Collecting Books

By Steve Puluka

I am a certified bibliophile, especially in the area of patristic literature and scripture. I owe nearly everything that I know and share in this work to this love for books. I encourage anyone to explore the topics that strike them about scripture. The available literature on these topics is boundless.

Finding Books

Books can be an expensive habit. This I know from personal experience. But there are some alternatives to keep the budget in check. If you want to have your own copy of the book consider purchasing used. The web site www.bookfinders.com is a great search engine for a lot of bookstores. This includes results from major new resellers and used sources.

Books On-line

There are services on-line that make finding books even easier, WorldCat, Google Books and Amazon. WorldCat helps you find out which libraries nearest you have a copy of a book you are interested in. Google books provides previews of current books on-line and even full copies of work outside of copyright. Amazon is a commercial book seller but has previews of many books on their site and user reviews that can help in identifying if the book is what you are looking for.

http://www.worldcat.org

WorldCat is a service that libraries use to help in cataloging their collections. A large number of institutions participate all over the world. This service helps the libraries keep their catalogs up-to-date. They can simply copy the existing descriptions and catalog entries that other institutions have created when they add new books to their collections. This on-line catalog also makes it easier to know what other libraries have in their collections.

WorldCat is essential a master library catalog. You can search this catalog and when you locate a book record of interest it displays on the bottom all the libraries nearest your zip code that own a copy of the book. If they are close enough you can go and view the copy on-site (assuming they allow visitors that privilege). In addition, the catalog information often contains full listings of the table of contents and other descriptive information about the book.

http://books.google.com

The Google Books project started as a partnership with several large libraries to begin digitizing the worlds books. Currently there are over twenty large university and public libraries participating. They also work directly with book publishers to digitize their current catalog offerings and make the text fully searchable with previews of the interior available on-line. For books that are out of copyright the entire book is available either in the on-line book reader or a PDF download. The search engine is quite good. Once you locate books of interest there are also links to purchase or find where the book is located in libraries via an automatic WorldCat search. User reviews and material related to the topics of the book also appear around the selection.

You can also create an account to save books on your virtual bookshelf. Once there you can write reviews to share with others in the system. You can also add labels to help find and sort the books you keep on your shelf or add notes to yourself on the books in your collection.

http://www.amazon.com

Amazon is the largest on-line bookstore. They have a very large collection in their catalog that includes many specialty items related to scripture studies. The two features that are most helpful for research in scripture are the “look inside” feature and customer reviews.

Once you find books of interest certain publishers participate in making the table of contents and select portions of the book readable on-line in the Amazon store. These previews are helpful in determining if the issue that you are looking into is dealt with in the book.

Even if the publisher does not participate in the book preview program most of the catalog contain customer reviews that also help to nail down where the book is most helpful. In addition, Amazon has a grouping technology that will suggest similar books when you are looking at any selection. This can bring to light other books on the same subject that you may not have been aware of.

These on-line resources are a good first stop to determine if a book really can fill the need you are pursuing. They provide good information and the ability to preview the contents before going through the trouble of acquiring and reading the book.

Interlibrary Loan

Libraries are a great resource for books like these too. In the United States, your best friend is your local library. Hopefully, they participate in interlibrary loan. This system of libraries allows each to post requests for specific books. If a participating library has the book they ship it to your local library where you check it out. This includes getting photocopies of journal articles from other libraries as well. There may be fees associated with this system. In my library book requests are free but photocopies do cost a reasonable fee.

I have had great experiences with interlibrary loan. I have received books clearly marked “Reference Room only” from two different college libraries over the years. These include obscure photo reproductions of Church Slavonic manuscripts and a multi-volume Church Slavonic Lexicon. Libraries really do want to share their collections with interested people. Just ask.

Local University & Seminary Libraries

School libraries are another great resource for finding good books. Check the library web site for any school in easy driving distance. You will not be able to check out books unless you are a student, but I’ve never been turned away from using a school library. I’ve made side trips to university libraries while traveling for the same purpose. They will have photocopy facilities where you can copy sections of interest.

The trick is to be prepared for this field trip. Most schools now make their catalog available for search on the Internet. Do your searches before hand and come with the list of books in hand.

If the school is local you can check into taking non-credit classes there. Many times taking some kind of classes there will get you library privileges. Then you will be able to checkout books too. This can be more convenient than using interlibrary loan.

Originally Posted July 05, 2009
Last Revised on August 15, 2010

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