Yes, the Bible Society prices do seem very steep. There are numerous reasons for that. Prior to 1994, the Bible Society in South Africa was tax exempt. Cape Town was one of the largest Bible printing cities in the world. The volume was high and therefore the unit costs were low.
Also, the South African Defence Force (SADF) was the Bible Society’s biggest supporter. Most of the tithes of SADF national servicemen went directly to the Bible Society. In addition, many of the units engaged in extra fund raising initiatives to fund Bible translations into indigenous languages and even into Braille. The Dutch Reformed Church also donated millions of Rands every year to the Bible Society. Therefore the Bible Society of South Africa was, in the past, able to massively subsidise Bibles, particularly in indigenous languages.
When I was converted in 1977, I was able to purchase my first Bible, a hard cover Bible, for just R2. Obviously, the printing costs were far higher, but the Bible Society subsidised Bibles to make them more freely available.
On missionary travels, in the 1980s, I also found that the Bible Societies of Malawi, etc. were heavily subsidised by the South African Bible Society and were able to offer their Bibles at very low prices.
However, all that has changed since 1994. Bible are no longer tax exempt. Taxes under the ANC have massively risen, so has the cost of living of everything. The ANC, BBBEE Affirmative Action race quota requirements have doubtless made their inroads into the Bible Society as well, increasing costs and decreasing efficiency.
In addition, they are probably not allowed to outsource printing to the most cost effective printers outside the country. For example, we have found it much cheaper to print Bibles in Singapore than in Africa. You can print five times more Bibles, for the same price, in Singapore than we can, for example, in Kenya. In addition, there is inevitable inefficiency and corruption involved in BBBEE entitlement race quotas and state interference at every level.
Ultimately, this is a spiritual war that we are involved in. A world war of worldviews, a clash of cultures and civilisation, a battle for hearts and minds, a battle for family, for the Faith and for our future and the future of our children and grandchildren. Evangelism and education are foundational. The Bible is the greatest Book ever published.
May God continue to be your joy and strength.
Yours for the fulfilment of the Great Commission
Dr. Peter Hammond