What is the most widely read ebook in the world? Interestingly, no one knows the answer to that question. You can find best seller lists for ebooks, which are generally limited to one distributor’s numbers for a limited time window. The best seller lists ignore all of the illegal ebook downloads, the free ebooks, the books from the past, and the books from distributors that don’t report their numbers. In other words, no one has any way to determine which ebook has been the most widely read in the world. In the future, book best seller lists could become meaningless because the numbers will be too unreliable.
A good guess is that The Bible is the most widely read ebook in the world, and The Book of Mormon is second. Things get tricky when you try to figure out who comes in third. I think there’s a good chance that I hold the third position with my book God’s Debris.
Yes, I did compare myself to God. But if it makes you feel any better, God won this round.
God’s Debris was an ebook before it was a traditional book, and during that time it was a #1 best seller. But that’s not the basis for my estimate, because in those days few people bought ebooks. Ten thousand ebook sales would have been considered a blockbuster.
A few years ago I released God’s Debris on the Internet for free. Anyone with a computer or smart phone can still download and read it at no cost. The book is designed to be viral, in the sense that it’s most fun when passed along to a friend for later discussions.
Here’s one free source: http://nowscape.com/godsdebris.pdf
Stephen King got a lot of attention for releasing the “first mass market ebook” called Riding The Bullet. Exact download numbers are sketchy because of a computer crash, but more than 500,000 copies were downloaded. It currently sells for $3.99 for the Kindle. My best guess is that God’s Debris has been downloaded and read ten to twenty times more than that number because free is a good price, God’s Debris has no DRM, it is a generic PDF file, and it’s a viral book by design. Also, the topic in God’s Debris tends to appeal to people who have access to the Internet. I think you would download a Stephen King novel if you liked his work, but you would download God’s Debris just because it was free and you were mildly curious. Free is a good price.
When you’re an author, people like to tell you when they have read your books. The number of times that happens, including email, for a particular book, generally tracks with the sales volume of the book, at least for the books for which I have sales numbers. In other words, the Dilbert book with the highest sales was The Dilbert Principle, and more people have commented to me about that book than any other Dilbert book. And so on down the line. The interesting thing is that I get more comments on God’s Debris, both in person and by email, than I get for all of the Dilbert books ever written. That’s what makes me suspect that God’s Debris could be the most widely read ebook of all time, not counting books authored by The Lord Almighty.
God’s Debris is allegedly available on iTunes now as an audiobook. I can’t confirm that because iTunes gives me an error when I try to search for it. I don’t have much luck with Apple products. Let me know if you can find it.