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Amazon invokes George Orwell in ebooks pricing slap fight

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.

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.

Join the discussion

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tornekrayville August 10 2014 at 10:05 PM

First typewriters and now books. I sense a pattern here.

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jack August 10 2014 at 3:23 PM

the simple fact is...hatchette wants ebook prices at a higher price...above 9.99...amazon wants it under 9.99..i go for lower prices any day...plus it is beneficial to the author and is proven that he will make more profits if the price stays lower...

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4 replies
mjr15 August 10 2014 at 3:34 PM

Colbert is nailing Amazon in an effective manner. Very funny stuff AND makes a good point.

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cigarpal August 10 2014 at 5:07 PM

Amazon just sucks, no matter how you slice it.

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1 reply
ADAM ANTMAN cigarpal August 11 2014 at 1:25 AM

Amazon doesn't have to worry about a rebuttal from Orwell. He died in 1949.

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Patricia,,,,, August 10 2014 at 6:06 PM

I dislike this company they could care less about their customers....They will only let you make comments about them if you say good things about them even if it's not true....As they did with my post

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2 replies
coffeetime9 Patricia,,,,, August 11 2014 at 4:31 AM

I disagree with you. Amazon has always resolved any problems I have encountered to my full satisfaction!

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allenplumbing Patricia,,,,, August 11 2014 at 8:33 AM

I agree, coffeetime9. Amazon treats customers very well indeed.

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eltrip August 10 2014 at 6:31 PM

Nice to see Amazon hoisted on their own petard... Very few deserve it more.

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alfredschrader August 10 2014 at 5:00 PM

Jeff Bezos is a genius.

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beatsynthesis August 11 2014 at 1:33 AM

Looks like Amazon won this battle of ideas. AOL/Huffington Post hacks are so illiterate, they do not even understand logic and rhetoric. I have cancelled my paid AOL account. Too much stupidity from AOL/Huffington Post.

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deviantstep August 11 2014 at 1:40 AM

Amazon is the greatest. Ebay is almost as great. These two companies have brought common people lower priced items and cut out government racketeers. Amazon has made its detractors seem like morons, again. Well done.
Amazon Prime, Forever!

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1 reply
m.young38 deviantstep August 11 2014 at 2:58 AM

Ebay use to be awesome and I do still buy from ebay occassionally, but ebay has made changes in favor of the seller to much the last 5-6 years and my trust in them has lapsed and I am using amazon much more often than I use to. Amazon usually has as good or better pricing and free shipping on lots of items.

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lili August 11 2014 at 2:14 AM

well, it looks like I will stop buying books for kindle and start buying books through ibooks. It will cost a bit more.But will be worth it considering how Amazon is behaving. Mty money = my voice

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2 replies
m.young38 lili August 11 2014 at 2:58 AM

what is Ibooks

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m.young38 lili August 11 2014 at 2:59 AM

never mind I have an android not an iphone

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