For itís possible that the Ikea catalogue
is now the most widely distributed publication in the world. If itís not
now, then it soon will be.
The Bible is the best-selling book of all
time. We all know that. The Guinness Book of World Records says 2.5
billion copies have been distributed since 1815, in 2,233 languages and
dialects. (In second place is probably Mao Tse-Tungís Little Red Book,
with around 900 million copies published.)
But what about today? We can only guess
at how many Bibles are distributed each year. I contacted several Bible
societies for guidance. Hereís what one of them told me:
Since there are
literally dozens of English translations of the Bible and over 2,000
translations of the Bible into other languages, Bible sales and distribution
total well over 100 million copies per year.
If the Bible were tracked in terms of "best seller" lists, it would pretty
much be a constant at the top of that list, week after week!
But from the Bible
League came a much lower estimate:
David Barrett in the
World Christian Encyclopaedia estimates that the total distribution of whole
Bibles amounts to 53 million per year. 85% of these are in what he calls
"World C" Christians living in those areas where the Gospel has already been
proclaimed. The vast majority are also in the English language, distributed
through commercial bookstores in North America.
To get a correct/accurate number is
almost impossible because both copyright holders and publishers (often not
the same groups) "count" the same Bibles, which of course results in double
counting. For example, the Bible League might purchase 100,000 Bibles in
the Tagalog language for use in the Philippines, from the Philippine Bible
Society (we'd be the publisher/distributor, they the copyright holder) and
we'd both "count" them. Thus, the number of 53 million is very likely much
higher that the actual number used.
By contrast, thanks to the efficient PR
staff at Ikea I know exactly how many of their catalogues are published
annually. It topped 100 million for the first time in 2001, with the 2003
version Ė thatís the one shortly to arrive in your mailbox - requiring a
printing of 115 million.
And the company is on a gigantic roll.
Chairman Maoís Little Red Book may have fizzled out pretty quickly.
Nothing suggests a similar fate for Ikea.
It already has around 150 stores in 22
countries. In 1997 it opened in Shanghai, two years later in Beijing and a
year after that in Moscow. It sees these stores as stepping stones for
further penetration of those countries. It is gearing up to enter Japan. The
catalogue printing run is set to soar.
China. Russia. Japan. Western Christians
are spending heavily to reach people in such countries with the Gospel. Will
we win hearts as readily as Ikea?
August 22nd, 2002