by A. Scott Moreau and Mike O’Rear
In the early days of the Internet, many hailed what they thought would eventually become a paper-free world. They reasoned, “Why buy hard copies when electronic texts are available and cheap?”
In the early days of the Internet, many hailed what they thought would eventually become a paper-free world. They reasoned, “Why buy hard copies when electronic texts are available and cheap?” Time has shown that a paperless world is still not on the near horizon. However, we are now on the edge of seeing large numbers of books being made available online, even though dedicated book-readers (such as Pocket Rocket) failed to become commercially viable.
In this installment, we’ll survey the world of online books and text searching through online books. Though the number of links is relatively small, the information they offer is enough to provide you with reading for the rest of your life. Open your browser to www.mislinks.org/info/books.htm1 and follow along. We hope you find resources that will help you in your mission work as well as in the broader context of life. Happy reading!
GENERAL BOOK BROWSING AND SEARCHING SITES
Bartleby.com, named from a copyist in a Herman Melville American short story, “publishes the classics of literature, nonfiction and reference free of charge for the home, classroom and desktop of each and every Internet participant.” Started in 1993, it now bills itself as “the most comprehensive reference publisher on the Web.” In addition to standard reference works (encyclopedias, dictionaries, thesauri, quotations, style books and so on), Bartleby.com offers access to poetry, fiction and non-fiction. Included is a wide range of texts; for those whose focus is missions they include Augustine’s Confessions, The Sayings of Confucius and Thomas à Kempis’ The Imitation of Christ. Those interested in allegory and folklore will find Sir James George Frazer’s abridged The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion, Aesop’s fables, Hans Christian Anderson’s Tales and John Buynan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress.
A relative newcomer, but the most powerful of all book search engines, is Google Book Search. The intention is easy to state but the implications are astounding: “We see a world where all books are online and searchable." In the latter part of 2004, Google signed agreements with five major libraries—Harvard University, University of Michigan, The New York Public Library, Oxford University and Stanford University—to digitize the entire collections of each. This totaled more than fifteen million books and documents. This project is not without controversy.
Google has been sued by two groups (Association of American Publishers and The Authors Guild) over copyright issues; the document concerning the legal issues is available online at www.policybandwidth.com/doc/googleprint.pdf. Even before the dust settles over these issues, however, the search capabilities of Google Book Search are up and running. Go to books.google.com and type in the words “Christian missions” (quotation marks must be included) and be taken to 12,100 pages of books ranging from From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya: A Biographical History of Christian Missions to Evangelical Dictionary of World Missions. Click on one of the books, and you can search within the book itself. For example, by clicking on Christian Missions and the Enlightenment (Eerdmans; edited by Brian Stanley), you can view each of the 274 times “Christian missions” appears in the book.
To make your search easier, the words you have searched for are highlighted in the original text (note: you will need to register with Google to see the search results). The search function limits you to a few pages of each book you browse, and you cannot print the pages (to protect the copyright owners).Google provides you access to links to purchase books as well as comparison pricing across various book selling sites.
The Online Books Page has over twenty-five thousand English titles online. The founding editor is John Mark Ockerbloom, a digital library planner and researcher at the University of Pennsylvania. The titles can be searched or browsed by subject, title and author. Browsing through the topic “Philosophy, Psychology and Religion” yields over twenty titles, including Beyond Modernization: Chinese Roots for Global Awareness.For those interested in original sources for apologetics research, there are nine titles by Swami Krishnananda available. The page “New Listings” shows recent additions.
The Oxford Text Archive “works to identify, collect and preserve high-quality, well-documented electronic texts and linguistic corpora, which it then makes available to others.” Rather than simply providing links, the OTA gives you downloadable files in a variety of formats. To obtain them, however, you must read a disclaimer, click on a box noting that you have read the disclaimer and give your email address. You can search their collection by author, title, subject or language or browse by author, title or language. The focus of the collection includes fascinating historical documents in the Arts and Humanities. For example, a search by “Edwards” yields Jonathan Edwards’ sermon “True saints, when absent from the body, are present with the Lord,” which was preached at the funeral of David Brainerd on October 12, 1747.
Project Gutenberg is the “oldest producer of free e-books on the Internet” (founded in 1971) and offers over seventeen thousand full-text books, all of which are public domain. You can search or browse by author and title, browse recently added or most popular titles) and download a list of all titles to peruse at your leisure. You can find the complete works of John Bunyan, though there seems to be little directly related to Christian missions at this time. PG relies on volunteers to convert and upload books. If you have Christian books that are in public domain that you want uploaded, consider volunteering.
Universal Library, hosted by Carnegie-Mellon University, has a mission parallel to that of Google: “The mission is to create a Universal Library which will foster creativity and free access to all human knowledge.”
One goal was to have one million books online by 2005, though a search for all titles indicates that there are currently 35,800 actual titles available. The four centers where books are being scanned are all located in India, and thus, it is not surprising that all nineteen books found on the topic “Devotional” are in Telugu. While a search turns up 1,705 books under the topic “Religion,” restricting the search to English books results in 336 titles (1,307 books are in Telugu). The bulk of English titles relate to religions other than Christianity, providing a potential treasure trove to missionaries in need of those resources. Books include Christ for India: A Presentation of the Christian Message to the Religious Thought of Indiaby Bernard Lucas (MacMillan, 1910). A search through the text for the word “Christ” shows numerous errors from the optical character recognition process; however, the availability of the images of the pages enables the reader to see the original text.
In addition to ordering e-books through Amazon; in the menu window on the left-hand side click on Books, and then the sub-category E-Books and E-Docs), E-books.com offers forty-five thousand recent books in download format for a fee. You can browse by topic (“Religion” has almost 1,500 titles, though “Missions and Missionary Work” has only three).
There are numerous providers of e-books (a Google search turned up over thirty-five million sites) and it is wise to avoid downloading from sites that you do not know. We have provided links to a few sites listed on an Adobe links page); each has extensive searching and browsing capabilities.
Christians have taken advantage of the digital age in making available books of interest to fellow believers.
The most extensive site to do this is the Christian Classics Ethereal Library, whose goal is to make available one thousand books (currently two hundred are posted; for a preliminary list of desired books, see www.ccel.org/info/wanted.html). Books can be browsed by author, title and type. A good search engine allows sophisticated searching. A search for the phrase “Christian missions” yielded thirty-nine titles, but it should be noted that many of these are multiple entries for the same book (or for various encylopedia articles). Interesting results include Adolf Harnack’s The Mission and Expansion of Christianity in the First Three Centuries and J. E. Hutton’s A History of the Moravian Church. The term “missionaries” yielded 507 results, while searching for it in the Section Title returns five hits.
For anyone interested in missions history (or historical documents), the CCEL is an outstanding resource.
Desiring God makes the works of John Piper available for download as pdf documents. There are currently eleven books available online, including A God-Entranced Vision of All Things, Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist (online viewing only), God’s Passion for His Glory and When I Don’t Desire God.
Early Christian Writings has as its stated purpose “to set out all of the Christian writings that are believed to have been written in the first and second centuries, as well as a few selected from the early third.” The full chronological listing of all materials on the site itself is over one hundred items (including each New Testament book as a separate piece) dated from roughly 30 to 250 AD.
An eclectic set of additional links to contemporary sources from authors ranging from A. B. Bruce to Ellen White and topics from “Church Fathers” to “Historical Jesus Theories” are provided.
The only site we found that focused exclusively on missionary texts is Missionary E-texts Archives. The site currently offers fifteen books, many in DjVu format, which requires a download to use. They include Carey’s An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens and journals from David Brainerd, Ann Judson and Henry Martyn, as well as Zwemer’s Islam: A Challenge to Faith.
Some sites require you to register before access is allowed. They range from free Digital Book Index to paid private virtual study carrels; www.questia.com/Index.jsp; see Moreau and O’Rear 2004, 375). Digital Book Index is one of the former. They require a log-in, but no password, and access is free. They have over 114,000 items online, of which more than seventy-five thousand are accessible at no cost. The interface pages for searching and browsing are not as intuitive to use as many other sites, and you must log in before you can access them. There are over 1,200 titles in the Philosophy and Religion section, including six on Zoroastrianism and over one hundred on Islam (Islamic Religion, History, Culture).
Within the topic list, don’t overlook the “Area Studies” section for books on specific countries or regions of the world. From the keyword search page), a search for “missions” in the title gave 156 hits, but because duplicate hits are listed separately, there were only sixty-seven unique books linked, and most of them dealing with eighteenth and nineteenth century missions. A unique feature of the site is an electronic “bookbag” that allows you to place found items from your searches in a type of shopping cart that you can browse once you have found the books you want.
In addition to the general collections, there are also specialized collections of texts. None of these are mission centered; most focus on classical literature (which varies from classical Greek and Roman to European to American and English). In view of the fact that many such classics are public domain and accessible to English readers, it makes sense that specialized sites would focus on them.
Alex Catalogue of Electronic Texts “is a full-text indexed collection of classic American and English literature as well as Western philosophy in the public domain.” You can search the entire collection of some six hundred books or browse by author, title or date.
Bibliomania has two thousand online books available for free (click on the “Read” icon to go to the books). Catagories include articles, drama, fiction, interviews, poetry and short stories. The primary focus in the fictional section is classics (Crime and Punishment, Moby Dick, Anna Karenina and The Scarlet Letter).
Likewise, sites such as Classic Bookshelf, The Internet Classics Archive (classics.mit.edu/), Literature.org and Page by Page Books offer hundreds of classics in Western literature, and classics from elsewhere (Confucius, and Lao-Tzu.
Perseus Digital Library: Classics Collection has as its focus classics from Roman and Greek antiquity.
Turning the Pages is a project out of Oxford library to make available rare books in photo-image format.
University of Virginia Library Electronic Text Center has as a mission “to create an online archive of standards-based texts and images in the humanities.” The current collection includes some seventy thousand books, but full access to the entire collection is reserved for UV Library patrons. You can browse the collection by subject or language; you can also limit your search to publicly-accessible documents.
The promise that the Internet represents—the possibility of making a significant portion of human knowledge available using a medium available to billions of people—is in the process of being realized. We can take advantage of the opportunity provided by the sites mentioned in this installment to more deeply impact the world for Christ. As new sites become available, we invite you to send us the links so that we can add them to our collection. Please email us using the “Contact Us” link on the MisLinks homepage.
1. All links start with http:// unless otherwise stated.
Moreau, A. Scott and Mike O’Rear. 2004. “A World Tour of Contextual Theologies.” Evangelical Missions Quarterly 40:3 (2004): 374-79.
A. Scott Moreau is editor of EMQ and chair of Intercultural Studies at Wheaton College Graduate School (Wheaton, Ill.).
His e-mail address is < A.S.Moreau@wheaton.edu, and the Wheaton Missions Department Web address is www.wheaton.edu/intr.
Mike O’Rear (right) is the president of Global Mapping International (Colorado Springs, Colo.), which is dedicated to providing access to information for church and mission leaders, especially in the two-thirds world. He also serves as Lausanne senior associate for information technology. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org, and the GMI Web address is www.gmi.org/.
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