Picture of Stieg Larsson - ebook author of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

He’s written Amazon’s #1 best-selling ebook — and its #2 and #3 best-selling ebooks! In fact, he became one of the best-selling authors in the world — two years after his death — and he wrote the first ebook ever to sell one million copies. Yet apparently there’s another strange twist to his story.

There’s now two biographies about author Stieg Larsson — one very good, and one very bad. At least that’s the fierce opinion of one Amazon reviewer who downloaded STIEG LARSSON BIOGRAPHY: The Man Behind Lisbeth Salander. “I am disappointed that Amazon would offer this as a ‘book’ selection,” the reviewer wrote…


“I loved the Millennium series and wanted to know more about the wonderful author who penned them, so I was happy to see a biography offered. However, it is nothing more than what could be gleaned from the Internet in a short Google search. It consists of Kindle locations 1 – 94 which takes about three minutes to read. Certainly not worth the $3.99 charged for less than 6 pages of very generalized text.”


He condensed his position in his review’s title — “Caution: NOT a book” — and advises readers to “Save your money since there is more information in Wikipedia…”

But there’s also more information in a new 294-page hardcover biography about the life of Stieg Larsson, which was just published a few weeks ago. As an expert on crime fiction, Barry Forshaw looks deeper into the author’s whole career, according to Amazon’s description, and he concludes that Larsson’s life “would be remembered as truly extraordinary even had his trilogy never been published. Larrson was a workaholic: a political activist, photographer, graphic designer, a respected journalist, and the editor of numerous science fiction magazines.

“At night, to relax, he wrote crime novels…”

Larsson died at the age of 50, prompting Forshaw to title his biography “The Man Who Left Too Soon.” (Larsson died a full six years before his book became the first ebook ever to sell more than one million copies.)
While it’s ironic that after his death, Larsson drew so much attention from the publishing world, at least he’ll always be remembered for achieving that historic milestone. But it’s even more ironic that the first biography of his life isn’t yet available in the ebook format!

In September a young man named Kurdo Baksi will also publish another biography of Larsson’s life — titled “Stieg Larsson, My Friend.” (Though apparently it’s also available only in the hardcover format.) Still, it’s nice to see that in the middle of the book-publishing feeding frenzy, the author himself is receiving some genuine appreciation from the people who knew and remembered him. And now his loyal fans are discovering that Stieg Larsson has also led them into some new unexpected experiences.

I checked out the sample chapter of the short ebook biography, and was startled by the low quality of the writing. (“Starting in the late 1970’s, he combined his work as a graphic designer with holding lectures on right-wing extremism for the Scotland Yard.”) The sample seems to end in mid-sentence, and it was written by somebody named “SpaceLoops.” (Though it’s currently ranked #7,707 on Amazon’s list of paid ebooks — and #12 on Amazon’s list of journalist biographies, behind the autobiography of Barbara Walters.) But ultimately, at least the skimpy book led one reader to a good experience with Amazon’s customer service.

“Right after I posted the review above, I emailed Amazon customer service about my displeasure that this is offered as a legitimate Kindle selection and requested a refund which they promptly processed. Great service, Amazon!”

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson Kindle cover

My friend Patrick is a professional writer, and over the last 10 years he’s lovingly crafted several special and unusual stories which were eventually included in print-book collections. He’s settled into a cozy life of reading and writing, and he now eyes the Kindle very suspiciously. When Amazon announced their ebooks were outselling print books, Patrick was skeptical.

“Yeah, but those ebooks are all free,” he’d said quickly — maybe just a little too quickly. “All that proves is that Amazon gives away millions of free ebooks every day. And then they claim that that somehow proves their popularity over hardcover-format books…which you still have to pay for!” Patrick was very emphatic, and kept coming up with more challenges to the sales figures for ebooks. “Amazon’s statistics are rigged!” he continued. “Amazon deliberately leaves out paperback books for their calculations!”

I re-visited Amazon’s press release, which specifies that “Free Kindle books are excluded and if included would make the number even higher… Over the past month, for every 100 hardcover books Amazon.com has sold, it has sold 180 Kindle books.” But I still had to wonder. Did Amazon artificially lower the number of print-edition books that were sold, in order to claim ebooks were enjoying a greater popularity? I love my Kindle, so I’d had to ask myself: did I latch onto that statistic to justify my own excitement about this new way of reading? Or had Patrick rejected the statistic to justify his own personal biases? Your perspective is probably different if you’ve spent the last 10 years selling your own writing in printed books…

But the day we had that conversation, I discovered the Kindle had reached a milestone. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo had sold one million copies — the first ebook ever to do so. That’s not a free ebook. It retails for $7.14, and was an international best-seller. They’re even making a movie adaptation starring Daniel Craig (the actor who plays James Bond) as protagonist Mikael Blomkvist, after considering George Clooney, Johnny Depp, and Brad Pitt. I’d like to ask the book’s author, Stieg Larsson, what he thought of his new success — but unfortunately he died nearly six years ago. Ironically, he never saw a Kindle, and probably never even read an ebook.

But it turns out that Stieg’s Millenium Trilogy isn’t the only ebook that’s enjoying huge (paid) sales. PC World notes that two more authors “are quickly closing in” on the Kindle’s “million club” — Twilight author Stephenie Meyer, and James Patterson. Two other authors have already passed the 500,000 mark for sales — Charlaine Harris and Nora Roberts. And PC World speculates that actually, the first ebook with one million downloads may have been the free edition of a Sherlock Holmes mystery by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

But best of all, there’s another author who’s joined them in selling their ebooks — Patrick. Even though he’s skeptical about Amazon’s sales figures, my friend discovered that digital publishing surprisingly easy, so he’s decided to give it a try.

It all reminds me of one of my all-time favorite stories about the Kindle. Author David Sedaris was appearing at a New York City bookstore to read from his new book, “When You Are Engulfed in Flames.” The audience enjoyed the reading, and lined up afterwards for the traditional book-signing ritual. But one man, waiting patiently, had a surprise for Mr. Sedaris. The author looked up to see a smiling man named Marty, who wanted the author to autograph…his Kindle.

Sedaris thought for a moment, then smiled and took up his pen, and added a clever inscription.

“This bespells doom.”


Though I see now that even the book that Sedaris was promoting is available on the Kindle.

And click here if you’d like to read Stieg Larsson’s million-selling ebook, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

Or buy The Complete Sherlock Holmes for 99 cents.