I hope David Gaughran will forgive me for the same kind of bad journalism that he pillories in his own piece, but this is simply too significant to ignore. Remember that little moral panic about Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf becoming an ebook bestseller? Well, there’s a problem. According to Gaughran: “Fake Controversy Alert: Hitler’s Mein Kampf Was Not A Digital Bestseller.”

As he points out, all the furore started with a post on Vocativ – “the Global Social News Network” that features lovely headlines like “Dark Side of Brazil: Beheadings and Butchered Torsos” and “Welcome to Rentboy University where Young Men Major in the Business of Sex“. The more respectable media who took up the story don’t seem to have been over-zealous in questioning the source. They just picked up the story and ran with it.

I did better Gaughran’s description of such lazy journalism in one respect: I went to the KND eBook Tracker tool that he recommends for tracking the sales levels of Kindle ebooks. Sure enough, as per January 16th, Mein Kampf‘s sales rank is languishing at 7,558: not the lowest level he recorded (around 9,995), but hardly stellar. What really gave the book a recent sales lift is – yes – the moral panic about it being available in the first place. “Mein Kampf wasn’t a ‘digital bestseller’ until the media made it one,” Gaughran notes.

Gaughran is mostly concerned with the shoddy reporting around this whole little storm in a journo’s beer mug. I’m more worried about the underlying level of suspicion and hostility towards ebooks that seems to show little sign of receding. Gaughran complains that the publishing industry is engaged in astroturfing on its own behalf to defend the merits of traditional publishing, which all too easily shades over into drumming up resentment against ebooks and Amazon. And the Mein Kampf story suggests that there’s a big appetite out there for this, just waiting to be fed.


  1. Great digging here, Paul and important post. I will forward this update to Mr Kubicek in NYC. And bravo to David for digging this out too! Sadly, the fake news damage has already been done by the news media and the social network media and it’s hard now to take it all back since the news appeared on sites from the LA Times to the NY Times to UK papers as well. But your post and David’s site are good wake up calls for how in this internet age, things can go quickly out of hand and land up with huge headlines when in fact ther was no story to begin with. Ouch.

    cc: Peter Kubicek
    cc: Hector Tobar, books columnist, LA TIMES

  2. The main point of the above article appears to be the fact that Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” is not really a bestseller.

    Well, if you take the trouble to check out articles on this topic which appeared in Times of Israel, ABCnews, Gawker, Newser, and the LA Times, you will see that the consensus of the articles is the wonder that this old-news book sells at all. Calling it a bestseller is a bit of hype. The audience who will buy this book is pretty small. The question is just, why did it start selling at all?

    And then there are the current anti-Semitic books offered on Amazon which are not mentioned by anybody. These, too, are only bought by what I call the lunatic anti-Semitic fringe. The latter appear to enjoy these books hugely, but they will not make any of these objectionable books into bestsellers.

    But I keep wondering about the fact that no U.S. publication has reported a single word about these numerous highly distasteful titles being peddled by Amazon. My question is, WHY ?

    • @Peter, I’ve never read Mein Kampf or any of the anti-Semitic books on Amazon or anywhere else. But I’ve seriously considered reading Mein Kampf. Not because I agree with him (I emphatically do not approve of Hitler or any of the atrocities performed by him or his people), but I do consider myself a student of humanity, and sometimes I’m curious to peek into someone’s head to see if I can get around why they thought what they did was justified. More of an intellectual exercise, but it’s tempting sometimes. I’m guessing I’m not alone in the curiosity. It’s one of the reasons I read books deconstructing the minds of serial killers. Nope, I don’t want to be one, and I do consider them monsters, but sometimes I just want to know what makes a monster tick.

  3. There is an upcoming annotated version of Mein Kampf that had been funded by the state of Barvaria which holds the copyright and has used that copyright to suppress publication in Germany and elsewhere. However, the copyright expires in 2015. Barvaria’s initial plan was to fund the development of an annotated version done by scholars who would offer critical analysis of Hitler’s many distortions in this work.
    Political pressure has apparently caused Barvaria to withdraw funding and now threaten publishers with prosecution under Germany’s anti-hate laws. The scholars plan to continue anyway, see: http://www.dw.de/institute-still-planning-mein-kampf-publication-amid-bavarian-plan-for-ban/a-17288313
    I think that this annotated version is an opportunity to counteract the effects of Mein Kampf being read out of time and context by would be neo-Nazis of which there is a growing number in Germany and elsewhere in Europe and the Americas. I hope that it can survive political myopia. Suppression only heightens its appeal.

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