Earlier this week, Vocativ published a piece examining an alarming trend: e-book versions of Hitler's "Mein Kampf" have been rising steadily to the top of the best-seller charts on iTunes and Amazon.
In fact, since the Vocativ article was published, two digital editions of the book have risen from 12th and 15th to 3rd and 4th as of this writing, among books in iTunes "Politics and Current Events" rankings. That puts it behind only Charles Krauthammer's "Things That Matter" and Mark Halperin and John Heilemann's "Double Down," and ahead of books like Mark Leibovich's "This Town" (#5), Dr. Ben Carson's "America the Beautiful" (#7), Mark Levin's "The Liberty Amendments" (#8) Kevin Freeman's "Game Plan" (#13), and George Gilder's "Knowledge and Power" (#15), among other notable titles.
Perhaps less surprisingly, though no less disturbing, among Amazon's "Propaganda and Political Psychology" best-sellers, one electronic edition of "Mein Kampf" is ranked at #1. That same edition comes in at #8 in Amazon's "Globalization" category.
These figures as Vocativ notes exclude the thousands of free copies of "Mein Kampf" that have been downloaded. According to the article:
"Besides the iTunes and Kindle-compatible versions, hundreds of txt and pdf files are available for download from thousands of online sources. More than a dozen free English-language versions of Mein Kampf have been downloaded in excess of 100,000 times from the nonprofit Internet Archive alone."
So why have sales been taking off? The author of the Vocativ article presents two hypotheses.
The first is in effect that people are more comfortable buying an electronic version of a book that is taboo. Vocativ notes:
"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. 'I think I waited 45 years to read Hitler’s words,' writes one reviewer. Another sums it up thusly: 'Curiosity killed me to get this book.'"
The second is that given the sheer bulk of the book -- Vocativ notes that a Houghton Mifflin hardcover version of the book tallies 694 pages -- it is simply easier for people to download a digital edition than a physical one.
Vocativ reached out to Amazon and Montecristo Publishing, one of the e-book's publishers, for greater detail into why book sales have been increasing, but in both cases were rebuffed as the companies ceased communicating as questioning became more specific around "Mein Kampf" in particular.
In an ABC News article on the topic, Michael Ford, President of Elite Minds, the publisher of the best-selling 99¢ electronic version of the book, argues that sales have "surged due to an academic interest in the subject."
Neither article mentions as a potential reason for the trend the recent rise in anti-Semitism for example across Europe, as reflected in the 2013 report of the European Union's Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) entitled "Discrimination and hate crime against Jews in EU Member States: experiences and perceptions of antisemitism."
Among the findings of that report, some of the most staggering included that 66% of the report's approximately 6,000 Jewish respondents hailing from countries comprising an estimated 90% of all Jews in the European Union, considered anti-Semitism to be a problem, and 76% indicated a belief that anti-Semitism had increased in their country during the last five years. 21% of respondents reported at least one anti-Semitic hate crime in the year before the survey, and 46% of respondents worried about being verbally insulted or harassed in public, while 33% worried about being physically attacked as a result of their being Jewish.
Nor do the reports on the book's rapid sales consider a potential link between the rise of Islamic supremacist movements in the wake of the Arab Spring and the popularity of "Mein Kampf."
Whatever the reason behind the increase in sales of Hitler's book, the disturbing trend is worth monitoring.