1984 is sold out in hardback & paperback at Amazon…but Kindleers can read it for free
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
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?
There are free
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
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):
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:
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.
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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.