According to one of the largest Bible distributors, the scripture distribution worldwide in 2003 has declined by more than 25 percent compared with the previous year. The United Bible Societies (UBS) in Reading, England, reported nearly 432 million Bibles, New Testaments, Scripture portions and selections were distributed in 2003.
The UBS fellowship has 137 Bible Societies or Offices in more than 200 countries and territories. According to the latest figures the number of Bibles (Old and New Testament) distributed dropped from 24.9 million in 2002 to 21.4 million in 2003. The distribution of New Testaments went down from 22.5 million to 14.4 million. The number of distributed Scripture selections dropped by 26 per cent.
The drop has mainly technical reasons, explained a UBS spokesman. For instance, the number of Bible selections like tracts, calendars, bookmarks and so on, varies significantly. Another reason can be the popularity of using online bible.
The figure also shows the preference of Bible readers. More and more people prefer more readable Bible in simple language. Despite of the declining distribution of traditional Bibles, only New Reader Scripture portions (in simple language) went up by 2.3 per cent to 13.2 million.
Among all the countries, Bible Societies in the Americas rank number one with a distribution statistics of 300 million pieces of Scriptures. In Asia and the Pacific 105 million Scriptures were handed out, in Africa 14 million and in Europe and the Middle East 11 million. In China, it records the most significant growth.
The Amity printing press in Nanjing produced 2.8 million Bibles for Christians in China, Laos and Vietnam – approximately one million more than in 2002. Scripture distribution was also up in Nigeria with 830,000 Bibles and 44,000 New Testaments.
Nevertheless, following the command of Jesus to spread the Gospel to the ends of the earth, the UBS has not ceased in its bible translation project. As Wycliffe Bible Translators, sums up the challenge that remains, "Three hundred and eighty million people in over 3,000 language groups still wait for the Good News in their own languages. They have waited long enough!" UBS has made an advance of nine new language versions in 2003.