December 5, 2019
A generation ago, most families had a Bible. However, that’s not the case today. In fact, according to a 2017 study by LifeWay, 10% of Americans haven’t read even one page of the religious tome; and only 30% have perused several passages or stories.
So it shouldn’t be a surprise that companies that print the Bible are not doing well. In fact, a Philadelphia enterprise that has printed more than a billion Bibles since its founding during the Civil War says its plant will be closed by Christmas.
LSC Communications of Chicago plans to shut the printing plant and lay off 174 workers, according to a report by The Philadelphia Inquirer. The company is consolidating Bible production at another plant it owns near Crawfordsville, Indiana, and moving some of the Philadelphia presses there, according to people who work at the plant.
“They say the Bible business has really gone soft, and their warehouses are full,” said Wayne Cox, business representative for Graphic Communications Conference of Teamsters local union 4-C, based in Clifton Heights, Pennsylvania, which represents 150 of the workers, along with printers at other companies in central Pennsylvania. LSC didn’t reply to an inquiry by the newspaper, seeking comment.
Cox told the Inquirer that he started on the line at National Publishing in 1973. It seemed like a job with a secure future, he noted: “The Bible is a No. 1 seller.”
The Philadelphia plant printed Bibles for Tennessee-based Bible distributor Gideons International. Gideon Bibles were long a fixture in U.S. hotel rooms and other public places. But with the decline in U.S. churchgoing and a rise in travelers from non-Christian countries, Holy Scripture may be less in demand in some places.
The Borgata, Atlantic City’s largest hotel-casino, made headlines when it declined to stock rooms with Gideon Bibles in 2003. And the wide availability of online books has reduced demand for physical printing.
National was acquired by Massachusetts-based Christian-oriented publisher Courier Corp. in 1975 but continued to do business under its old name. Courier was bought by printer R.R. Donnelley in 2015 and spun off as part of a new company, LSC Communications, in 2016.
Cox said the union negotiated extra severance from the company beyond that already guaranteed in the Teamsters’ contract. The union leader added that young press operators are now seeking jobs outside the printing industry, since chain newspapers have shut most of their plants and consolidated printing at a few large locations.
Research contact: @PhillyInquirer