but it is interesting that a magazine dedicated to Bible study chooses a creed that says nothing about the Bible. Is this an oversight or is it intentional?
In short I think this magazine is a welcome addition and should encourage Christians in various ways. However, I would offer the following reflections and questions for the keen minds behind this endeavor. I offer these with charity and great appreciation for what Logos has done in serving the Christian community.
Fifty years ago a food company scored a major marketing coup by producing a cookbook that, in order to be used effectively, required the home cook to purchase food items that were exclusively produced by the publisher of the cookbook. Yes it’s brilliant but it is also troubling. It appears that this marketing strategy is in full swing with Bible Study Magazine. In almost every article and on every page there are call-out boxes or by-lines that encourage the reader to “learn more” at a web address that redirects them to Logos products. Some of these further explorations have price ranges in the hundreds. This is not an accusation but one man’s observation that this has the feel of a bait and switch. These are not free articles but imbedded advertisements at times masquerading as an opportunity to “learn more.” There’s no escaping the fact that this magazine pushes the reader to make purchases at Logos. Even the word search in the “puzzles and comics” section has a note that states, “Puzzle generated by Logos Bible Software.” There may be some readers who perceive that Logos is more concerned with selling a product than fostering Bible study. I don’t believe this is the case but the company has not helped themselves in how they have presented this particular aspect.
Obviously, the bread and butter of print media is advertising but it can also be an annoyance. Over the course of fifty pages there are twenty-three ads, ten of which are full page. The current generation of media consumers enjoys their media with as little explicit advertising as possible (e.g., Tivo, ipods, satellite radio) so this approach seems to move opposite of current trends. I’m no marketing expert and I’m sure Logos folks have done their homework but I am one consumer who seeks to turn off and tune out as much advertising as possible.
What follows are questions that I believe are too premature to be answered succinctly since only one issue has been published. However time will fill in the blanks.
- Will the high quality production continue without sacrificing the central dedication of fostering Bible study? I could point to many Christian magazines that have long left their original focus.
- Is there a genuine market for this type of media and if so how long will it remain viable in the changing arena of media forms?
- Will the costs of production affect the pricing of Logos software?
- Should the magazine be sent free to Logos users who have already spent hundreds even thousands of dollars on their software products?
- Will advertising continue to dominate space in the magazine or will the company seek other avenues of revenue and sustainability?
- Since the target readership is 93% male and 54% church leadership (according to their web site), how will this shape the content and depth of resources to be offered?
- Are there real conflicts of interest? Do they want the reader to study the Bible or to buy a product? Regardless of intention the line is not clear.
- Is there a better way? Could this be an opportunity for Logos to develop an online community that digitizes the same content with the goal of strengthening local churches? I think of sites like Bible.org, which offer thousands of free articles and resources to the church abroad.
With the above cautions and questions in mind, I gladly recommend Bible Study Magazine to our readers. I want to thank Logos for asking me to review Bible Study Magazine. If history is an accurate indicator then I know we can expect Logos to continue offering quality products and resources.