Mein Kampf is an important and troubling historical document. Written in the mid-1920s, it served as Hitler’s autobiography and as a platform for him to lay out his political philosophy. It’s a disturbing look into the psyche of one of the worst human beings in world history. And it’s a really popular one, now that you can read it without anybody knowing you’ve got it when you have it in eBook form!
Mein Kampf is not technically public domain; Houghton Mifflin owns the rights in the US, and Bavaria the rights overseas. But it’s not like they’re going to spend money defending Hitler in court, which means there are a lot of editions available. And those editions tend to be both cheap and highly popular, according to Vocativ:
Despite the vast availability of no-cost copies, paid editions of Mein Kampf have crept up on hot lists since companies like Barnes & Noble and most recently Apple launched aggressive e-reader campaigns. One of the purged electronic editions from 2008 has since returned to Kindle and regularly registers on the Communism & Socialism charts. Another pick, “The Official 1939 Version,” was listed by the U.K.-based Coda Books in September 2011 and is currently the 17th bestseller in Nationalism in any format. And an “unexpurgated” edition of Mein Kampf that showed up on Amazon two years ago continues to hold in the Philosophers rankings.
Many believe it’s a mix of curiosity and shame. The “official” printed Mein Kampf is nearly 700 pages and there’s no mistaking you’re reading Hitler going down on himself from the cover. But the eBook versions can be loaded onto a Kindle for literally nothing or as cheap as a dollar, read, and then gotten rid of without feeling bad about it.
It’s definitely a book of historical value, although Hitler’s a crappy writer on top of everything else; the book is long because apparently Germans love to ramble at length about nothing. But this does raise the question of where the money goes. Houghton Mifflin donates the money it makes to charity, but these dollar eBook translations could be selling millions of copies, and nobody really knows where that money goes. Even publishers promoting historical texts and analyses using cheap copies are ambivalent about promoting it.
Either way, expect this to be more common as reading a book is as simple as booting up your phone. Although hopefully, this is where the interest in Nazi literature stops.