Print On Demand keeps Bible translation secret

By November 23, 2016

International (MNN) — From war to refugees, the headlines these days can be rough. But, Print On Demand is keeping Bible translation “off the radar” in high-risk areas.

“It reduces hurdles to getting Scripture into a community at a low cost and in a short period of time,” explains Wycliffe Associates President, Bruce Smith. “In spite of the danger, translators are actually asking for multiple Print On Demand units so they can print and distribute massive quantities of Bibles immediately.

“They are willing to risk everything to share God’s Word with their people.”

What is Print On Demand?

Print On Demand is a publishing method that allows written material, such as books, to be printed as needed. Traditional publishing techniques are far more expensive; and, while they produce larger quantities, it takes a lot longer.

In the world of Bible translation, this reality has a negative effect.

“One of the bottlenecks we realized was that, between the translation being completed and it actually being published and distributed, there was a sort of ‘wait period’ while different languages waited for their Scriptures to be printed,” explains Smith.

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Wycliffe Associates developed two different types of Print On Demand.
(Photo courtesy of Wycliffe Associates)

“Some minority language groups are so small that printing Bibles on a regular printing press would be exorbitantly expensive. These precious people could be forced to wait years before the funds are raised to print Bibles for them.”

Wycliffe Associates developed two different types of Print On Demand to remedy this problem.

The first is “about a two-foot cube you might see sitting on a table or a desk,” Smith describes. The second system, deemed a “mini” Print On Demand model, is designed for Bible translators on the move.

“In a permanent location, where there [are] not a lot of severe threats, we’re going to use the more stable, desktop kind of model,” he says.

“In other locations, and in places where mobility is very important, we’re using a model that’s more like one foot square – or, even smaller than that – and is able to be put into a backpack…. So, depending on the circumstance, we’re using different kinds of equipment.”

Since the first system can produce a larger amount of translated Scriptures, it comes with a heftier price tag. A full system installation costs around $15,000; the mini-POD models are approximately $3,000.

Why does Print On Demand matter?

When it comes to Bible translation in high-risk areas, Print On Demand isn’t just a matter of convenience or cost-saving. It’s the perfect solution for Bible translators who need to produce “secret Scriptures”.

“They need to be able to move from house to house; they need to be inconspicuous,” explains Smith.

The implementation of this tool in restricted countries means people groups will no longer have to wait indefinitely to receive God’s Word in their heart language.


(Photo courtesy of Wycliffe Associates)

Wycliffe Associates hopes to install 11 of their “mini” Print On Demand systems as soon as possible.

“The least-secure areas of the world [are] where Bible translation is really needed the most right now. These are situations where they’re not able to set up a permanent shop,” says Smith.

Here’s how you can help:

“We’re still involving over 3,000 volunteers a year in service opportunities; installing and training local people in how to use this kind of equipment, and so we’d love to talk to people about how that might fit into their skill-set and availability.”


  • Bruce Allen says:

    How wonderful to know this print-on-demand has become a reality for Scripture translation! I have often been in in remote areas of Kenya for training indigenous pastors and something like this would have been perfect! The NT has been translated and printed in the tribal language, but the OT has only been translated (completed nearly three years ago) and not yet printed because of expense.

  • Its really a fantastic job. Thanks you.

  • christine says:

    There has never before in history been an opportunity like this to spread God’s word to unreached people groups.
    Praise God!

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