Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf’ tops ebook sales

The Nazi dictator’s controversial manifesto is among the bestselling political books on Amazon and iTunes.

Thomas Peter/Reuters
'The Unreadable Book:' Hitler's 'Mein Kampf' was outlawed in the state of Bavaria.

Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” is ranked as the second most downloaded item from the online University Library Project. The 1925 controversial manifesto has also been one of the top-selling political books on iTunes and Amazon throughout this week

One electronic edition ranked 12th in the Politics section of the iTunes bookstore, with another version ranking 15th. On Amazon, it has been the number one bestselling book in the Propaganda & Political Psychology section.

One possible explanation is that readers feel more comfortable with the level of privacy provided by ebook readers. While readers might not want to have Hitler’s writing on their bookshelves, electronic books allow them to read books like "Mein Kampf" in secret.

Journalist Chris Faraone told ABC News that the phenomenon may be similar to that of “Fifty Shades of Grey,” which sold more than 1 million copies on Amazon’s Kindle. While most book titles earn 20 percent of their revenue from ebooks, “Fifty Shades of Grey” has drawn 50 percent of its earnings from digital sales.

The sales for the print version of the dictator’s autobiographical book have been stagnant for years, and its publication is illegal in several countries. "These are things that people would be embarrassed to read otherwise," Faraone said. "Books that people would probably be a bit more embarrassed to read or display or buy in public, they are more than willing to buy on their Kindle, or iPads."

Still, the book has been available in digital form ever since ebook readers became popular, and it remains a mystery as to why sales have skyrocketed this week. Another mystery surrounding the title is the question of who is entitled to the book's royalties, as Hitler had no immediate heirs. Historians suspected that Hitler’s nephew Leo Raubal was the one who inherited the book's earnings, but Raubal has said he does not want his share.

“Mein Kampf,” which translates as “My Struggle,” promotes antisemitism and Aryan supremacy as part of the Nazi doctrine. Hitler wrote the manifesto while in prison in 1923, and it became a popular book while he was a Chancellor in 1933. The book served as a model for the party and also funded some of the National Socialist movement activities.

“Mein Kampf” will officially enter the public domain in 2015, when there will no longer be any regulations over its distribution.

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