Media hype, a cease-and-desist notice, and sold-out bookstores have led people to share the controversial White House exposé online.
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It’s been years since the publishing world has seen a nonfiction book as popular as Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House. The salacious exposé has dominated the news cycle for the last week with details of the early days of President Donald Trump’s White House, including chaos, backstabbing, and assorted references to Trump’s McDonald’s addiction. The book so irked America’s commander-in-chief that his lawyers sent cease and desist letters to Wolff and Publisher Henry Holt.
In response, Henry Holt released the book early. Despite the weekend’s ugly cold snap, people across the country lined up to purchase copies. Everyone wants to read this book, but no one can find it. Stores are sold out, the publisher is rushing to print more, and even libraries have hold lists hundreds of patrons long. The New York Public Library alone has a waiting list of more than a thousand people.
The internet responded how it always does to scarcity: Pirated copies of Fire and Fury are being widely shared in a way that rarely happens with any book, let alone a nonfiction book (as opposed to, say, a new installment of Harry Potter or Game of Thrones). Within hours of the book’s initial release, PDFs, ePubs, and even the audio version found their way to the less scrupulous corners of the internet. Wikileaks tweeted out a Google Drive link to a file it claimed was the full PDF version of Fire and Fury. Google removed the link shortly after.
But that hasn’t stopped other industrious pirates from spreading Wolff’s takedown of Trump. A search on popular torrent site The Pirate Bay returned more than a dozen copies of Fire and Fury in various formats, and several versions of it are far-and-away the most popular e-book on the site. The top listing has more than 1,000 seeds. 1337x, another popular torrent tracker, showed similar results.
Over at the /r/megalinks subreddit—a place where users share their favorite files on the Mega cloud service—Fire and Fury is the most upvoted file of the past week, beating out both Black Mirror and Blade Runner 2049. Even the document archive and leaks publisher Cyrptome has published a PDF of the book.
It’s not unusual for people to pirate books, but it’s rare compared to the number of people who download movies, video games, and television shows. Yet the number of downloads for Fire and Fury currently rivals that of many popular movies and shows.
A lack of physical copies may be inflating the piracy numbers. Henry Holt pushed the book out four days earlier than it intended and reportedly had no idea it would be this popular. Barnes and Noble shows a two week delay in shipping copies ordered online.
I ordered a copy from Amazon last Wednesday when I learned Henry Holt was releasing it early. The order sat stalled, unfulfilled, and unshipped for three days so I canceled it and went to my local Barnes and Noble. A harried and tired-looking employee at the front of the store was dedicated to answering questions about Fire and Fury.
In between phone calls from customers asking for the book, he told me that every Barnes and Noble in the country was sold out. He also told me Amazon was backordered for upwards of four weeks. I called a friend who works at Half Price Books, a large book retailer in the South, who told me that the company had sold through its entire stock in two hours. They were gone before he’d come into work that day and he’d spent most of his work day talking down customers eager to find a copy.
People who want to read a copy of Fire and Fury right now will have a hard time finding a physical copy. But the digital version is available now, for a few bucks less.