Mein Kampf eBook download popularity leaves some Führious

The rise of eBooks and their accompanying eReaders has had a number of surprising consequences. From the meteoric success of British author E.L. James' Fifty Shades of Grey, to the panic-merger of one-time rivals Penguin Books and Random House, the literary world has been shaken time and again by the world of technology.

One of the stranger effects in recent days is that Mein Kampf, the vitriolic half memoir, half racist rant dictated by Adolf Hitler during his time in prison, has been slowly creeping its way up the bestsellers' lists.

While the book's print sales remain fairly low, the eBook version has climbed to the top 20 on iTunes's Politics & Events chart, sitting uncomfortably next to books by Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck, and currently sits at the number one slot in "Propaganda & Political Psychology" on the Amazon charts.

Written during his time at Landsberg am Lech Prison, where Hitler was sentenced to a lenient term in 1923 for his role in the failed Munich Putsch, Mein Kampf, or "My Struggle" is one of the most reviled books ever published, and is rightly famous for its terrible and tortured prose.

So why are people seeking it out and downloading it to their Kindles, Nooks and tablets?

A large part of the phenomenon seems to be the abiding fascination with the infamous book for many who seek to understand the horror of the National Socialist experiment.

"People need to understand that if we do not learn from people like this, then we will fall into their traps again," one reviewer wrote on Amazon.

Even today, the printing and copying of the book is illegal in Germany, and although the copyright is still held by the federal government of Bavaria, it has been widely distributed around the world.

In many countries, such as France, Austria and Argentina, disseminating the book with the intention of promoting its ideology is illegal, as is owning or distributing the book in large numbers.

However, such restrictions have no effect in the world of readily available eBooks.

One of the $0.99 eBook editions of Mein Kampf was published by a company called Elite Minds Inc.

"Sales are great," said Elite Minds president Michael Ford., but he concedes that publicising the book it is a sensitive issue: "I have not heavily promoted the book and decided, for the most part, to let it spread among those who have a true historical and academic interest naturally," For has said.

Hitler's autobiography seems to be benefiting from the same effect as E.L. James' record-breaking trilogy – the anonymity of eBooks allows readers to read whatever they like without risking someone seeing them reading it on the tube, or resting among regency classics on the bookshelf.

For now, it seems that layman historical enthusiasts are simply enjoying the liberty to peruse one of the last century's most influential books without being thought a closet Nazi. Although, admittedly, "closet Nazi" isn't one of the options you can tick when you sign up to Amazon or iTunes, so it's pretty difficult to tell.

Image: Flickr (pamhule)