Friday, August 15, 2014
George Orwell’s literary executor is accusing Amazon.com of doublespeak. In a letter published in the New York Times, Bill Hamilton criticized Amazon of “turning the facts inside out” by alleging that the British author urged publishers in the 1930s to stop the rise of paperbacks.
Amazon and Hachette Book Group have been entangled in a stalemate over terms for e-book sales, with Amazon removing pre-order buttons, reducing discounts and slowing deliveries for most Hachette releases. Amazon cited a 1936 Orwell essay in an effort to liken publishers’ objections to concerns about paperbacks in the 1930s. Orwell wrote, “The Penguin Books are splendid value for sixpence, so splendid that if the other publishers had any sense they would combine against them and suppress them.”
Famous for “1984” and “Animal Farm,” Amazon stated “George Orwell was suggesting collusion,” an allusion to the 2012 government lawsuit alleging that Apple and five publishers had conspired to raise e-book prices.
Yet, Hamilton and others say Amazon quoted Orwell out of context, and that his words were meant ironically. Orwell had been admiring new releases from Penguin, which had recently launched its famous line of paperbacks.
See Hillel Italie, Orwell Rep Accuses Amazon of Doublespeak, Philly.com, Aug. 14, 2014.