I hope David Gaughran will forgive me for the same kind of bad journalism that he pillories in his own piece, but this is simply too significant to ignore. Remember that little moral panic about Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf becoming an ebook bestseller? Well, there’s a problem. According to Gaughran: “Fake Controversy Alert: Hitler’s Mein Kampf Was Not A Digital Bestseller.”
As he points out, all the furore started with a post on Vocativ – “the Global Social News Network” that features lovely headlines like “Dark Side of Brazil: Beheadings and Butchered Torsos” and “Welcome to Rentboy University where Young Men Major in the Business of Sex“. The more respectable media who took up the story don’t seem to have been over-zealous in questioning the source. They just picked up the story and ran with it.
I did better Gaughran’s description of such lazy journalism in one respect: I went to the KND eBook Tracker tool that he recommends for tracking the sales levels of Kindle ebooks. Sure enough, as per January 16th, Mein Kampf‘s sales rank is languishing at 7,558: not the lowest level he recorded (around 9,995), but hardly stellar. What really gave the book a recent sales lift is – yes – the moral panic about it being available in the first place. “Mein Kampf wasn’t a ‘digital bestseller’ until the media made it one,” Gaughran notes.
Gaughran is mostly concerned with the shoddy reporting around this whole little storm in a journo’s beer mug. I’m more worried about the underlying level of suspicion and hostility towards ebooks that seems to show little sign of receding. Gaughran complains that the publishing industry is engaged in astroturfing on its own behalf to defend the merits of traditional publishing, which all too easily shades over into drumming up resentment against ebooks and Amazon. And the Mein Kampf story suggests that there’s a big appetite out there for this, just waiting to be fed.