CCEL Questions and Answers

What's the purpose of the CCEL?

To build up Christ's church by making available classic Christian books and promoting their use.

What's the doctrine of the CCEL?

The CCEL is a library intended to serve the whole church. Just like a traditional library, here you will find works from a variety of viewpoints and traditions. And just as in any library, the views expressed in the material on this archive do not necessarily represent the views of any particular individual or the hosting institution (in this case, Calvin University).

We also cannot vouch for the accuracy of any statements made by the authors of the texts represented on this site. We don't alter the contents of books, even if we believe them to be in error. Here again we are just like any other library.

Why isn't [my_favorite_author] on your list?

Please don't be alarmed if your particular tradition or favorite author isn't on the list. Very often we simply haven't had time to scan the works or aren't able to find a public-domain edition. We welcome suggestions of public-domain books that no "Christian classics" library should be without.

Do you know if [my_favorite_book] is on the Internet?

If you don't find the book you are looking for here, you might try a search engines such as (Google has its own, large collection of online books). If you still can't find what you are looking for, it is unlikely that we will be able to help.

Can I link to the CCEL?

Yes, especially the top-level pages, the top-level book or author pages, and the WWSB book or chapter pages. Links to anything else may be invalidated the next time we rearrange files.

How do I read large computer documents?

People are spending more time reading from computer screens and less time from paper. However, if you wish to read from paper, the PDF format prints nicely on 8.5x11 paper.

What are all those file formats? Which should I use?

There is a list of available formats on each book's information page. More information about the various formats is available.

How do I download an entire book without having to save each chapter separately?

For downloading, the PDF format may be most convenient.

Who maintains the CCEL?

The director of the CCEL is Harry Plantinga, a professor of computer science at Calvin University. More than 25 college students have spent summers working on the project. Nyna Sykes is the business manager. Ken Verhulst is the digital library coordinator. Will Groenendyk is the Web administrator.

How is the CCEL funded?

Up to 2005, it had low funding, mostly generated by sales of CD-Roms and individual gifts. There was a large grant in 2005-06, and starting in 2006-07, additional funding comes from subscriptions and advertising revenue. Calvin University has provided space, network access, and significant financial support.

How long does it take? Why do you do it?

It takes something like 20 to 50 hours to scan a typical book and OCR, mark up, and proofread it. For a number of years, starting in 1993, I spent about an hour a day at it.

Why do I do it? Once upon a time, after a personal crisis, I found a lovely hypercard stack of The Imitation of Christ on the Internet. I had not previously been aware of this book; in fact I didn't really have any interest in dusty old books at that time. The Imitation was very helpful to me, however, and a love of Christian classics was born. Since then the project has been a labor of love. If you want to know more, you can read this story.

Future Plans?

Goals are described further in The Vision.

The implementation of Theological Markup Language throughout the library is complete in the first version, and most of the books have been converted to ThML. Future projects on our to-do list include a "report typo" link on each page that allows users to make corrections, an import/export for editing ThML books in Writer, a system for keeping track of the state of books in all stages -- "wanted", "scanned", "proofed", "marked up", etc., a Spanish-language interface and collection. Too many ideas, too little time...

Access Statistics?

Lately (2006) the servers have been logging about 200,000 page views from 30,000 visitors per day, providing about 2TB of information per month. That's equivalent to about over a million books per month.

Why do you use that ugly word Ethereal in the name?

I see it as a triple pun. The library is insubstantial, existing only "in the ether"; the subject matter is spiritual; and the medium is, well, an ethernet, at least on this end.

Some people have complained about the word Ethereal that it connotes "airy" or "unreal." In fact, I changed the name to "Christian Classics Electronic Library" for a while, but that seems rather boring and forgettable. The "unreal" connotation of the word Ethereal should only be taken to apply to the fact that the library is not a physical place but exists "in the ether."

What does that weird gem picture mean? Are you New Age?

The image predates New-Age use of gems. Here, the gem represents something precious and sparkling. The circle is a symbol of the Eternal One. God illumines us through the pages of these classics.