Jehovah's Witnesses: The Number of Books

A Study of the Number of Books in Academic Libraries
Under the Subject Heading Jehovah's Witnesses.

Jerry Bergman

(Investigator 100, 2005 January)

The internet library system is an incredible tool for research. While looking for books related to my research, I decided to run an analysis of the books that I have written about Jehovah's Witnesses.

Under the subject heading "Jehovah's Witnesses" I located a total of 1,321 different books on WorldCat, a catalog of all books in the world's academic libraries. Of these books on the Witnesses, I found my book titled "Jehovah's Witness and Kindred Groups" in 454 libraries, which places it in the top 13 out of 1,321 books. In other words, my book ranks in the top 1 percent of all books about the Witnesses.

The most commonly found book listed was Hush, a fiction work for elementary and junior high school students. The book is about Toswiah Green's life, which changed drastically after her policeman father witnessed two white police officers murder a young African American boy and decided to testify against a fellow officer.

Due to threats as a result of their decision, the Greens had to change their identities and move to a different city. Toswiah's mom (now Evie Thomas) became a Jehovah's Witness and her father stared out the window much of the day. Since her mother can no longer work as a teacher, she now puts her energy into the Witnesses, studying the Bible and attending the local Kingdom Hall. Evie, struggling to find her way, wonders who she is now and how she can make her future as bright as her past once was. This book actually only briefly discusses the Witnesses.

If this book and Watchtower publications (which make up over 36 percent of the 1,321 books) are removed from the list, the most common book in academic libraries becomes Visions of Glory by the late Barbara Grizzuti Harrison (1,007 copies) and the next most popular book is Judging Jehovah's Witnesses by Shawn Peters (811 copies).

The fourth is Apocalypse Delayed by Jim Penton (807 copies). The fifth, Render Unto Caesar by David Manwaring is in 760 libraries. If both editions of my book were combined, it would place 6th (685 total copies) out of the 1,321 books.

An author sort reveals that the Watchtower is the most listed author of books about Witnesses, Jim Penton is second, and Jerry Bergman is third (tied with several other authors including Marley Cole).

One assumes that people write books to make money, yet I doubt if any of these authors made money on their books. The only possible exceptions were Marley Cole and Barbara Grizzuti Harrison, both which sold well to the public. Even though I rank 3rd in terms of total academic library sales, I lost several thousand dollars on my book. Diane Wilson's book, which I did the introduction and the appendix for, is number 22 and has 245 copies in academic libraries. Most academic books have printings of around 1,000 copies and, if the author made 2 dollars per book, this income would not even cover research, word processing, mailing, and other costs.

Academic books are written to contribute to the scholarly community, not to make money (although to make some money would be nice). In my case, I have been collecting books about the Watchtower since the late 1950s. I have been to hundreds of book stores looking for books about them and, occasionally, I located a book that I needed. I have also been checking books in print for almost as long as it has been published and, whenever a new book would come out, I rushed an order in to the publisher. Every time I would visit a new city, I would check out the book stores and libraries looking for books on Witnesses. I own most all of the 1321 books listed in Worldcat (and quite a few more). I also have over 100 Ph.D. thesis on the Watchtower or related. I estimate that I have invested well over $40,000 in my Watchtower collection.

I published my book in the hope that my work will save others much time, money, and leg work. I concluded that someone has to begin a modern scholarly evaluation of the Watchtower movement, and the best places to start is a list of source material. A number of us, including Jim Penton and Richard Rawe (who has one of the largest libraries about the Watchtower in the world), are endeavoring to assemble a comprehensive library which we can donate to a university for the benefit of future scholars. Future workers will be able to draw on this library for research purposes for generations to come. We are now looking at Princeton University.

This is an especially important project because many books about the Watchtower are very rare. Only about 100 copies of the critically important book by Timothy White were sold, the rest were destroyed. Today those books would bring many thousands of dollars (old Watchtower books are among the most sought after of all books published in the last century). A complete collection of all official Watchtower publications once went for one million dollars.

In my collection alone are over 5,000 books and booklets. Many, if not most of the Watchtower books in my library are not in a single academic library in the world. Unfortunately, I have sold most of my rarer Watchtower published books, but I still have all the books written about them by others, the so-called apostate literature.