Mein Kampf success down to 'Fifty Shades phenomenon'

Jan 8, 2014

Why is Adolf Hitler's infamous manifesto topping ebook charts 90 years after it was written?

THE surprise popularity of Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf on the ebook market has been linked to the 50 Shades of Grey phenomenon. 

While print copy sales of the infamous manifesto remain stagnant, the ebook features on several of Amazon's bestseller charts, and is currently topping its propaganda and political philosophy list, as well as its "fascism and nazism" politics chart.

The book, which outlines Hitler's idea of a global Jewish conspiracy, also features in the top 20 of the iTunes politics and events chart.

Boston journalist and author Chris Faraone believes its electronic popularity is the result of the "50 Shades phenomenon coupled with latent curiosity that's easily sated with a click".

Erotic novels such as El James's 50 Shades of Grey – which in June 2012 became the first ebook to sell one million units on Kindle – are increasingly consumed in more clandestine e-form, he says.

"People might not have wanted to buy Mein Kampf at Borders or have it delivered to their home or displayed on their living room bookshelf, let alone get spotted reading it on a subway, but judging by hundreds of customer comments online, readers like that digital copies can be quietly perused then dropped into a folder or deleted," says Faraone.

The first Kindle edition of Mein Kampf surfaced in late 2008, selling for $1.60. Amazon now sells six ebook versions, despite calls from the World Jewish Congress to remove the manifesto altogether, along with other "hate books".

In Germany, the sale of print copies continues to cause controversy. The country stopped printing new productions of the book after inheriting copyright ownership in 1945 but this ownership expires 70 years after the author's death in 2015.

Lawmakers in Germany had pledged to release an annotated version of Mein Kampf to coincide with the expiration of their rights. But last month officials backed out of the plans following complaints from Holocaust survivors.

Nevertheless, as Philip Oltermann in The Guardian points out, with the rise of the internet and ebooks, officials can do little about the thousands of scans uploaded outside Germany that remain just a keystroke away for those within the country.

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