I've been thinking about this for a while now. It seems to me that the WTBTS is taking steps towards phasing out public editions of The Watchtower.
Here are a couple of points of evidence to see there is a real possibilty for a move in this direction:
1. The monthly "Start Bible Studies On The Initial Call Service Day" is evidence of a more direct drive to recruit new members. On this day, Publishers are actively discouraged from placing magazines.
2. Publishers no longer receive a personal subscription, or monthly allotment of the Watchtower and Awake!. Instead, there are general stacks of the monthly journals on the literature counter of the Kingdom Hall for members to use in the ministry. Whatever is not used, is to be returend to the counter at the end of the service day. This is a direct effort to reduce the amount of magazines being printed, and I know that I have been personally less likely to use them, if they are not available at home. So, indirectly, it may be a way to get the Publishers out of the habit of placing so many magazines monthly.
3. A couple years ago, we started using the Study Edition and the number Public Edition sets was reduced to one per month. It could be, in addition to other reasons, that this was developed to reduce the shock that may come to some when the Public Edition is no longer in print. So, it won't be as if there is "No more Watchtower!?", rather it would be viewed as "a loving provision from The Faithful Slave" to streamline the ministry and make service "easier."
I feel like this makes a lot of sense, logically. Here are some reasons:
1. Most people don't read their magazines anyway. I know this, because I frequently am assigned the parts on the meetings to review the magazines, and the same 2 - 4 individuals comment on every article discussed. So, really, they are out placing literature they've never even read. Hypocritical? Most definitely. But, we get so much crap thrown at us, it's pretty difficult to find time to read anything BUT the WTBTS publications, and if we're lucky, The Bible.
2. It would streamline the ministry. It's difficult for many to keep coming up with a new presentation for the magazines. I'm sure this discourages some from going in the ministry, as they feel like they are unprepared. If we only had one publication that we used in the Ministry, such as The Bible Teach Book, and were instructed to offer a Bible Study on the initial call every time, it would make service a lot less embarassing for some, and a lot less work.
3. It would save the WTBTS a ton of money in printing, and would scale back necessary man-power. If people aren't comfortable placing a book at each call, there is a healthy supply of tracts on various topics, as well as brochures. Tracts are a heck of a lot cheaper to print.
4. Really, the magazines are just a distraction from starting Bible Studies, or from having any meaningful Bible discussion with a householder. The majority of the members in the congregation are uncomfortable moving from Point A (Placing Magazines) to Point B (developing a PROGRESSIVE Bible Study).
Thoughts? I apologize if someone else has already suggested this, but I haven't seen it on this forum yet.