George Orwell

Amazon Conjures Orwellian Oceania

Amazon seemingly has the pulse of everything, except for the views of George Orwell. Amazon's misquote offers a useful Orwellian lesson in citing authorities accurately.

Locked in a battle with book publisher Hachette and a host of well-known writers, Amazon is appealing to consumers to take its side. Amazon has scratched e-books published by Hachette from its online shelves, claiming it is trying to preserve the best value for its reader-customers. Hachette and members of Authors United counter that Amazon is flexing its muscle to seize more profit from book sales at the expense of booksellers, publishers and authors.

In addition to suggesting talking points for its supportive reader-consumers, Amazon cited Orwell, author of Nineteen Eighty-four that described a world where people were convicted of thought crimes. The behemoth quoted Orwell as urging publishers to suppress paperbacks.

The quotation may have been more telling than Amazon's writers realized. In the superstate of Oceania, the Ministry of Truth was charged with rewriting past newspaper articles. What Orwell actually said was that the advent of paperback books was a boon for readers, but not so good for publishers. "The cheaper books become," Orwell said, "the less money is spent on books." He added, readers could use the savings to buy two tickets to the movies.