Many people might guess that the Bible is the best selling book in history. But only a few would know that the Bible was, in fact, the best-selling book in 2012, in the United States and in the world. And it will be the best-selling book of 2013. But best-seller lists do not count the Bible, because it’s unfair competition. According to an article in the New Yorker, “a conservative estimate is that in 2005 Americans purchased some twenty-five million Bibles.” The low end estimates for worldwide sales are 100 million annually, and the Gideon society reports that another 60 million are given away for free.
The kinky sex novel, Fifty Shades of Grey, has sold perhaps 30 million copies worldwide since it was published in June, 2011, with another 40 million copies sold of the two sequels. Various media call this a “sensation”; yet, it is a fraction of Bible sales.
In all likelihood, the Bible has been the best-selling book almost every year since the printing press was invented (seeing as how the first book ever printed by Herr Gutenberg was a Bible). I say almost, because it might have been beaten out by Mao’s Little Red Book for a couple of years in the late 1960s. And there might be years in which Koran sales exceed it; however, we must remember that ownership of these two books was (or is still) mandatory in many countries. I don’t think not owning a Bible has ever been a crime, even in Puritan New England. In fact, it was once forbidden in Europe and is today a crime to own one in many countries.
So, do you want to guess how many Bible have been published in history? Hold onto your hat — estimates for the total number of Bibles ever published generally run around 6 billion.
This does not count, of course, spinoffs. How many books about the Bible are sold every year, I have no idea; but it is a lot.