For Jehovah’s Witnesses, no book is more important than the Bible. They study it regularly and use it to teach others about the good news of God’s Kingdom. (Matthew 24:14) All this usage means that they wear out their Bibles quickly. Thus, the Witnesses spared no effort in ensuring that the 2013 revision of the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures was both attractive and made to last.
The new Bible would need to be robust. When representatives of the Witnesses’ printery staff in Wallkill, New York, U.S.A., discussed their plans with the president of one bookbinding company, he told them, “The Bible you seek does not exist.” He added, “It’s sad but true that most Bibles are designed to look good on a coffee table or a shelf—not to be highly durable.”
Some earlier editions of the New World Translation did not hold up well—at times, they even came apart in very hot weather. The printery staff analyzed cover materials, adhesives, and binding methods in their efforts to develop a Bible that would withstand intense use in a variety of climates. Based on their findings, they produced prototype Bibles and had them field-tested by Witnesses in countries with climatic conditions ranging from those of the Tropics to those of Alaska.
After six months, the Bibles were returned for examination. The printery staff then made improvements and sent out another batch of prototypes. In all, 1,697 Bibles were field-tested. A few of them received rough treatment by accident. For example, one Bible was left out in the rain overnight, and another was submerged in the floodwaters of a hurricane. The results of the field tests and accidents provided valuable information about the overall durability of the book.
In 2011, while the field tests were taking place, the Witnesses purchased new high-speed bindery equipment for their printeries in Wallkill and in Ebina, Japan. The goal was not only to meet the expected demand but also to print Bibles at both locations that would be identical in appearance.
Curling Covers Cause Problems
Early in 2012, the two printeries began producing the existing edition of the New World Translation in black and maroon using the new polyurethane cover material. However, the new machines used a glue and a liner in the cover that had not been field-tested, and the covers they produced curled significantly after they were attached to the Bible. Initial efforts to resolve the problem failed, so production was halted.
The makers of one of the materials noted that the curling effect is a well-known problem with flexible covers and can be difficult to eliminate. Rather than switching to a stiff cover, though, the Witnesses were determined to produce a Bible with a flexible cover that would retain a fine appearance. After four months of testing, involving many combinations of glue and liner material, they found a combination that enabled the printery to resume production—now of Bibles with flexible covers that would stay flat.
Production Suspended Again
In September 2012, the printeries were directed to stop production of the existing edition, run down their stock, and wait to produce the revised edition of the New World Translation. The release was scheduled for October 5, 2013, at the annual meeting of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania.
The printeries received the electronic files of the text for the new Bible on Friday, August 9, 2013, and began printing the next day. They produced the first completed Bible on August 15. Over the next seven weeks, the printery staffs in Wallkill and Ebina worked around the clock to produce and ship over 1,600,000 Bibles, enough for every person who attended the annual meeting program to receive a copy.
While the new Bible is beautiful and made to last, the life-giving message it contains is even more valuable. The day after she received her new Bible, a woman from the United States wrote, “Because of the new edition, I’m able to understand the Bible better.”