Amazon Invokes George Orwell In Ebooks Pricing Slap Fight

Amazon misquoted author George Orwell in its latest message concerning pricing disputes with publisher Hachette.

Amazon Invokes George Orwell In Ebooks Pricing Slap Fight
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Amazon is bringing in backup to help the company make its case against publisher Hachette in the ebook pricing battle: legendary author George Orwell. But, it appears the move didn't quite go as planned.

Overnight on Friday, Amazon published a strongly-worded letter to Readers United, a group it’s spearheading to get readers on its side.

The message draws comparisons to the dawn of the paperback, which undercut the hardback books of their time the same way eBooks are now.

To illustrate their point, the company used a quote from the late author George Orwell, who Amazon says once suggested collusion against paperbacks: "[If] publishers had any sense, they would combine against them and suppress them."

Strong words. The company goes on to argue that's exactly what Hachette is doing now. But over the weekend the media found a few holes in Amazon's argument.

First off, it appears Amazon missed part of Orwell’s quote. According to The New York Times, Orwell’s full line wasn’t an actual suggestion but was in fact praise for publisher Penguin’s paperbacks.

“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.”

Though a writer for Slate points out Orwell did once say the lower cost of books was an “anathema” to him as a writer —  a conclusion that also doesn’t exactly help Amazon’s case.

The Readers United post goes on to drop Hachette CEO Michael Pietsch’s email address and requests readers contact him directly to argue Amazon’s position.

Suggested talking points included but were not limited to warnings like, “We have noted your illegal collusion.”

The attempted enlistment is raising eyebrows across the web. To some, the move smacks of desperation.

It sounds almost like propaganda, says one contributor at Forbes. But “Amazon’s well-reasoned argument for the benefits of market disruption are grounded in fact. E-books are disrupting the publishing industry just as paperbacks did in their day.”

Still, a writer at TechCrunch says — if Amazon is going to drag Orwell into it, at least do it properly.

“Ostensibly, they have our interests (or at least an interest in our wallets) at heart. The least they can do is not insult the memory of great writers.”

Now it’s Hachette’s move. The publisher has yet to address Amazon’s latest initiative.

This video contains images from Getty Images.