Commentaries Alone or in a Set?

We received this comment from a blog reader back in December and I thought it deserved a little longer response than I could give it in the comments:

It would be helpful in this series of articles to explain the justification for making certain books available only as a part of the set (i.e., ICC commentaries) and not separately. Thanks for the great work you are doing! —Paul

Paul, that’s a fair question. Typically, you’ll see new commentaries made available first as a series and only later will they be broken up into individual volumes.

Often, this is due to licensing issues but it can also be the result of the way the prepub program works (we want to digitize the entire series, not just individual volumes). The deep prepub discount makes up for the fact that you may be getting volumes you wouldn’t buy otherwise.

A couple of years after publication, we often go back and split out the volumes for individual sale, if the contract allows. Many commentary sets are currently available as individual volumes, including Crossway Classic Commentary Series, College Press NIV Commentary Series, MacArthur New Testament Commentary Series, The Preacher’s Commentary Series, and Word Biblical Commentary Series.

Of course, you’ll always save money by buying the whole series instead of acquiring it piece by piece. But if you’re focusing on a particular book of the Bible or want to own a volume that has garnered special acclaim, buying one volume at a time may be the way to go.


  1. Keith Sullivan says

    I appreciate this explanaiton. I live and minister overseas and really depend on my digital library system as I cannot carry around the world all the print books I need. If it will be possible later to purchase individual commentary volumes, I’ll wait. I think anyone who really wants a good commentary set will realize putting together their own collection is the only way to go.

  2. Daniel Foster says

    Keith, I think it really depends on how many volumes in the series you expect to use. Typically, the volumes in a series are priced sharply higher when sold individually than in a set. So the break-even point might be as few as three or four volumes in a series.

  3. thanks, great share