How To Build Up Your Library On The Cheap

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Puritan Board Freshman
After having read through the thread "œHow big is your library?" I decided to compile some pointers for those of you who "“ like me "“ are on a budget. (This is meant as a supplement to the good advice that strangerpilgrim gave in his post about locating and buying inexpensive good books.)

Now that I'm married and have kids, I can't afford to buy all those great books that are out there, but you can still own some great Christian literature - especially if you don't mind owning a lot of your works in electronic format. Let me be the first to say that there is nothing like having a crisp, paper-and-ink book to read. However, there are some of the advantages to owning your works on CD or on your hard drive in addition to no cost/low cost:

1. Most are searchable. If you have software like the free Copernic Desktop Search, you can type keywords and search through the various formats "“ pdf, html, doc, rtf, etc. - on your computer at the same time. About the only books that are not searchable are the ones in picture format (jpeg, bmp, etc.), which is not very common, and audio books.

2. They don't take up much, if any, physical space. CD's and DVD's will take up some space, but not nearly as much as a book or bookshelf. If you have them on your hardrive, they won't take up any additional space.

3. You can 'cut and paste' selections. Most will give you the ability to highlight a selection, cut, and paste (to your study notes, to add a quote to your post, etc.) This means you can print various selections in one document instead of lugging several books around (like I used to do for Sunday School.) Also, even the text on pdf files is now selectable.

4. Free software for viewing. Most of the software you will need is available for free on the internet. Adobe Acrobat, E-Sword, and Theophilos are some that come to mind. Even software to open, read and write Microsoft Word documents is available for free on the internet; has a free "œMicrosoft Office"-type programs that can do virtually anything the expensive Microsoft version can do. (If you don't have high-speed internet, you can download Abiword for free to open MS Word documents. I did it on a 28K connection!)

5. You don't necessarily need an internet connection. While most of the books are found on the internet, once you download them, you don't need to be online to read them. If you don't have internet at home, you can still buy books on CD and DVD to install on your computer. a free CD every month with lots of Reformed resources available for about $10.00; just use the internet at the library, a friend's house, etc. to place the order. AGES software is also available at many Christian bookstores.

6. I would recommend that you start with the free versions available online. Here are some resources that have electronic books, commentaries, etc. available for free:

(E-Sword and Theophilos have the added benefit of being bible software also, which can enhance your studies of Scripture.)

For $, but still very reasonable I recommend:
(They offer one CD free every month. Technically, the CD is free and you pay for shipping and handling. The CD's have a copy of QuickVerse software for free.)

For more $$$ but with more bang for your buck:
(Be sure to go to and 'froogle' the set that you want to buy: many times you will find a copy at a seriously discounted price elsewhere. I found the their Ultimate Christian Library DVD for $100 using froogle.)
(Many of the titles available on CD at SWRB are only available here. They also have a free e-text and mp3 section on their site.)
Chris Coldwell's site, who is a member of this board; Chris also has a free Puritan e-book on his site!

by Drs. Matthew McMahon, without which we would have no Puritanboard to discuss this. Don't forget Matt has a 3 CD special where you can get all three "The Writing's of a Puritan's Mind" **and** help keep this board running.

These are some of the works I've been able to acquire using these methods:

John Gill's Commentary
Keil and Delitsch Old Testament Commentary
Phillip Schaff's History of the Christian Church

Flavius Josephus' The Antquities of the Jews
Peter Abelard's Historia Calamitatum
Anselm's Cur Deus Homo
Erasmus' In Praise of Folly
Martin Luther's Enemies of the Cross of Christ
Renee Descartes' Meditations on First Philosophy
Zacharius Ursinus Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism
Blaise Pascal's Pensees
John Owen's Christologia
John Owen's On the Mortification of Sin
C. H. Spurgeon's Till He Comes
Edward Hill's The King James Version Defended

Third millennium:
Calvin's Commentaries
Calvin's Institutes
Gary North's Crossed Fingers
Greg Bahnsen's By This Standard
Greg Bahnsen's No Other Standard

Google Search:
Martin Luther's The Bondage of the Will
J.C. Ryle's God's Book, the Bible
Short Puritan Works Collection, Series One edited by Chris Coldwell
Meredith Kline's Glory in Our Midst
Meredith Kline's Kingdom Prologue

I have many, many more - and these are the just the works that I acquired for free, zero, nada, zilch, etc.

These are some of the books I've acquired from the pay sites:
R. L. Dabney's Systematic Theology
Morton Smith's Systematic Theology
Wilhelmus A'Brakel The Christian's Reasonable Service, Volumes 1 and 2
The John Calvin Collection
The Works of John Owen
The John Gill Library
The Arthur Pink Collection
The Works of Charles Spurgeon
too many to list!


Puritanboard Librarian
Thanks, Rick! That's a good catalogue of resources. For me, nothing can replace the feel of leafing through the pages of a good Reformed book, but we are truly blessed to have so many excellent materials available to us now in the electronic age.


Puritan Board Freshman
Thanks, Andrew! You are abolutely right about them not replacing a good book. I found that out firsthand last thursday when the power went out and I couldn't even get on the computer. So instead I pulled out one of my books, sat by a window, and started reading.
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