Four thousand gently used books got a blessing before hitting the road last week, bound for Christian theological schools in the developing world, thanks to Wheaton (Ill.) College faculty and the Theological Book Network. Biblical and religious studies teachers at the suburban Chicago institution, a flagship of evangelical Christian higher education, donated books when faculty moved their offices at the college. The Grand Rapids, Mich.-based network found homes for them in schools that educate Christian clergy in Africa, Latin America, and Asia.

At a reception February 20, David Fugoyo, a doctoral student at Africa International University in Nairobi, told assembled college faculty and students about the benefits of the network. “Many scholars emerging in Africa today are Theological Book Network products,” Fugoyo said. After completing his Ph.D., he has plans to work with others to open a theological school in his native country of South Sudan.

Publishers also donate to the network or sell books at deep discounts. The network is able to use economies of scale and its expertise in logistics and recipient networks to leverage the value of what they ship. “Publishers are willing to do this because we’re not putting their books into a market where they’re trying to sell,” said network executive director Nancy D. Arnison. “Their books are wanted in these markets, but there aren’t the resources to buy them.”

Arnison, a lawyer with a background in international human rights, also said that the schools were asking for print books, not electronic versions. Part of the reason has to do with the unreliability or unavailability of sufficient power networks for institutions and students. But it’s also a preference for print. “There is a place for the book,” Arnison said. “That’s what they’re telling us.”

Publishing industry leaders who are board members of the network include Dwight Baker, president of Baker Publishing Group; Richard Brown, director of Georgetown University Press; and Scott Bolinder, executive v-p of Biblica.