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E-books

January 2003 | by Aubrey J. Roberts

Like printing years ago, computer technology has changed the world we live in. Then, an explosion of printed books brought a wealth of information into people’s homes. But the latest technology not only expands our horizons but also enhances our ability to use that heritage of words.

The printed book may well survive the challenge of the computer screen, but the latter is providing an invaluable addition to our libraries.

We are witnessing an explosion of digitally encoded information, presented in plain language on our computer screens. That information may reach us on floppy disk, CD (compact disc), DVD (Digital video disc) or through telephone line or cable.

It may originate anywhere in the world, and we ourselves may add to that library of information at our own keyboard.

Invaluable aids

Of course, no book is more important or more popular than the book – the Bible. We treasure our own printed copies. But the Bible on CD is an invaluable aid for the preacher and Bible-student, often being ‘packaged’ with multiple versions, concordance, lexicon and maps.

Computing power allows rapid and complex searches for both words and phrases, and search-results can be copied for use into our own documents (as can the original text using the ‘cut and paste’ command).

There is also an expanding market of ‘books on CD’ – sometimes called e-books or digital books. These come in two different forms of presentation, which determines how you manage and use the information.

The first has been briefly described above. Each letter of each word, and the spaces between words, are encoded digitally and so presented individually on screen. Then with suitable software you can both search for text and select and extract text for insertion into your own document.

The alternative is a ‘read-only’ graphical image, which presents the pages of a book as a series of ‘photographs’ or facsimiles. Such text cannot be searched, other than by your own eyes on the screen, and text cannot be extracted for reuse.

Growing library

A rapidly growing library of books on CD is now available commercially. You may have seen the Encyclopaedia Britannica and similar packages advertised. But there is also a heritage of Christian books now available on CD, such as the ‘Ages Digital Library’ and the IVP Reference Works.

I am involved with Ascan Books, which has recently been set up in the UK, together with Alive Again Books in the USA, to re-publish an extensive range of Bible expositions, both commentaries and sermons. Three CDs are already available, containing over 250 titles. More are planned.

The first CD contains one of C. H. Spurgeon’s recommended commentaries for each book of the New Testament. Authors include Alexander, Bonar, Brown, Byfield, Calvin, Candlish, Fairbairn, Haldane, Hodge, Manton, Luther and others.

The second CD carries over 190 classical Evangelical commentaries on the NT. The authors include Augustin, Adam Clark, Matthew Henry, John Wesley and others.

A further CD contains a large range of expositions on the miracles and parables of our Lord. Future projects include Spurgeon’s recommended commentaries on the Old Testament, and a series of sermons by the Puritans and their heirs.

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