Upping its circulation from 60,000 to 5 million, the satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo quickly sold out across Parisian newsstands on Wednesday when it released its first issue since a terrorist attack killed 11 of its staffers and a police office guarding the publication. The attack gave the magazine sudden global notoriety, especially here, where the Washington Post has been running copies of Charlie Hebdo’s controversy-stoking artwork and images of its latest front page, which depicts the prophet Muhammed holding up a sign reading “Je suis Charlie.”
But anyone who wants an actual copy of the eight-page publication will need to be expeditious about it over the next few days. The entire United States is only getting 300 copies out of Charlie Hebdo’s initial print run of 3 million, with small batches being distributed in New York, Washington, California, and a few other pockets with a large number of French speakers, according to Martin McEwan, a vice president at Montreal-based LPNI, which distributes the magazine in North America. Charlie Hebdo hasn’t been distributed in the US since 2010, and its typical North American exposure is just 100 copies shipped to Quebec every week.
McEwan says he’s “hoping for a heavy up over the weekend” when Charlie Hebdo prints an additional 2 million copies, but for now, he only expects the Washington market to get 30 copies out of the initial pressing. Most of that batch appears destined for The Newsroom, a newsstand and deli a few blocks north of Dupont Circle, although a store employee tells Washingtonian he does not know exactly when Charlie Hebdo will be on its racks. LPNI expects its 300 US-bound copies to arrive Thursday and will then ship a portion of those to Southwest Distribution, a magazine and newspaper wholesaler that distributes periodicals in the Washington area.
If the magazines arrive in DC on Friday, they will most likely go on sale Monday, says Southwest Distribution’s Himali Perera, though it is still unclear how much copies will cost. (Charlie Hebdo sells for two euros in France.) Perera says other area stores that sell foreign publications have also requested copies.
Even though Charlie Hebdo’s newest cover is again attracting condemnation from Muslim leaders for its visualization of Muhammed, which is prohibited by Islamic law no matter how tastefully drawn, Perera says there is no hesitation in distributing the magazine because of the reasons why it is now a household name.
“This is why people are buying it,” she says.
Find Benjamin Freed on Twitter at @brfreed.