Obviously (considering the proposed range of two to three million) this is an estimate. The estimate is based on two facts: that nearly a million copies of Ishmael have been sold and that this is a book that people lend to family members and friends. Almost all readers who write to me note either that the book was lent to them or that they have lent it to others. (We know of one copy that was read by 143 people!). Plus, thousands of library copies have been read dozens or hundreds of times.) If I’m not mistaken, Ayn Rand estimated that every book she sold was read by five people. I estimate, more modestly, that every copy of Ishmael has been read by two or three people–making the number of readers two or three million. I should add that this estimate was NOT of readers of this one book, but of the whole community of people familiar with what I’m saying, which would include readers of Providence, The Story of B, My Ishmael, and Beyond Civilization. On this basis, I’m inclined to think that the estimate is a very conservative one.

Related Q&A(s): 579