You may have noticed that this is not Wednesday blogging. I got behind in a bunch of stuff, so I skipped out on that one this week. However, you can read about shitty jobs my Wednesday Blogging peeps Tess Grant, Kris Norris, Bronwyn Green, Gwendolyn Cease, and Jessica Jarman have toiled away at in the past.
Before we get into the recap, I want to discuss some bullshittery. 700 million “reads.” That’s the stat on the story’s WattPad landing page.
One assumes that when the average person– someone who doesn’t worry about things like unique page views and click-throughs and ping-backs– sees that number, they’re not going to think, “Many people have clicked on each individual chapter multiple times,” but “700 million people have read this book.”
This number, and the unspoken claim behind it (because WattPad is aware that they’re trying to make people think that 700 million individual people have read this story, or else they would be presenting a more realistic statistic) struck me as so ridiculous, I had to do some puzzling to try and put this claim into perspective.
Okay, let’s take the “700 million reads” claim in the spirit with which it was intended, and that is, to dupe you into believing 700 million people have read it, and break that number down a little. I combined the estimated populations of countries in which I knew large numbers of people spoke English. These countries were selected through the very scientific process of being countries I remembered as having significant populations of first-language English speakers without having to actually look anything else up, and they are as follows: United States, Canada, United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa. And the number I came to was 494.8 million.
Now, a note on the reason I chose populations with first-language English speakers: because I’m convinced that anyone whose secondary language skills in English are just semi-fluent wouldn’t be able to understand a flipping sentence in the grammar and spelling nightmare that is After. You’d have to have some mad proficiency skills to sift through the errors, and it’s harder to find an estimate for “mad proficiency English language” on Google. I’m an author, I work with the English language every day, it’s my first language that I have spoken for thirty-two years of my life, it was the primary language used throughout my education, yet I have difficulty figuring out what’s being said in some of these chapters.
So, let’s look at that 494.8 million figure. To reach that number, it means every single person in all of those countries would have to read After. This would include individuals who are:
- unable to access the internet
- unable to access WattPad due to incompatibility with their screen reading software
- old people who refuse to use computers
- in comas
- living strict religious practices forbidding the use of electricity
- out of fucks to give for whatever the next big thing is
- unaware of fanfic and would have no desire to seek it out
- contrary hipsters who refuse to investigate anything popular
- saddled with a passing regard for grammar and spelling that would normally preclude them from reading something like After
Every. single. person. But even then, even with every estimated living human being in all those countries, the number falls a little over 300 million short. Add to this the number of readers leaving comments like:
“rereading cuz I can’t wait for anna to update! haha and stop giving spoilers! I hate them”
we have to assume that at least some of these “reads” are coming from repeat offenders (who seem to believe the story might be different upon second reading, else why would they worry about spoilers?).
To put it into even more perspective, 700 million individual readers would make up 25% of estimated internet users. Note the lack of qualifier there. Not “internet users in America” or “internet users in English speaking countries.” Internet users total, based on stats from the International Telecommunications Union.
This, friends, is basically horseshit. The 50 Shades of Grey trilogy is an international juggernaut, translated into over fifty languages, is still dominating our everyday lives with ever more outdated quips referencing its title and themes, and guess how many copies it’s sold? As of February, 100 million. It’s clear that in the bid to make “fetch” happen with After, the idea is to make its success seem not just comparable with the book it shamelessly imitates, but bigger and more important. Somehow, this tactic is convincing enough that it attracted the interest of Hollywood, who apparently believe that 700 million clicks– some by repeat readers– on three stories with approximately one-hundred separate chapters per part is going to translate into some kind of globally dominating force equivalent to seven 50 Shades of Greys.
Oh, fuck me. It probably will.