I think my brain just exploded. Bible Reader has just launched their first desktop App. Sorry Windows users, it’s for Mac OS 10.7 Lion.
Bible Reader, in my opinion, has been one of the best mobile Bible study apps available for years. I only stopped using it because I needed the ability to sync modules and user notes between my devices and Macs. Once Accordance came out with a useable mobile app this was a no brainer, but now it’s not so simple.
If you’re a Bible Reader user you’ll find the Mac version remarkably familiar. At first blush they’ve done an excellent job of porting the user interface to mobile friendly Lion. The resources palate works very similarly and you can sync all your purchases, notes, bookmarks, etc. But it’s not a BR for mobile clone and does adapt to the Mac where appropriate. For example, your library is in a familiar iTunes like sidebar and includes access to your online account and the bookstore (very clever on their part, but you can hide it). Search and the verse picker are in the toolbar – and yes, the verse picker is the same as the mobile version. Basic font adjustments are a click away allowing you to change the font size and margin width (which you’ll want to do if you’re reading full screen). Also you can add a bookmark with one click – same icon as the mobile version. The Greek text also pops up parsing information by clicking on a word.
And it’s free. If you’re a Bible Reader user and an OS 10.7 user – download it. If you have a late-model Mac and haven’t downloaded Lion – spend the $3o and do it!
Now the caveats. Bible Reader lacks the depth of resources found in more scholarly apps. It can’t compete with Accordance’s resources or tool set, nor with Logos’ features or vast (but of questionable value) library of books. I wouldn’t recommend it as the sole Bible app for Bible teachers or students, and scholars won’t be touching it. Commentaries and Bible dictionaries in particular are pretty thin but for personal or small group use and the occasional preacher it has enough resources to be useful and it’s user tools will more than satisfy.
Update: for some reason some of the more in-depth resources I can access on the mobile app (like Pillar and Expositor’s Bible Commentary) aren’t showing up in the store on BR for Mac.
There is one other competitor to Bible Reader, in my opinion – YouVersion.com. As a social Bible app YouVersion is a different product but fits a similar market. I’ve started using their events feature when I’m preaching, which means that anyone who might normally use Bible Reader to follow me is going to be directed away from that on a Sunday. It doesn’t have a desktop app but it does have a very good web app that works well on a browser. It doesn’t have any resources (commentaries, Bible dictionaries, cross references, etc.) but it does have bookmarking and user notes which can be kept private or shared. If you want to do any deeper Bible study, I don’t think YouVersion can stand by itself (even its search is pretty basic), but as a Bible app it’s unique.
Now, a marriage of YouVersion and Bible reader, that would be sweet. But ain’t gonna happen. I’ll probably use both for the time being. Plus Accordance.
One other caveat – this is a first impressions review. I may change my mind tomorrow!
No doubt competition in the mobile space from the likes of Accordance and Logos (the other heavy hitter, particularly in the Windows world) has forced their hand and with hindsight I can see Olive Tree (makers of Bible Reader) having been planning this move for a couple of years. I still find it an interesting move since it goes against the flow. But it’s also a smart one since they must have a huge mobile user base – they’re on every major platform and have been around since the Palm OS and Pocket PC days. The question is, will they create a Windows version? My guess is they’ll wait until mobile friendly Windows 8 comes out as it’s the integration of mobile features into OS X that has allowed such a transition as this to take place.
Update: in a blog post in September, Olive Tree said it’s coming to both Mac and PC this winter, so I guess it won’t be long after all.
Bible Reader for Mac is only available on the Mac App Store.