WT article on printing in "The Griffin" June-July 2006 issue.

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  • What-A-Coincidence


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    The Jehovah’s Witnesses Watchtower magazine is printed
    twice a month - more than 27 million copies are published
    simultaneously in 153 different languages. In addition, Bible
    literature is available in 413 languages, including Green-
    landic, Palauan and Yapese.
    The organization is busy preaching and teaching the Bible’s
    message in 235 countries, with no hierarchy or clerical class,
    but volunteers operating with high professionalism, enthusiasm
    and drive. The Italian Printery Of? ce, in the midst of well kept gar-
    dens in the northern suburbs of Rome, is the branch which
    leads the purchasing of paper for the printing houses owned
    by the Jehovah’s Witnesses in different countries. It can easily
    be recognized that printing has an important place in their

    “Thanks to printing, we are able to reach the largest pos-
    sible number of people in any part of the world. The printing
    and binding of manuals for the comprehension of the Bible
    are an important part of our activities. Even the printing of
    Bibles has a very particular importance,” af? rms Gianfranco
    Andreotti, responsible for the Printery Of? ce, accompanied
    by Giuseppe Comodi, member of the Printery Of? ce at the
    Congregazione Cristiana dei Testimoni di Geova.

    Probably no other product in the world has experienced
    such a change in production technology than the Holy texts
    of the Bible. Most of the early writings were done on scrolls.
    By the second century AD., the codex, or leaf-book, was de-
    veloped. This was more economical and easier to use. The
    Christians were in the forefront of its use, as they saw its val-
    ue in spreading the news about the Kingdom of God. It is no
    surprise therefore, that Jehovah’s Witnesses have been in
    some respects among those in the forefront of the printing

    The Watchtower magazine was published for the ? rst
    time in 1879. In early 1920, the organization decided to
    print on their own to avoid delays in publication and to make
    Bibles and other publications available at a low cost. A print-
    ing machine was bought to start production in a factory in
    Brooklyn, New York. From that time everything was used that
    was offered: from typographic printing with slates of lead to
    the high velocity offset printing of today.

    To support four-color printing, a computerized pre-press
    system had to be developed; and the decision to go ahead
    with this was made in 1977. The internal software could
    process material for publication in all 413 languages. “One
    of the latest steps has been the purchase of seven offset print-
    ers of the speed of 90,000 sheets per hour. Additionally, we
    use various machines to speed up the bindery and the ship-
    ping of our publications,” Comodi explains.

    A printed page is something concrete
    Even though the Jehovah’s Witnesses have an of? cial website
    where it is possible to see information in 264 different lan-

    guages, and they have increased the production of CD and
    DVD audio of Bible literature, the printed message is still the
    most important.

    “Reading a magazine or a book is the best way to spread
    the Bible message in places far away from technology and
    for people who do not have any means of support. The print-
    ed page is always something concrete. When you read the
    Bible in a relaxing atmosphere, having a book in your hands
    is different from having a computer. Considering this, there

    will always be a notable use of the printed page,” both An-
    dreotti and Comodi believe.
    Indeed, the speci? c needs of those using the Bible must
    be considered when purchasing paper and other materials

    for printing. “In book production for example we decided to
    use polyurethane glue in book covers for all publications, e.g.
    the Bible, since they are used in Africa and Siberia, where
    there are extreme climatic changes, humidity, etc. Thus the

    polyurethane glue prevents cracking and books falling apart.
    Note that our publications are not only for reading, but study-
    ing too, and they are used over and over again,” Comodi
    points out.

    For printing the Bibles, they use paper grades which pro-
    vide clear reading and a long life. All Jehovah’s Witnesses
    regularly handle the Bible each day. The paper used for the
    magazines works well in a four-color process and, above all,

    provides good legibility. Two fundamental characteristics are
    thus the opacity and the paper’s performance on the print
    machine. The machine ability does not only include good
    characteristics in printing but also the stability of the paper

    during printing and folding. The reaction to humidity is an-
    other important factor and of course a basic criterion for
    printing the Bibles and books is also the thickness of paper.

    “For the magazine and the books we generally use MFC
    54 g/m² paper, but there are also publications printed with
    double coated free sheet paper of 115-200 g/m². When
    printing covers, we use cardboard of about 200 g/m², resist-

    ant to folds and usury. Even the use of special cardboard has
    an important role. These special materials are used for the
    Bibles and books that will be subject to a higher level of con-

    Uni? ed printing systems
    “Our printing machines are the same worldwide. In the past
    we used to look for local suppliers of paper, but then searched
    global suppliers to reduce costs for the publications, and ac-

    tually we are today 80-90% uni? ed in paper purchasing. We
    generally work with a speci? c type of paper for a particular
    publication. For example from UPM we use Satin 72 g/m²,

    and 54 g/m² for some speci? c publications. The paper
    comes from UPM Stracel paper mill. At the moment UPM
    sends this paper to 11 of our branches in Europe,” Comodi

    Centralizing and standardizing purchasing and produc-
    tion have also taken place among the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
    “In this way we simplify the operations, reducing preparation
    time, increasing production and quality, and reducing costs.

    We are not a commercial organization but supported by pri-
    vate donations. Most of the work is done by volunteers, who
    neither expect nor desire ? nancial return for their services.
    We recognize that UPM sees that in us and the uniqueness

    makes the negotiations very congenial and approachable,”
    Andreotti says.
    “As with UPM, we always hope to ? nd partners who pro-
    duce and sell paper being serious, ? exible and reliable.”

    He says that UPM and the printers in Italy have found a
    common ground and co-operation regarding stabilizing the
    paper to function well in the printing machines. At the mo-

    ment, the extranet services offer more detailed information
    about paper production. A quick contact in case of problems
    also helps to avoid any misunderstanding.
    “In the future, the research of new technology for the pre-

    servation of the environment and of the production costs will
    be a fundamental point in this co-operation. The continuous
    increase of energy prices is a particular challenge,” Andre-
    otti notes.

    Printing houses in 18 countries
    Comodi points out that they have technicians with notable
    experience in every branch in the printing department. On a
    global level, there is a group of experts co-ordinating the

    various problems of paper quality. The Technical Group regu-
    larly exchanges information about tests of new paper types.
    They communicate about printing problems with the paper

    plants, and also take into consideration the logistical ship-
    ping and delivery problems to ? nd the best solutions for spe-
    ci? c requirements.
    “When for example the branch in South Africa started a
    new press, we sent people from the German and Italian
    plants to assist them in teaching and training on the new

    equipment. Thus, they are now self-suf? cient,” Comodi says.
    At the moment the Jehovah’s Witnesses print publications
    in 18 countries, including the US, Canada and Mexico in
    North America; Argentina, Brazil and Colombia in South

    America; the UK, Finland, Germany, Italy and Spain in
    Europe; Nigeria and South Africa in Africa; India, Japan,
    Korea and the Philippines in Asia; as well as Australia.
    The Jehovah’s Witnesses are also self-suf? cient in distribu-

    tion. Once the order is received, the program starts for print-
    ing, binding and shipping the publications. If not shipped by
    courier, the distribution takes place using their own trucks.
    Each member of the community receives the publications that
    are needed.

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