As of January 1, 2016, the 120-year old Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study is available exclusively online. A Presbyterian Mission Agency press release issued in August said, “This move broadens the reach of the book’s audience by sharing its inspiring content in a timelier manner and also demonstrates good stewardship of church resources.”
Over the past 15 years, as readership of the printed Mission Yearbook declined, the cost per book increased dramatically. In 2000, 79,108 units of the printed Mission Yearbook were sold at a single-copy unit cost of $7.50. That same year, bulk orders of over 100 copies sold to churches and other institutions at a cost $3.50 per copy.
In 2015, just 7,362 copies of the Mission Yearbook were sold for an average of $22.73 each and produced at a per-unit cost of $27.54. This represents a 91% drop in orders from 2000 and resulted in a deficit budget for the publication's production. In 2014 and 2015 the printing and distribution of the Mission Yearbook was not matched by income to the Mission Agency generated by sales of the publication. The annual production of the Mission Yearbook required subsidies of $91,495.52 and $87,922.62 in these respective years, offset by the now depleted Mission Yearbook reserve fund.
Although personnel and infrastructure costs of producing and electronically distributing the Mission Yearbook will still be incurred, the digital version of the publication is available free of charge and will be incorporated as a featured item at the new under-development Presbyterian Mission Agency website.
“We are deeply saddened to discontinue the historical print publication, which has been the center of daily devotional life for many Presbyterians,” said senior director of Communications, Kathy Francis. “With the vast majority of people accessing information online, it was the financially responsible choice to transition the book to an online-only resource.”
Stories reflecting mission will be collected by Presbyterian News Service reporters throughout the year and reformatted for use in the Mission Yearbook. Rather than waiting to collect a year’s worth of stories, these stories of current mission activities can now appear in the Mission Yearbook within a relatively short time of their first publication. The shorter turnaround time for digital stories will result in fresher content. Additionally, the online format will allow some mission stories to be told using video.
“We’re encouraged that by continuing the beautiful tradition of this book in an online format, we will be able to bring stories of mission to life in a new way,” said Francis in the August news release. “We appreciate the ongoing support of the Mission Yearbook and the prayerful financial support of the Presbyterian Mission Agency.
The Mission Yearbook dates back to 1892 as a simple calendar of prayer to help women’s societies pray for missionaries on designated days. It has the longest history of any denominational mission and prayer book in the United States. The publication’s esteemed history is reflected in the online version of the Mission Yearbook by connecting Presbyterians to the greater church and energizing them for mission.
The online edition of the Presbyterian Mission Yearbook is available at https://www.presbyterianmission.org/yearbook.