The infamous manifesto Adolf Hitler wrote while in prison after a failed coup in 1923, Mein Kampf or My Struggle, in which the dictator outlined his idea of a global Jewish conspiracy, is a surprise hit on the ebook market. While the book’s print copy sales remain stagnant, the ebook is in the top 20 on iTunes’s Politics & Events chart, next to books by Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck, the number one Propaganda & Political Psychology book on Amazon, and the 17th bestseller in the company’s Nationalism list. How could that be?
Chris Faraone explains why in a fascinating essay that argues ebooks provide the perfect format for reading controversial material. “Mein Kampf could be following a similar trend to that of smut and romance novels,” Faraone writes. Customers may have not wanted to be seen reading the book or having it on their shelf at home, but the cheap digital copies “can be quietly perused then dropped into a folder or deleted.”
The number of different editions available–Amazon sells 6 ebook versions of Mein Kampf alone–coupled with the increased popularity of ebooks has also boosted sales.
Faraone points out that Hitler’s autobiography is benefitting from the same market effects as 50 Shades of Grey—but rather than erotica, it’s militant racism. You can pop the book on your Kindle and flip through one of the modern era’s most history-altering texts without anyone knowing.
Ebook reviewers’ comments support the 50 Shades of Grey theory. “I think I waited 45 years to read Hitler’s words… I wish I had read it sooner,” wrote Steven Wagg. “Curiosity killed me to get this book,” said another reviewer. The document also functions as a warning: “People need to understand that if we do not learn from people like this, then we will fall into their traps again,” Ray D’Aguanno wrote on Amazon.
One $.99 ebook edition of Mein Kampf was published by a company called Elite Minds Inc. “Sales are great,” Elite Minds president Michael Ford told Faraone. But publicizing it is a sensitive issue: “I have not heavily promoted the book and decided, for the most part, to let it spread among those who have a true historical and academic interest naturally.”
If readers want to find something, they generally will, whether it’s Mein Kampf or Amazon’s booming trade in monster erotica like Moan for Bigfoot.