[Amazon] argues that people against e-books are against the future, and talks about how the book industry hated cheap paperbacks when they were introduced in the 1930s, and said they would ruin the business when they really rejuvenated it.(via Dispute Between Amazon and Hachette Takes an Orwellian Turn - NYTimes.com)
Unfortunately, to clinch its argument it cites the wrong authority:
“The famous author George Orwell came out publicly and said about the new paperback format, if ‘publishers had any sense, they would combine against them and suppress them.’ Yes, George Orwell was suggesting collusion.”
Could the Amazon Books Team, which is credited as the source of this post, have really written this? Because a moment’s Googling would have revealed that the team is misrepresenting this “famous author.”
First, when Orwell wrote that line, he was celebrating Penguin paperbacks, not urging suppression or collusion. Does Amazon, which early in its e-book days made copies of “1984″ vanish from Kindles after discovering it did not own the rights, really think George Orwell — of all people! — would want to suppress books?
Here is what the writer said in the New English Weekly on March 5, 1936: “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.” Get it? He liked them.
But Orwell then went on to undermine Amazon’s argument much more effectively than Hachette ever has. “It is of course a great mistake to imagine that cheap books are good for the book trade,” he wrote. “Actually it is just the other way about … The cheaper books become, the less money is spent on books.”
I hate Amazon, and I can’t believe anyone who read this Times article could come to a different conclusion. Amazon hates us right back. This is a criminally stupid thing for them to do when they’re trying to portray themselves as the guardians of future publishing and retailing. They deliberately misquote Orwell! The word one would usually use to describe that kind of misquotation is, of course, “Orwellian”. Then again! Amazon is so stupid they think they need to tell readers that Orwell is a “famous writer”.
I hate Amazon.