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Find great books for little or no cost

By Jeremy Steele

Church leaders always look for fresh ideas and insight. Pastors constantly do research to help create engaging sermons. Some material can be found on blog and idea sites, but nothing quite matches the depth of a book. Building a library used to be an expensive proposition, but not anymore.

More and more, you can find formerly expensive books for free (or really cheap) online in digital form. These tips will help you find the best books online.

Miss reading books? Find formerly expensive books for free (or really cheap) online! TWEET THIS TWEET THIS

1. Project Gutenberg

In general, 70-90 years after an author's death, a book enters the public domain and can be copied and sold by anyone who wants to produce it. If you create an ebook, the cost of distributing a public domain text is practically zero. It is the mission of Project Gutenberg to create electronic versions of as many public-domain texts as possible and offer them free to the public.

Find the books by searching the Project Gutenberg site. It offers texts in many formats viewable on ebook readers, as well as HTML versions that you can read in your web browser.  

During the summer, you might decide to take your leaders through the classic Methodist novel The Damnation of Theron Ware. A young Methodist pastor gets caught between wealthy members, church debt and a man who claims the power to get them out of that debt. A book club might consider reading through the Memoir of Old Elizabeth or another biography of great Methodist women available there. The theologically inquisitive can dive deep into the thinking of early church leaders with many of their works including The Confessions of St. Augustine.

2. Google Books and advanced search

Google has applied its considerable wealth and technological expertise to digitizing the world's books. Though often not as well-formatted as the Project Gutenberg collection (many are image scans of old texts), you will find a much larger selection. Google has machines all over the world that are scanning public-domain books in libraries. The number of titles increases daily.

One of the most exciting resources for United Methodists is the works of John Wesley. This collection can cost thousands of dollars if bought in other formats, but it is available free through Google Books. Among the other Methodist works available are several collections of the poetry of Charles Wesley.

The work and poetry of John & Charles Wesley cost thousands in some formats, but it's free via Google Books. TWEET THIS TWEET THIS

If you can't find exactly what you are looking for in the Google Books section, try searching the deep web for specific file types like PDF by clicking the gear on the top-right side of any Google search result, clicking "advanced search" and selecting a file type. Searching for PDF or DOC files will allow you to tap into sources such as conference reports, white papers, proprietary journals and unpatented literature.  

3. Amazon Kindle MatchBook

If you, like millions of others, have ordered a physical book from Amazon, you may be able to get an ebook version of the same book for only $2.99. Not all books are available. See which of yours are on the list by clicking the "Find your Kindle MatchBook titles" button on the MatchBook Page.