NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Religious publishers say President Donald Trump's most recent proposed tariffs on Chinese imports could result in a Bible shortage.
That's because millions of Bibles -- some estimates put it at 150 million or more -- are printed in China each year. Critics of a proposed tariff say it would make the Bible more expensive for consumers and hurt the evangelism efforts of Christian organizations that give away Bibles as part of their ministry.
HarperCollins Christian Publishing President and CEO Mark Schoenwald recently told the U.S. Trade Representative that the company believes the Trump administration "never intended to impose a 'Bible Tax' on consumers and religious organizations," according to a transcript of his remarks provided by the publisher.
The two largest Bible publishers in the United States, Zondervan and Thomas Nelson, are owned by HarperCollins, and they incur close to 75% of their Bible manufacturing expenses in China, Schoenwald said. Together, they command 38% of the American Bible market, he said.
The full size of that market is difficult to gauge. A spokeswoman at HarperCollins said they believe around 20 million Bibles are sold in the U.S. each year.
The NDP group, which includes NPD BookScan and PubTrack Digital, captured 5.7 million print Bible sales in the U.S. in 2018. But that figure doesn't capture all sales, including the large number of Bibles sold by publishers directly to congregations.
Regardless, it's clear the Bible is the top-selling book in the U.S. By comparison, the next best seller in 2018 was Michelle Obama's "Becoming," which BookScan estimates sold 3.5 million copies.