Hitler’s Mein Kampf Was Not A Digital Bestseller

Mein Kampf becoming a bestseller out of nowhere is the kind of thing that any reasonable person might have concerns about. It’s also the kind of headline which makes savvy sub-editors salivate over viral potential. And so it proved in 2014 when this story first went around the world.

There was just one problem: it wasn’t true.

Hitler’s pre-war memoir Mein Kampf was declared a digital bestseller, leading to a global bout of media hand-wringing and pontificating. One excitable commentator even suggested it was a sign the second Holocaust was imminent.

Hitler’s “bestselling” performance was first reported by Chris Faraone at Vocativ in January 2014 under the headline Kindle Fuhrer: Mein Kampf Tops Amazon Charts. Then it spread like wildfire.

Huge blogs and websites like Gizmodo, Huffington Post, Gawker, Slate, and Salon reported on this phenomenon. Major newspapers also covered the story: the Guardian, New York Daily News, the Daily Mail, and the Los Angeles Times. Television networks got in on the act too, like ABC News and Fox, before the story spread internationally with media outlets picking up the story in places like Portugal, India, and Russia.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg; a cursory search of Google will show pages and pages and pages of blogs, websites, and media organizations repeating the same story.

A whole spate of features followed which tried to explain the uncomfortable “fact” that Adolf Hitler was a digital bestseller. The most popular framing was that it was the 50 Shades phenomenon – i.e. that people could now read Hitler’s words without being judged for their choice of reading material.

A nice theory to go with a juicy story. But none of it is true.

Retailers like Apple are something of a black box, but it’s relatively simple to track the performance of any book on Amazon. With a tool like KND’s Tracker, you can also view the historical performance of a title, once someone has already added it to the system.

As luck would have it, we have the relevant historical data for Mein Kampf.

This particular edition of Mein Kampf wasn’t selling at all until October 2013, when the publisher dropped the price to 99c – which is hardly surprising given the number of competing editions out there, many of which are available for free as it is a public domain title.

It then settled into a range of #7,825 to #9,995 on the Amazon rankings where it stayed until this story broke.

For those not familiar with the Amazon rankings, this equates to just 10 copies being sold a day – not a bestseller by any stretch of the imagination. (Note to journalists: it took me 60 seconds to find this out.)

Let’s look at what happened once this (fake) news story went viral.

mein kampf amazon bestseller sales rank

The red line is what we’re most interested in, which notes the highest (i.e. best) Sales Rank that Mein Kampf achieved for the day in question. The axis along the bottom is the date (starting from 16 December 2013, ending the day before this article was written, i,e, 15 January 2014). And the left axis is Sales Rank and the right is price.

You will notice that until this story broke, the highest Sales Rank that Mein Kampf reached was around #8,000 in the Kindle Store rankings. As I mentioned above, this equated to roughly 10 sales a day at the time of writing.

That big spike on 9 January 2014 happened after the worldwide media attention began. According to KND’s tracker, Mein Kampf peaked in the charts on 11 January 2014, at #592 in the Kindle Store – selling around 200 copies a day.

Mein Kampf wasn’t a “digital bestseller” until the media made it one. Life imitating artifice, if you like.

Indeed, now that the white hot heat of viral attention has moved onto something else, Mein Kampf is quickly heading back to where it was – selling a handful a day.

This is a classic case of journalists not doing their research, and repeating a hot story without verifying anything. I guess the hotter the story, the more likely a slip-up like this can happen, but I’m just amazed that not one of the journalists at all of these media organizations bothered to spend 60 seconds checking the key facts of the story.

It underlines how little people generally understand how Amazon works – even in the “leading” industry journals. There are all sorts of sub-sub-genre bestseller lists on Amazon, and if you choose your categories carefully, you can appear on a “bestseller” list with a handful of sales.

But that doesn’t make you a bestseller, and it didn’t make Mein Kampf a bestseller – until the media made it one.

David Gaughran

David Gaughran

Born in Ireland, he now lives in a little fishing village in Portugal, although this hasn’t increased the time spent outside. He writes novels under another name, has helped thousands of authors build a readership with his books, blogs, workshops, and courses, and has created marketing campaigns for some of the biggest self-publishers on the planet. Friend to all dogs.

107 Replies to “Hitler’s Mein Kampf Was Not A Digital Bestseller”

  1. Further to my comment of January 21, here is something of further interest. There was a recent, long article in The New Yorker by George Packer, entitled, “Is Amazon Bad for Books?” From it
    one gets the sense that Jeff Bezos will walk over corpses to enforce his will and his desire for Amazon to become the unchallenged “Everything Store.”

    I conclude from it that expecting a sense of morality from Mr. Bezos is like trying to wring blood from a stone. So, in addition to promoting “Mein Kampf” and more current anti-Semitic books, I would suggest some further money-making opportunities for Amazon’s book site. Why not publish pornography: straight or gay; adult of children’s; incest; bestiality. There should be plenty of customers for such books.

    Mr. Packer makes no mention of the issue of anti-Semitic books. It is still beyond my comprehension that not a single U.S. publication has mentioned that Amazon carries these obscene, objectionable books and how much pain these cause many people. What is going on here? Is every newspaper so frightened of Jeff Bezos that they dare not criticize him? Does really wield so much power?

    I must now wonder whether Jeff Bezos wishes that Hitler would have finished his job with me.

    Peter Kubicek

  2. Although I’m sure this wasn’t the intent of the original article, I’d like to point out that media manipulation for publicity purposes does happen, one might even say regularly.

    One example I read of in a marketing book cited the case of a movie with a controversial premise. A fake protest was staged; the media picked up the story; real protests ensued, and boom, free publicity.

  3. David,

    Re your last comment, of course banning books is not the answer. Nor is censorship, of which I have been accused.

    The avid buyers of “Mein Kampf” will read that Hitler considered the Jews the root of all evil and will get a foretaste of his plans to do something about it: that is kill all Jews. Some ten years later he proceeded to fulfill his promise — a monstrous period which became known as the Holocaust.
    But today Amazon offers on its book site current books that deny that the Holocaust ever took place. Among the numerous titles currently available are:

    The Holocaust Hoax Exposed
    The Synagogue of Satan
    Auschwitz: The First Gassing? …… the list goes on and I encourage you peruse it.

    Amazon invokes freedom of the press to sell any books it pleases. That is not the issue. Free speech should not serve as an excuse to make money with the sale of hate literature. Millions of people find those books offensive and objectionable. So, the question is one of MORALITY, rather than the guarantee of free speech, not to profit from the sale of these obscene books.

    In the meantime, the lunatic anti-Semitic fringe, which has always lurked in the shadows of the Internet, is deliriously happy that Amazon has given them a public forum. Just check out their gleeful 5-star reviews on Amazon’s book site. And naturally, these are the only customers for those books.

    Here is another telling example. Not long ago, the auction house e-Bay was offering for sale on its website some Holocaust-related memorabilia. When this was brought to their attention, they did not invoke their guarantee of freedom. They instantly saw that morality was the issue here and they removed some 30 items within hours and issued a public apology. That ‘s the kind of response one would expect from Amazon, but they simply ignore communications from Jewish organizations and from Holocaust survivors like me. While I like to stick to verifiable facts, I cannot avoid feeling that Mr. Jeff Bezos must share the view of the writers of the books he promotes that Jews just keep pursuing their goal of world domination. Mr. Bezos, why don’t you try to prove me wrong?

    1. We may differ on this, but I’d be more concerned if these books were getting the kind of publicity that Mein Kampf got over the last couple of weeks. You have to remember that there are over 2 million books in the Kindle Store, and well over 6 million print titles for sale on Amazon. There are said to be over 32 million books in print – and that was before the self-publishing explosion. When you factor in that, and all the books that are out of print but still line our bookshelves and the shelves of libraries and universities, and the titles that fill our second-hand bookstores and archives, you are talking about hundreds of millions of titles. I’m sure if you had the ability to scour all of them, you would find things even more objectionable than what you found on Amazon.

      But as to what you have found on Amazon, no matter how reprehensible (or dumb, or demonstrably false) I might find someone’s viewpoint, I don’t think banning books is the answer. Once you identify one category of books as beyond the pale, that becomes a very slippery slope. The history of such things suggests that moral panics will be manufactured to remove all sorts of alternative viewpoints leading to a situation where anything that’s not officially approved is censored and banned.

      Am I comfortable with such titles being on sale? No. Am I comfortable with people gleefully reviewing them on Amazon? No. But I don’t think banning them is the answer. And I’m not comfortable with Amazon, or the press, being moral arbiters in such cases. Such decisions rest with the people, and, it could be argued, on the individual level. Besides, do you really think if Amazon dropped all the titles on your list that others wouldn’t take their place? Don’t you also think that banned titles would immediately find their way onto some other site, where people could download freely? When has banning something led to it disappearing from the internet?

      Free speech mean that you sometimes have to put up with speech that you find objectionable – even when it’s dog whistle stuff like denying the Holocaust.

      1. david, just so you know in case you didn’t see earlier articles about Peter Kubicek,
        he is an 83 year old Holocaust survivor who lives in USA. FYI  . and he is very concerned
        about these issues, although he is a liberal about free speech and is not religious. fyi

      2. And after all, the cat is sort of out of the bag on Mein Kampf, isn’t it? I mean, even if you were to ban all sales or distribution of it worldwide, it’s not like anyone would have any trouble finding out what it was about.

  4. This is FANTASTIC reporting!!! I remember reading that on the news… well, now I say the “news”. I was so surprised, amazed. And now you’ve made my day.

    I LOVE you taking the alternative angle. Wonderful.

  5. David, thanks for pointing this out, that was a brilliant (short) piece of research! I fell for it, I guess, like most people (saw it on the Huffington Post). I didn’t get perturbed because “best-selling” status is easily given to anything these days, all that noise for nothing – plus the fact that this is a historical piece and reading it doesn’t mean you’re a Nazi, on the contrary. I have a copy my father bought when it came out before the War (now I don’t remember the year, sorry) and I can assure you my father was profoundly anti-Nazi, he fought in the underground during the war risking his life many times…

    But I’m so glad you got to the bottom of the thing! Now, just to put things in perspective, selling 10 or 200 copies a day, given the size of the reading market, is still piddling…

  6. I am a very left-wing blogger. I report a lot on what wingnuts have to say. A couple of years ago, I bought a copy of Mein Kampf, so I could check the claims of some Conservatives with a lot to say about Hitler. I’m in those statistics somewhere, but it is certainly not because I support Hitler. I wonder how many people have bought this book to fill out their understanding of that horrible era, and not because they have a shred of sympathy with Hitler’s views. My suspicion is that a lot of those ten sales a day are to people like me.

  7. For Holocaust survivor Peter Kubicek, 83, the thought of Amazon
    selling Nazi-themed items makes him sick to this stomach. He’s taking
    his protest straight to Amazon, and he was recently interviewed on
    Canadian television about his protest. A resident of Queens, N.Y.,
    Kubicek is an active Internet reader and news surfer.

    When we exchanged emails recently about a British newspaper report
    about Amazon selling Holocaust denial and white supremacist books
    he told me: “Look at this filth being peddled on Amazon. I am actually
    trying to do something about it and have had correspondence with
    people of influence to try and shame Amazon into dropping this.”

    And he is. He has written letters to Amazon and several New York area
    When a Canadian news reporter noticed a comment Peter left on a
    website, he contacted him by email and asked if he would be willing to
    appear on camera via Skype. Peter appeared and spoke his mind.

    1. Thank you, Moolb Leinad,

      While the discussion about “Main Kampf” is interesting and David Gaughran is to be commended for his excellent reporting, not a single word has appeared in the U.S. press about the disturbing fact that Amazon is peddling anti-Semitic and Holocaust-denying, recently written books. Whether these may become “bestsellers” or not is immaterial. The fact is that the only customers for these books are the lunatic, anti-Semitic fringe.
      So, when will the U.S. press report it as news ?

  8. Great digging here, 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 David’s post is a good
    wake up call 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

  9. Sadly this phenomenon isn’t restricted to social media. Even in science, where you’d expect fact checking to be critical, far too many people cite secondary sources without once going to the primary source itself. Maybe this is simply human nature/laziness at work.

  10. I appreciate your doing the investigation on this story. The hype associated with manipulating people’s fear narrative is often not substantiated by actual facts or numbers. The final story that you provided was much more interesting.

  11. All I have to say about Hitler NOT being a best selling author is – Hallelujah! And thank you for bothering to check carefully enough to find that truth! I listed your blog as one I enjoyed in my post of 1/8/14 at: http://wendykarasin.com. Do check it out. Thanks for keeping us informed!

  12. My newest release hit #2 in it’s genre – romance – now the numbers I saw on that report stunned me (thanks David for that little book you wrote about Amazon – I read it right before releasing this latest novel and put the info to good use!) Now, it’s up and down, but I’m learning how to kick it back upward with well-timed promotions. So far, I’ve been very, very happy with the sales.

    Anyway, as someone who writes historicals and researches until my eyes bleed. I will say in regard to Mein Kampf – those who learn nothing from history are doomed to repeat it.

    And of course the press is going to go nuts over this, it’s another doomsday story with a slightly different twist. I remember a long time ago, there was something that was called fact checking. Hardly ever get to see that in action anymore.

    Great post David!

    1. Kathryn,

      About your quote that “Those who learn nothing from history are doomed to repeat it.” Hegel put it another way: “The only thing we learn from history is the fact that we never learn anything from history.”

      As a close student of the history of W.W.II, I was never able to disprove Hegel’s dictum.

      Peter Kubicek
      Author of “Memories of Evil — Recalling a World War II Childhood” — a book which has garnered flattering reviews, but is as far from being a bestseller as any book can get.

  13. I thought the 50 Shades “phenomenom” was that guys now had plausible excuse and rebuttle for when caught watching intener porn…

  14. I didn’t know about its “ranking” as a digital best seller, I just wanted to read it for the historical value. .. Didn’t know that I could be judged for it. Those judging are probably the smaller minded anyways.

    1. Yes, I read quite a bit of material about that period because I think it is critical to keep our horrors (and our potential for atrocity) right in front of our faces. Not to celebrate our psychopathic mass murders, but to see how rather ordinary people can fall sway to the cult of celebrity or sociopolitical movement. Genocide is not a one-time event, it’s an ongoing horror show rippling across the globe throughout history.

      I’d posit that some people are grabbing it because they fear it may be censored, banned, or made illegal at some point in the future, in which case history could be distorted to serve someone’s means in the future (such as repainting Hitler as a national hero whose ideas should be revived).

  15. “The most popular theory was that it was the 50 Shades phenomenon – i.e. that people could now read Hitler’s words without being judged for their choice of reading material.”

    I agree with this theory somewhat. Internet culture, despite all the lofty platitudes about democratization, can be totally amoral and apathetic.

    I quote from the description section of the ‘Sweet Brown – Original Report and Autotune Remix’ , a hugely viral music video made out of news footage of a persons house burning.
    “Allow me to make this clear, I take no credit for any of the artistic work of this video, I simply brought the original news footage and the “Autotune Remix” together for my own amusement. The remix was made by The Parody Factory.”

  16. Reblogged this on newauthoronline and commented:
    An interesting post about whether Mein Kampf is, in fact a bestseller as has been claimed recently. Even if Hitler’s book is a bestseller this is not, necessarily a cause for concern. The fact that people read Marx’s “Communist Manifesto” or Burke’s “Reflections On The Revolution In France”, neither proves or disproves that the readers are either a Conservative or a Marxist. It proves merely that the readers are interested in politics and/or philosophy. Likewise reading Mein Kampf does not make the reader a Nazi. While reading history and politics at university I digested many books expressing widely divergent viewpoints. People with open minds read widely including works by people’s who’s views they find repugnant.

  17. Reblogged this on virajrohancircar and commented:
    “The most popular theory was that it was the 50 Shades phenomenon – i.e. that people could now read Hitler’s words without being judged”
    for their choice of reading material.”

    I agree with this theory somewhat. Internet culture, despite all the lofty platitudes about democratization, can be totally amoral and apathetic.

    I quote from the description section of the ‘Sweet Brown – Original Report and Autotune Remix’ , a hugely viral music video made out of news footage of a persons house burning.
    “Allow me to make this clear, I take no credit for any of the artistic work of this video, I simply brought the original news footage and the “Autotune Remix” together for my own amusement. The remix was made by The Parody Factory.”

  18. It can be for that person. What I’m talking about is the idea of lowering the bar of success to avoid failure.

    If I was doing a day job and making enough money to pay my required outgoings, then switched to a new career where I met the same goal. Would I be called a success? No. I’d just have a new job. While doing that in writing (especially fiction) is hard, and rare. It’s still just a career change. The minimum goal is to make enough money to pay your required outgoings. If you can’t do that, selling one book a day is not a success, in my opinion. It certainly doesn’t make you a bestseller no matter what sub genre you are in.

    The person who is struggling to make ends meet, then writes a book that does so well they can exceed their required outgoings, maybe buy a house or improve their quality of life for themselves and their family. That is a success.

    If we continue to see that word as whatever we want it to be. Then it loses it’s power. Worse, failure goes away. Without failure there is no way to improve and see when something isn’t working.

  19. I should probably add, 5-10 a day is still doing ‘okay’ in today’s market. It’s more the people that sit at around 100k sales ranks, sell a book every other day, or one a week, hit some obscure sub genre top 10. Then call themselves a bestseller.

    1. Several thousand copies in the first year has always been considered a success in mainstream publishing, not a best seller, but solid results and enough to keep you in print. The midlists have always been dominated by books of this sort. Considering that most independently published books sell less than 100 copies over their lifetime, even one-a-day can be considered good performance.

    2. Sure, but considering all the students of politics, history etc., as well as those with an active interest in those fields, it’s hardly a staggering number, and not an indication that society is lurching to the left, or that there are secret armies of neo-Nazis out there that can now safely read Hitler’s words without being outed on the subway…

      1. I agree with you 100 per cent David. I wonder incidentally how many copies of Mao’s Little Red Book or works by Lenin are sold. Mao’s Cultural Revolution was responsible for great suffering so, if one takes the line taken by some as regards Mein Kampf (that it should be banned) then, arguably Mao’s, Stalin’s and the work of other dictators should also be banned. I wouldn’t advocate such a ban as the reading of such works does not imply agreement with the views expressed and (even if it did in a free society we ought to be very careful before prohibiting books. The Nazis burned books while dictatorships of the left and right have prohibited books with which the regime disagrees. We don’t want to go down that particular road.

  20. Interesting developments here.

    I think that is shows you can sell people on success fairly easily, with or without it being actual fact. I see it with products & even people constantly.

    There are a bunch of people making great money, selling a route to success (in various industries) without actually ever having any themselves (in the field/product they are talking about selling.) They are just good at convincing people to look at the bright shiny success banner above them, on the basis that most people are far too lazy to actually verify their success.

    The other thing I’ve noticed is that people’s definition of success (especially in the indie publishing world) is very skewed from mine. I have spoken to plenty of people who are happy with and consider their book a success by selling 5 – 10 copies a day. That is because the fear of failure has lowered peoples expectations. It’s easier to call a book a success, than admit it’s a failure.

    People just re-define until they are winning.. I see it almost every day.

  21. This is a bit harsh on the guardian story which lists all the places where the book was performing well and was quite detailed. You can describe a book as being a bestseller without it being top of amazons chart.

    1. I don’t think I was harsh on the Guardian story at all. It merely repeated the claims in the original Vocativ piece without checking if appearing on a sub-sub-sub category chart actually meant anything in terms of sales.

  22. “All this was inspired by the principle–which is quite true in itself–that in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.” —Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, vol. I, ch. X

  23. I distinctly remember noticing that the stories I read talked about MK being a bestseller in a particular subcategory — was it propaganda and political psychology? I this because that’s when I stopped reading and closed the page.

    The journalists aren’t failing to fact-check. They are hyping a true story — it is meaningless and true.

    So the real issue is that people love to read about meaningless garbage. And with the rise of social news, it is proven over again every day just how truly and enduringly popular these stories about meaningless garbage really are.

  24. To some extent the debate between David and Chris boils down to a definition of “best seller.” If a book is in the top 100 or top 10 of a category on Amazon, is it a “best seller” in that category? Many indie authors make such claims, so it is not without precedent. (Some of my own books remained in the Top 25 in one category for an extended period, and I was ecstatic, but I am a minor case at best.) An interesting question is what would be the sales rank of Mein Kampf if all the editions were combined? The individual estimates might produce a reasonable guesstimate, and it is guaranteed to be much higher than any taken by themselves.

    The broader issue is what to make of these somewhat surprising sales and whether it is a cause for alarm. I am Jewish, but it bothers me less that people are reading Mein Kampf than that they would use it perversely to slander Muslims, as appears to be the case from a little online research prompted by an earlier post here. Ultimately, Naziism is as much a stance in relation to the world and to the different “other” as it is an historical political movement, and the frame of mind that goes with it, whether directed to Jews or Christians or Muslims or anyone else, is the thing to be feared.

  25. David –

    Please excuse my initial fire. Needless to say, I was incensed by what I consider to be your cherry-picking. Less so now, though I still contend that you don’t know how many books are really being sold, that you continue to low ball the overall impact to support your counter-argument, and that you are conveniently ignoring the success on iTunes and the proliferation of free versions, both of which were certainly what I found to be the most significant things I came across. As for your liking part of my article, I suppose I could say the same about yours in that sales of Mein Kampf have certainly skyrocketed since the story went viral, and that’s absolutely worth noting.

    1. Hey Chris – Amazon is famously tight-lipped when it comes to sharing data, but that doesn’t mean we can’t observe the system and make reasonable assumptions about how it works. I actually wrote a book about the Amazon system, how sales rank works and so forth, based on the observations of smart authors who have been kicking the tires for some time.

      In short, while we can’t be absolutely sure how any given sales rank translates in terms of hard sales numbers, we’ve gotten good at ball parking it. The first attempt I saw was by an author called Theresa Ragan. I then attempted to build on that with some crowdsourcing on this self-publisher’s forum which find similar results. That thread is here, if you want to examine our methods and see if there are any obvious flaws: http://www.kboards.com/index.php?topic=140217.0

      As for iTunes, I’m not ignoring it at all. As I said in my post, it’s more of a black box. We have less data and can’t make any reasonable assumptions about what chart position means in terms of sales. However, we do know that the market there is far smaller than Amazon. We also know that iTunes has a number of sub-sub-category “bestseller” lists like Amazon, where you can appear on some lists selling a copy a month (or less). In other words, appearing on an iTunes sub-sub-chart is no sure indication that a book is selling well.

      I will say this: your piece was more nuanced than those that followed.

  26. Even if Mein Kampf is a bestseller that fact is not in and of itself a cause for alarm. I studied history and politics at university and during the course of my studies read many books including works by Marx and Edmund Burke. Having read both Burke and Marx prooves only that I have an interest in politics. It does not demonstrate that I am (or am not) either a Conservative or a Marxist. Again the Nazi dictatorship is a fascinating (and horific) period of world history. Many people will read Mein Kampf to try to understand the regime and, in particular Hitler. Purchase of the book does not make one a National Socialist.

  27. I hear you Oren, but how about when different editions are number one – or even in the top five – on several micro charts for several months (as is the case here)? Or when TWO versions are topping the iBooks Politics & Current Events chart?

    1. Your article compared Mein Kampf’s sales to 50 Shades of Grey. And you say *David* is the fraud? Okay, sure.

      Maybe this is the real reason for your anger: “Chris Faraone is the News and Features Editor of DigBoston. His most recent book, I Killed Breitbart, has been getting spanked by Mein Kampf on Kindle and iTunes for the past three months.”


  28. You’re a fraud David. Though I will not (and cannot) deny that the re-blogging media has blown this up and as a result inflated sales since my article came out, your assessment and characterization of my original story is utterly insincere. You track one of many versions I’m referring to. One! The point is there’s an onslaught, and that they stay high on a number of charts. As an ebook retailer yourself, you should know damn well how much endurance it takes to do that – no matter how niche the compendium. Furthermore, you’re misleading your readers by claiming to know exactly how many books have been sold by any of these retailers. Even if you were on the mark, though, it wouldn’t matter, because you’re only accounting for one edition. I’m pretty sure you know how full of shit you are, too, or else you wouldn’t have left iTunes out of your argument altogether. Keep writing about journalism son. I’ll keep actually doing it.

    1. Chris, while David’s argument would doubtless benefit from more comprehensive data (i.e. tracking more than just one of the different editions of the book available, and on more than just Amazon), I think the fact stands that a book being ranked in the top 20 in a narrow genre (even if it’s #1) does not make it a “bestseller”.

      1. Does it really matter whether we’re talking about amazon, iTunes or what ever store – you name it ? What really matters is the publicity for the man who was to become the killer of the century. I know what I am talking about, I am german and jewish. Besides: I know a handful of german parties that will really appreaciate that soer of publicity – even the one I am takin part in right now and here.

    2. Hey Chris – I’m happy you came to say hi. Do let me know if I slip and accidentally commit an act of journalism.

      You mention a number of editions of Mein Kampf. I focused on the one that was selling best (in relative terms, as none of them were selling well). But I’m happy to be more comprehensive now. Note, these are ordered by highest (i.e. best) rank to lowest (i.e. worst).

      (1) Montecristo Editora edition – http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00C6CHTX6 – highest rank before January 7 – #7,825, roughly equating to 10 sales per day. Current rank: #6,181.

      (2) Elite Minds edition – http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00B51A5PS – This one is selling even less, so I’m pretty sure it’s not the bestseller you were talking about – Current rank: #12,326, less than 10 sales a day.

      (3) Montecristo Editora (German) edition – http://www.amazon.com/dp/B009XJHRQ4/ -current ranking of #27,070 (roughly 5 sales a day), I don’t think either of us would call this a bestseller.

      (4) German edition by Klaus Schmidt – http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0073GCOJ4 – current rank is #243,335, meaning it’s selling a handful per month. I don’t think this is our bestseller.

      (5) French edition by Arnauld Cappeau – http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00BLMIJZY – current rank is #677,396 – meaning it hasn’t sold a copy in weeks. Definitely not our bestseller.

      There’s more selling even less, so I’ll stop myself there. If I’ve missed any edition which could actually be considered a digital bestseller, please fill me in.

      I could go on, but I think the point is made. In case it’s not clear, these five editions – in all available languages on Amazon – totaling maybe 25 or 30 copies a day. If you think that makes a bestseller, you really need to start a business selling bumper stickers.


      P.S. If it’s any consolation, I actually liked your piece… except for all the bits that were wrong.

  29. Hey, I hit the top 25 with my poetry book, for the categories in poetry was mentioned… 3 categories, in fact! That makes me a best seller, huh?! I think I sold a total of 4 books.

  30. My book ‘The Race’ made it to #1 in ‘children’s books – > >parent participation’ after only four free downloads. Can you please alert the press of this bestseller 🙂
    It’s now at #40 in the UK after just one sale. Get into an obscure genre and you’re almost guaranteed a place in the ‘bestseller list’.

  31. David, it seems like your data from Amazon are only part of the picture. When you go back to look at Chris Farone’s article, he shows a screenshot of the iTunes bookstore with two different versions of Mein Kampf ranked #12 and #15 respectively in the “Politics and Current Events” category, and quotes it as being #1 in the “Propaganda” category on Amazon. Are you suggesting he fabricated this, or that it is irrelevant?

    That said, your point about lazy journalism is perfectly valid. Many of the other outlets that ran with this story tended to gloss over the details, and neglected to qualify the phrase “ebook bestseller” in any specific way. But if you’re going to debunk this story, I think you need more than one line graph.

    1. The politics and current events ranking is surprising but can you name another book that would rank highly as a “Propaganda” bestseller? It’s not as if this isn’t a well-known book. I’d like to see the writer address these facts as well, but I’m not sure they’re all that significant. The total ranking should still tell us the most about a book’s performance and popularity.

    2. Well the #2 book in the Propaganda category is currently ranked:

      #28,677 Paid in Kindle Store

      Which is about six copies a day. So not exactly huge competition in that sub-sub-category…

  32. Many years ago I was a photojournalist in South Africa. I was working on the first heart transplant story. One story came up which we all knew was fake. A friend of mine was a Daily Mail correspondent. He filed it in any case, telling me: “Never let the truth stand in the way a good story!”

    1. The Daily Mail correspondent was quoting the mantra for novelists. Another favorite of mine is from Ernest Hemingway: “That is what we are supposed to do when we are at our best—make it all up—but make it up so truly that later it will happen that way.”

  33. David your post brings up front a major issue. The press and hoopla often creates best sellers, not true fans of a story. Unfortunately that is human nature, one of our dark attributes. Just another wall indies have to face and try to climb.

  34. It’s good to know that some people (David) are old school enough to consider things like FACTS before writing a story, or creating a false narrative. This Hitler thing does prove that the media can still hype ANY book enough to drive sales, though. (Note to self: hire the firm who started this whole thing.)

    1. Worse yet, it isn’t only books that the media can hype and drive the public to accept as true. Remember: “A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.” Attributed to Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain).

  35. Heh. I remember reading that story and going to check the rankings to see that it wasn’t anywhere near as bad as the “journalists” were claiming. 🙂 But I failed to check again a couple of days later …

  36. Dang, I was about to start a rumor that the new Lior Samson novel, GASLINE, had skyrocketed into the best-seller ranks owing to its timely and frightening subject. The press would have picked it up and passed it on, and the novel would be on its way. Then you had to expose the whole game. That’s the threat posed by bloggers like you, who insist on getting their facts straight. It dooms novelists like me who write fact-based fiction. Thanks, David. Thanks a lot. 🙂

  37. Thanks for this, David … it is reassuring in the sense that many naïve people like myself were taken in and appalled by what such a ‘fact’ might mean. Usually I’m sceptical about the media but ‘bestseller’ suckers me in every time.

  38. Oh dear. Is it standards of journalism, or just the speed of the information spread (or non-information, in this case) that’s to blame? Is is possible to just report the news, rather than make it, in this instant age?

    1. I think real culprit here is speed of internet to spread false news. sure the topic was jewcy, er, juicy, but the real nazi here is speed of social media and internet. how to stop it ? it will only get worse and worse.

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