Go to the iBooks store on your Apple device and notice a curious thing: George Orwell’s picture dominates the front page. He is the first author featured in the store today.
Unlike the other authors and titles featured, Orwell isn’t contemporary. Next in line after Orwell is Lois Lowry’s The Giver, which came out as a feature film on August 15. The following feature is Sandra Brown’s Mean Streak, out August 19. The list goes on.
The only reason Orwell is relevant right now is because of Amazon, Apple’s toughest rival in the ebook retail market. On August 9, Amazon launched ReadersUnited.com, a website telling its side of the Amazon-Hachette contract dispute. In it, the company invoked George Orwell, alleging that he was against the innovation of paperback books and suggested in his time that publishers collude to stop their rise:
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.
In a letter to the New York Times two days later, responding to a piece that pointed out that Amazon may have quoted Orwell out of context, Bill Hamilton, a literary agent and the executor of the Orwell estate, accused Amazon of “doublespeak”:
This is about as close as one can get to the Ministry of Truth and its doublespeak: turning the facts inside out to get a piece of propaganda across.
Here, again, Apple gets cheeky. From the company’s author description on its Orwell feature page (emphasis added):
The cultural impact of Nineteen Eighty-Four remains particularly profound, introducing such concepts as Big Brother, the Thought Police, and doublespeak, referring to cloaking the true meaning of words to spread propaganda.
Some have disputed Hamilton’s interpretation of Orwell’s original meaning, saying Amazon was initially in the right. The reference is still clear. Apple has not yet returned request for comment.