Personal computers–especially the laptop/notebook/netbook variants–and Bible study/ reference software really are a match made in heaven.
The only limits to the size of the library one can install on a laptop/notebook/netbook are: (1) the size of the hard drive, and (2) the user’s budget. Since the hard drives on low end notebook computers are now in the range of 300GB+, and most OEM installed software is expendable (except for the OS), that is a lot of storage space. Unless one is using a machine that is over 5 years old, storage space is not an issue–and even if it is, providing everything is functional, one can easily purchase an external hard drive to run off a USB port for less than $100.
So if storage capacity is not an issue, the only limitation is budget. Since software packages range in price (depending on Software manufacturer and features included in the package) from $0.00 to $1,000+ there is ample variety to select.
For purposes of this review, I’m going to look at three packages I’ve found all of which have street prices of less than $25.00.
The first package is The Essential Bible Study Library, published by Thomas Nelson. This is a starter pack for their eBible series and uses the Libronix (formerly Logos) platform. It only includes three Bible versions, the KJV, the NKJV, and the NCV [New Century Version]. It has limited study features: Nelson’s Book of Maps and Charts, the one-volume KJV commentary produced by the faculty at Liberty University, Strong’s concordance and dictionary [keyed to the KJV only], the study notes from the NKJV Nelson’s Study Bible, and the Illustrated Manners and Customs of the Bible [formerly known as The Bible Almanac]. The street price for this package runs between $11.99 and $14.99.
In addition to few worthwhile reference materials, and the fact that no serious scholar uses the NCV (which is written on a 4th grade reading level), Thomas Nelson fudges by including a license which expires roughly two years after purchase, requiring one to purchase a new copy or license to retain access to the library. On a scale of 0 to 5, with zero being the worst and five being the best, I rate this a 0.5. It has useful features, but likely one who would purchase this already has a hard copy of the NKJV and there is no other reason to purchase this. [Note: This has not been available for a couple of years — 10/01/2016]
The next item for review is Bible Explorer 4.0, Limited Edition, from Wordsearch. This is basically a stripped down version of the WordSearch software. If purchased as a DVD-ROM, the street price is $9.97. Or one can download the software for free from http://www.bible-explorer.com. Either way, one obtains a library of approximately 200 volumes, including 11 different English translations of the Bible, including the English Standard Version [ESV], the New Living Translation [NLT], and the American Standard Version (ASV-1901). It also includes two Spanish translations, at least two multi-volume commentaries, along with numerous other individual book commentaries, as well as a library on church history and theology.
While this does not allow the serious student to delve into language studies, it does contain a wider breadth of references which allow a student to dig deeper than does the Thomas Nelson software, and at a lower cost. I rate this a solid 4.0 on a scale of 0 to 5.
I’ve saved the best software for last: The Word, published by theword.net. This is available either as a free download or for a donation one can receive the complete library on either CD or flash drive. But what a library this is: over 15 English translations of the Bible, including (in addition to the KJV), the ESV and the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB), the HCSB is parsed using Strong’s codes. In addition, this is the only software package for less than $300 which includes the complete 37-volume set of the writings of the Ante-Nicene, Nicene, and Post-Nicene fathers. It also features several downloadable Greek NT versions featuring critical notes on variants in the text and two downloadable Hebrew OT versions. The Greek texts are fully parsed, a boon to NT language studies (as long as the user has access to a grammar to understand what the parsing codes mean).
While many of the commentaries, historical works and devotional works duplicate works also found in the Bible Explorer library, there is enough difference between the two to make both of them “must-haves”. I rate this a solid 5.0 on a scale of 0 to 5.