Amazon invokes George Orwell in ebooks pricing slap fight

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Amazon Invokes George Orwell In Ebooks Pricing Slap Fight

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.

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Amazon invokes George Orwell in ebooks pricing slap fight
FILE - In this May 29, 2014 file photo, visitors walk through the Hachette Book Group's exhibition at BookExpo America, the annual industry convention in New York. Stephen King, Nora Roberts and Robert Caro are among the hundreds of authors who have added their names to an online letter criticizing Amazon.com for restricting access to works published by Hachette Book Group. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)
FILE - In this Nov. 13, 2013 file photo, author Stephen King poses for the photos prior to an autograph session during a promotional tour in France for his last book "Doctor Sleep" at a library in Paris. King, Nora Roberts and Robert Caro are among the hundreds of authors who have added their names to an online letter criticizing Amazon.com for restricting access to works published by Hachette Book Group. (AP Photo/Francois Mori, File)
FILE - This Oct. 16, 2012 file photo shows author J.K. Rowling at an appearance to promote her latest book "The Casual Vacancy," at The David H. Koch Theater in New York. Rowling has added a subtle comment under her pen name Robert Galbraith about the standoff between her publisher and Amazon.com. Amazon is in a contract dispute with Rowling’s U.S. publisher, Hachette Book Group, and is not accepting pre-orders for “The Silkworm” and other Hachette releases. (Photo by Dan Hallman/Invision/AP, File)
FILE - In this Aug. 20, 2008 file photo, author and biographer Robert Allan Caro smiles during an interview in New York. Caro, Stephen King and Nora Roberts are among the hundreds of authors who have added their names to an online letter criticizing Amazon.com for restricting access to works published by Hachette Book Group.(AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, file)
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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.
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