CCEL Questions and Answers

What's the purpose of the CCEL?

To build up Christ's church. To address the fundamental questions of the faith.

What's the doctrine of the CCEL?

The CCEL is a library intended to serve the whole church. Just as at a traditional library, here you will find works from a variety of viewpoints and traditions.

As in any library, the views expressed in the material on this archive do not necessarily represent the views of any particular individual or of Wheaton College.

Why isn't [my-favorite-author] on the list?

Please don't be offended if your particular tradition or favorite author isn't on the list. It may well be that I'd be happy to have that author represented, but I personally haven't had the time to scan the works or I haven't found a public domain edition. I welcome suggestions of public domain books that no "Christian Classics" library ought to be without.

Do you know if [my-favorite-book] is on the internet?

If you didn't find a book you are looking for here, you should also check John Ockerbloom's @Online Books page and search engines such as @Alta Vista. If you still can't find what you are looking for, it is unlikely that I will be able to help you.

Links to the CCEL

You are encouraged to link to the CCEL--especially the top-level pages, the individual book pages, and the book or chapter pages from the WWSB. Links to anything else may be invalidated as I rearrange files.

How do I read large documents?

Many of the documents are too large for most web browsers. To use these documents, you should download the document to your computer and open it in a word processor or print it. You will need to supply your own word processor or other software.

You can download a document without loading it into your web browser by choosing a "save the next link as" option in your browser. In Netscape click on the link with the right mouse button (windows) or click and hold on the link (mac).

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

Books that have an underlined title have a nicely-formatted HTML version for viewing on the screen. Click on the title to see the book. There is usually a blurb and a list of other formats available on that page.

Books that have a list of formats after the title are available as single large files. They usually have to be downloaded onto your computer for use. In Windows Netscape, you can click on the link with the right mouse button and choose "Save this link as...".

The most common formats are:

XML This is version of the book marked up using Theological Markup Langauge. This format contains enough information that it can be used for converting to other formats listed below, typesetting, processing by computer program, etc. I hope that most or all of the books will eventually be available in this format. When it is available, this is the source document from which other versions are derived. In addition, other projects/companies are planning to start using Theological Markup Language, so this format may be useful with other software.

HTML I am starting to archive HTML files that are exported from Microsoft Word 2000 instead of RTF (see below) as the base word-processor format. These files contain everything in a Word native file, and they look nice in browsers that support CSS stylesheets, especially if you have the fonts used in the document.

Text files are plain ascii, suitable for any text editor that can work with long files. They do not retain all of the formatting and linking information of the other file formats.

RTF is a word processor interchange format that can be read by Microsoft Word, Word Perfect, FrameMaker, and others. When available, RTF files are usually the "native" format for the book.

WinHelp is the format used by the windows help system. These files can be used on computers equipped with Microsoft Windows.

pdf is the extension for files in Adobe's Acrobat format. These files retain all of the original formatting and can be viewed on the screen or printed at high resolution. In order to use this format, you need to install the free Acrobat Reader from @Adobe.

Hints: reading these books is easier from a printed version.

The complete archive is is accessible via anonymous FTP to

Can I get some books on diskette or CD-ROM or in print?

You can now get the CCEL on @CD-ROM. My favorite source of new print books is @Christian Book Distributors, phone 508-977-5000. You might also try Bookstore.

Who supports/maintains the CCEL?

Wheaton College (Illinois) has graciously provided a server and an internet connection. The CCEL is maintained by @Harry Plantinga,, a professor of computer science at Wheaton College, Illinois. Dozens of individuals have contributed. Sales of the CD-ROM provides some support for the project.

This year two students are working on the project: Wendy Huang (ThML editor), and Kyle Shaw (database development).

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

It takes something like 20-50 hours to scan a typical book and OCR, format, and proofread it. I've been spending about an hour a day at it, since 1993.

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 desribed further in The Vision.

Future plans for a reorganization of the CCEL included the use of Theological Markup Language for books and a dynamic database-driven system for searching, indexing, and formatting. Great user-interface, searching, and indexing improvements are in the works.

I hope to continue to develop a list of books wanted in conjunction with ministers, theologians, etc.

Is FTP access available?

Yes, access to the @complete archive (and a few other resources) is available.

Access Statistics?

Lately (January, 1999) the server has been logging about 80,000-100,000 "hits" per day, from roughly 8,000 different people, providing about 3 GB of information (about a million pages' worth). That's like giving away a million books per year.

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 nondescript. 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."

This document (last modified February 02, 1999) from
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