In 2020, the coronavirus pandemic had a massive impact on the worldwide distribution of the Bible, according to a recent report by the United Bible Societies (UBS). UBS recently shared that in 2020, only 30 million complete Bibles were distributed, a quarter less than in 2019.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has severely restricted the work of many Bible societies,” Horst Scheurenbrand, head of the world division of the German Bible Society, said. “Numerous projects ended up being scrapped, and events had to be canceled due to contact bans. Also, production and supply chains were temporarily restricted,” Scheurenbrand explained.
Decrease in Printed Bibles
According to the Scripture Distribution Report, besides the 30 million copies of full Bibles distributed in 2020, there was also a significant decrease in the distribution of New Testaments and other Bible-related publications. For instance, only five million New Testaments were distributed in 2020, against 15 million copies in 2019.
Also, distribution of Bible-related publications went down from 261 million in 2019 to just 155 million during the first year of the pandemic, the same document reported. Overall, 2020 saw the distribution of 191 million pieces of biblical writings, which was about 125 million less than the year before the beginning of the pandemic.
Increase in Digital Bibles
In the first year of the pandemic, digital Bible editions represented a growing Bible sales and distribution segment, the report stated. In 2020, 38 percent, or more than one in three Bibles, were downloaded in a digital format. The number of Bibles issued for computers, tablets, and smartphones more than doubled compared to the previous year. The most frequent downloads were in Brazil, followed by the United States, Mexico, Colombia, and the Philippines.
Bible Societies in Need
“The worldwide distribution figures reflect the acute crisis of many Bible societies during the pandemic,” Scheurenbrand said. Of the current 160 Bible societies, 88 have been in danger of closing during the pandemic. Only an international Solidarity Fund of US$4.1 million has been able to secure their 0continued existence.
The annual Scripture Distribution Report considers only the figures of publishers and organizations that belong to the United Bible Societies, the international association of 160 national Bible Societies. Bible Societies are active in 184 countries. In Germany, the world division of the German Bible Society collects donations for this international work.