1984 is sold out in hardback & paperback at Amazon…but Kindleers can read it for free

1984 is sold out in hardback & paperback at Amazon…but Kindleers can read it for free

George Orwell’s

1984 (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

is currently “Temporarily out of stock” in hardback and paperback at Amazon, and that’s getting some media coverage.

It’s widely believed that the dystopian novel (written in 1948…which reportedly is why 1984 was chosen as the year of the future) sales’ spiked massively after people saw a parallel between a term used by a member of the President’s administration and the Orwellian term of “Newspeak”. I think it’s reasonable that there was a connection: there hasn’t been a new movie or TV adaptation, a big sale, a sequel, or a death related to it, all of which can cause an uptick in sales for a book.

So, given that there is also likely to be a waiting list at a public library for the p-book (paperbook), does that mean people can’t read it right now to get the perspective?

Thanks to e-books, the answer is no.

1984 is available as part of

Kindle Unlimited (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

which is Amazon’s subser (subscription service) for e-books. If someone is already a member (we’ve been happy members since it launched), they can read it as part of their $9.99 a month price (it has also been discounted from time to time) at no additional cost. If someone isn’t a member…they can get a trial membership, and could hypothetically cancel after reading 1984 and before the money came out the first time.

Do you have to own a Kindle?

Again, no.

There are free

Kindle reading apps (at AmazonSmile*)

for a multitude of devices.

This is important, and not just from a retail point of view.

I have talked about the legal market so far, but imagine that what we are talking about is a document in opposition to a totalitarian government (I say totalitarian because they tend to suppress the free exchange of information…most small “d” democratic countries allow the populace to buy books critical of the current government).

It is much easier to control the exchange of physical books than of e-books, as I wrote about roughly six and a half years ago in

Fahrenheit 111000011

There was a lot of concern expressed when Amazon removed copies of (ironically) 1984 from owners’ Kindles back in 2009, and which was the subject of one of my first posts in this blog (and one which got a mention from Stephen Windwalker (@Windwalkerhere) back then, perhaps helping spur interest in ILMK):

All’s Well That Orwells

People were afraid that e-books could mean that control of literature might be concentrated in very few (or even one) organization.

In that case, my understanding is that what happened was that a company that published the book for Australia, where it is in the public domain (no longer under copyright protection), did not intend it for the USA market (where it is still under copyright protection). Amazon accidentally made it available in the USA, and the e-tailer removed the copies which people had purchased.

Amazon CEO (Chief Executive Officer) called it “stupid” and customers were more than compensated for Amazon’s error.

Still, if Amazon decided not to sell that book or some other one, would that control the literature, affecting opposition thinking?

E-books can be illegally distributed pretty easily…I am not advocating that, of course, but it can be done. Those could be e-books of what was published in paper: someone could take a picture of each page, for example, and then “publish” that as a pdf.

What if a government shutdown all access to the internet, and outlawed every kind of electronic device?

Well, yes, that would hypothetically be possible, but would really impact their economic viability…even China doesn’t do that. Internet access in some countries is very limited, but people often still have electronic devices so hand-passed media would still be a distribution channel.

Would it be easier to make and distribute digital copies…or paper copies? I think that seems obvious…electronics could be done in a much simpler way.

This example of 1984 being easily available legally in e-book form right now and not available easily as a physical book is one example of the difference in distribution…and how it would be harder to suppress.

Two hundred years from now, it’s possible that p-books will have survived and e-books won’t have…but if your concern is the ability to spread information to affect a modern government right here and right now, e-books are going to be more effective.

Bonus deal: for a limited time, Amazon is giving a 10% discount when you buy two Fire tablets, and a 15% discount on two Fire cases:

Fire Tablet (at AmazonSmile*)

Some restrictions apply (although it appears to apply to all current models), and it may not apply in your country or still be in effect when you check…so do check that it is available (there should be a banner at the top of the page) before you check-out.

The deal currently is that you use a promo code of FIRE2PACK for the devices and CASE2PACK for the cases.

What do you think? How did people make the connection between what they heard in the news and an almost 60 year old science fiction novel? Are e-books harder to suppress than p-books? Is a bigger fear that a government would subtly alter a book, rather than censor it altogether? Has a current event ever prompted you to read an older book for perspective? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

All aboard our new The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

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22 Responses to “1984 is sold out in hardback & paperback at Amazon…but Kindleers can read it for free”

  1. Sharon K Says:

    Interesting. as soon as i finished reading, i looked for “A Handmaid’s Tail” on Amazon, as some have said they fear parallels with that novel. It was still available in all forms. I do think it would be harder to suppress ebooks, for many of the reasons you cite.

  2. Phink Says:

    I finally read 1984 last year. I have heard my entire life stuff such as “We don’t need a big brother Government watching out for us.” However, I never knew where that came from. I know now.

    • Allie D. Says:

      The source of the name for the show “Big Brother”, I guess.. ?

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Allie!

        Yes, definitely…it’s the surveillance state concept. Without 1984, the show might have been called “Nanny State”, I guess. 🙂

      • Allie D. Says:

        I hadn’t seen it, so I wasn’t sure. Just going by the name.

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Allie!

        Makes sense. 🙂 The basic concept is that a group of strangers lives together in a house…constantly under surveillance. The weekly show is edited down to usually an hour, but people can tune into the house any time they want through live feeds (but that costs more). There are competitions, and “the house” (the people) vote people out. It’s more complicated than that, but that’s the basic idea.

        As with Survivor, the “casts” used to be more diverse…now they tend to all be physically fit and/or younger.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Phink!

      Interesting! “Big Brother” is one of those references that I would have assumed most people know, but that would have been silly on my part. I suppose 100 years from now, people may say, “May the Force be with you” without realizing that it references Star Wars, or “May the odds be ever in your favor” without knowing The Hunger Games…I would guess the latter is more likely, since it could logically fit many situations.

  3. Phink Says:

    I saw a special where even North Korea, one of the most oppressive places on Earth, has illegal movies all over the country. Well, maybe not all over but they are there and people huddle in their homes and watch them illegally but being very careful because if a neighbor hears and turns them in then they are in big trouble. Unless technology crumbles then we are in an age where it is very difficult for a Government to keep media out of the hands of quite a few.

    I never thought about it but I would think a future dictator might want to purposely destroy all electronics (an EMT bomb maybe) and of course blame it on whatever boogie man they have created. All dictators must have a boogie man you know. We also learned that in 1984 and life itself.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Phink!

      You could write the story of a dictator using an EMP (electromagnetic pulse), and publish through Kindle. 🙂 I don’t think that would be a successful strategy, though. First, it would pretty much destroy their own economy. Second, new devices would flood over the border. Also, in the future, my guess is that devices will be less vulnerable to an EMP, but there could be something that was effective in the initial destruction, of course.

      The original The Outer Limits has a great episode (with the incomparable Robert Culp) called The Architects of Fear, which fits with your last postulate very well…worth watching.

      https://www.justwatch.com/us/tv-show/the-outer-limits

  4. Man in the Middle Says:

    The 1984 deletion episode illustrates the benefits of making off-line backups of downloaded books, over just HOPING no one tampers with them. Amazon only had that one issue, and hasn’t had any others since, so far as I know.

    I find the current controversy about 1984 interesting, in that those now wanting to read it seem to have thoughts opposite to its author about the problem it discusses.

    George Orwell, though a Socialist himself, saw the problems possible in unhindered Socialism – especially in how it was then being implemented in Russia.

    Thus, it is interesting to see folks now trying to prove its message is the opposite. For anyone still unclear on the concept, like Atlas Shrugged and Animal Farm, 1984 was intended to be a cautionary tale, not a “how to” manual.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Man!

      Hm…I wouldn’t have thought that anyone was wanting to read the book as a “how to”, but maybe that just didn’t occur to me. I would have assumed that everyone knew it was a warning and criticism, but you could be quite right for some people.

  5. alanchurch Says:

    Bufo, a rare omission on you part. You neglected to point out that the e-book is available for sale too, for$8.99. All your regular readers would assume this, but the people I might send your post to would not, and the point I would want to make to them is that they can buy and read kindle books without a kindle, and they would probably need it pointed out so they wouldn’t think they had to sign up for a subser to read the ebook.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, alanchurch!

      I wasn’t considering that an omission, since I pointed out that they could sign up, read it, and then cancel before they got charged. I suppose people might not want to sign up for something, giving that people looking for it might be more cautious about sharing their information…but this is with Amazon, which already has their information. 🙂

      I would say your comment is a good addition. 😉

  6. Lady Galaxy Says:

    It’s funny how we find our way to books. I majored in both English and Art in HS. The art teacher assigned one book report per term. He gave out a list of books he recommended, but we were free to choose any book. One of the books on his list was [i]The Fountainhead[/i], by Ayn Rand. I read and enjoyed that one. I then went on to read the rest of Rand’s books including [i]Anthem[/i], a book about a world where first person singular pronouns had been forbidden. [i]Anthem[/i] was my “gateway” book into the world of dystopia. It led me to other dystopian books like [i]1984[/i] and [i]Brave New World[/i]. I then branched out to [i]On The Beach[/i] and [i]Alas, Babylon,[/i] a book that I later chose as part of the curriculum for the “book analysis” module when I began teaching a writing class for college bound seniors hoping it would prove to be a “gateway” book for my students. Of course, some of them loved it, some of them hated it, most of them endured it. But for a few, it led them to [i]1984[/i] and beyond.

    • Lady Galaxy Says:

      It’s funny how we find our way to books. I majored in both English and Art in HS. The art teacher assigned one book report per term. He gave out a list of books he recommended, but we were free to choose any book. One of the books on his list was The Fountainhead, by Ayn Rand. I read and enjoyed that one. I then went on to read the rest of Rand’s books including Anthem, a book about a world where first person singular pronouns had been forbidden. Anthem was my “gateway” book into the world of dystopia. It led me to other dystopian books like 1984 and Brave New World. I then branched out to On The Beach and Alas, Babylon, a book that I later chose as part of the curriculum for the “book analysis” module when I began teaching a writing class for college bound seniors hoping it would prove to be a “gateway” book for my students. Of course, some of them loved it, some of them hated it, most of them endured it. But for a few, it led them to 1984 and beyond.

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Lady!

        Interestingly, I read Anthem for the first time within the last couple of years. I had read the other four books which you mention prior. 🙂 If you haven’t read This Perfect Day by Ira Levin, I think you’d enjoy it. 🙂

        https://ilmk.wordpress.com/2013/03/22/review-this-perfect-day/

      • Lady Galaxy Says:

        I read This Perfect Day when it first came out. I think I still have my copy of it somewhere. Another less widely known “post apocalyptic” book is “War Day” by Whitley Strieber and James Kunetka.I just checked, and it’s currently $3.99 for the Kindle version. My “hardback” copy cost $15.95 when it was published back in 1984.

        And changing topics, but thought you’d want to know that the ability for commenters to see our own comments that haven’t been “approved” yet has suddenly reappeared after being missing for about a year.

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Lady!

        I remember when War Day came out. 🙂 I’ve been in the same room as Whitley Strieber, but we haven’t met. I have read some books by Strieber…War Day not amongst them at this point, but I might read it later.

        Good to hear about the price differential! I just checked, and this also ties into a post I’ve written since your comment…it’s available in a Kindle edition, but not available new as a printed book directly from Amazon.

        I didn’t realize that about the comments…thanks for letting me know!

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