How to Think About Old Books in the Digital Age
If you need some cheering up about the digital age, check out this news from Vancouver.
J. I. Packer’s bookshelves of rare Puritan works are now in digital form and are available for free. This adds to the Reformed theological works already accessible in other digital collections: free ones like CCEL or the Post-Reformation Digital Library, and subscription-based collections like Early English Books Online.
Can we just pause a moment and remember how amazing this still is? Chances are you’re not going to find Goodwin at Goodwill. And buying five-hundred-year-old books is expensive. So when someone commits the resources necessary to scan thousands of pages for the benefit of others, we should be truly thankful.
Digitizing books makes texts available and usable in a way they never could be otherwise. It’s a boon to education, to democracy, and more particularly, to the learners like me. It’s one of the most exciting things about the digital age.
But in our excitement, we must remember that while access to books is wonderful, it’s not enough. Without study, access may be nothing more than excess.
This can be avoided, however, if we remember the gift J. I. Packer has already given us. Before we had his books, we had his example. We were shown what it was to take theology off the shelf and put it in the heart. So now that we can read his books, I hope we can read them like he did.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.