SEPTEMBER 1, 2021
“Not long ago, receiving our spiritual food digitally would’ve been hard even to imagine.” Can you relate to those words? They were part of an encouraging talk given by Geoffrey Jackson in the 2020 Governing Body Update #6. He continued: “And yet now we probably wonder how we’d be coping with this pandemic without tools like JW Library. Jehovah has been preparing us over the years to be ready for something like this.”
How has Jehovah been preparing us? What was involved in creating the JW Library app, and what is needed to maintain and enhance it?
First of Its Kind
In May 2013, the Governing Body asked MEPS Programming, a world headquarters department, to develop an app containing the revised New World Translation. “Until then, we had not released a mobile app on any of the app stores,” relates Paul Willies, who works with MEPS Programming. “But we assembled a team, suspended a few projects, and worked with other departments to design and build the app and its content. We prayed often, and with Jehovah’s help the app was released at the annual meeting just five months later!”
The next challenge was to turn the app into a real library featuring more publications and more languages. By January 2015, most of our current publications in English were available in the app, and just six months later, users could download those publications in hundreds of other languages.
Since then, our brothers have enhanced the app in several ways, adding videos, assembling all publications and media for congregation meetings under one tab, and allowing users to access Research Guide references directly from a Bible verse.
Maintaining the Library
JW Library is opened on 8 million devices every day and on over 15 million devices every month! What is needed to keep the app running smoothly on those devices? Brother Willies explains: “A mobile app is never truly finished. We are constantly working to add new features and improve the user experience. Because commercial operating systems for digital devices are updated often, we have to adjust the app constantly to keep it compatible with those systems. We also have to maintain and upgrade our internal software as the number of available publications and recordings on JW Library continues to increase.” Counting all language versions, there are currently some 200,000 publications and over 600,000 audio and video recordings available on JW Library!
To provide this ongoing support for the app, more than computer hardware is needed. Several software licenses must also be purchased. One license alone costs $1,500 (U.S.) per year. In addition, MEPS Programming spends about $10,000 (U.S.) annually on devices from various manufacturers to make sure that the app will continue to run smoothly on new computers, tablets, and phones.
Downloads That Save Donated Funds
JW Library has significantly reduced the funds spent on printing, binding, and shipping literature. To illustrate, consider the booklet Examining the Scriptures Daily. We printed almost 12 million copies of Examining the Scriptures—2013. But for the 2020 edition, we printed only about five million booklets—even though we had about 700,000 more publishers worldwide. Why the change? Many of our brothers and sisters now read the daily text on JW Library. a
“It’s Truly Priceless”
JW Library also helps its users in countless ways. Geneviève, who lives in Canada, feels that the app has made her study sessions more regular. “Quite frankly, if I had to pull out a stack of books to study, I don’t think I would be studying every morning,” she admits. “But with the app, I pick up my tablet and have everything I need right there. This regular study has strengthened my faith and deepened my spirituality.”
The app has proved especially helpful during the COVID-19 pandemic. Charlyn, from the United States, explains: “With COVID-19 raging around the world, I haven’t seen any of our newly released printed publications for over a year. But JW Library has kept us well-fed spiritually, and I thank Jehovah for this loving provision.”
Faye, who lives in the Philippines, sums up the feelings of many. She says: “My whole spiritual life and routine is integrated into one powerful app. It’s what I read first thing in the morning. It’s what I listen to while doing chores. It’s what I use to study for the meeting. It’s what I use to prepare for my Bible study. I watch videos on it when I have free time. I read articles or the Bible on it while I’m waiting in line. It’s truly priceless.”
The app has also proved invaluable in the ministry. For example, while preaching, a sister in Cameroon wanted to use a scripture that she had seen another sister use a few weeks earlier. However, she could not remember where to find the verse. She explains: “Fortunately, I remembered one phrase from it. I opened the app, went to the Bible, and searched for the phrase. Immediately, I found the scripture. Using the app, I am able to find a lot of verses that I sometimes forget.”
Your kind donations using the methods described at donate.jw.org have enabled us to develop, maintain, and improve the JW Library app for our brothers and sisters around the world. Thank you for your generous spirit.
JW Library Milestones
October 2013—App released containing the revised New World Translation
January 2015—Other publications made available in English, followed by hundreds of other languages
November 2015—Highlighting feature added
May 2016—Meetings tab added
May 2017—Note-taking feature added
December 2017—Support for the Study Bible added
March 2019—Ability to download audio recordings, to stream video, and to access Research Guide references added
January 2021—Enhanced features for Enjoy Life Forever! added
a Each download from JW Library incurs a small cost. Last year, for example, we spent over $1.5 million (U.S.) to provide streaming and downloads from jw.org and for the JW Library app. Still, it is far less expensive to download digital publications and recordings than to produce and ship literature, CDs, and DVDs.