June 13, 2013

NSA revelations lead to sales spike for Orwell’s ‘1984’

George Orwell’s dystopian classic has seen sales surge since revelations that the NSA has been secretly collecting phone and internet data.

News that the government has been secretly collecting electronic information has created an unexpected boom for print products, or at least one in particular.

Sales of George Orwell’s dystopian classic “1984” have skyrocketed after last week’s revelations that the National Security Agency has been collecting data from Verizon about domestic and foreign calls and harvesting large amounts of data about Internet users from major tech companies such as Google, Facebook and Yahoo.

On Thursday, two editions of the novel were in the top 30 of the

Amazon Movers and Shakers list, which tracks books with the highest sales gains in the previous 24 hours. Now one edition has hit No. 67 on the Amazon sales ranking, up almost 100 percent in a day. That’s a sizable jump to be sure, but earlier in the week that edition’s sales jumped almost 10,000 percent, according to CNNMoney


Orwell’s 1949 classic, a perennial favorite among high school teachers, describes the life of a man living in a post-war authoritarian state who embarks on a forbidden romance. “1984,” though, has always been more popular as a cultural touchstone than for its plot, and the novel has coined the widespread use of terms such as Big Brother, doublethink, Orwellian and Thought Police.

In describing a world where surveillance is everywhere and even the televisions are a means for the government to spy on ordinary people, the novel has obviously struck a chord with people after the NSA revelations. And though there are clear differences between the NSA surveillance and the sort of totalitarian world described by the Orwell, his biographer Michael Shelden told


that “throwing out such a broad net of surveillance is exactly the kind of threat Orwell feared.”

A new-found appreciation for Orwell in the U.S. has also had ripples across the pond. “1984” stood at No. 48 on Tuesday on the Amazon best-seller list in the U.K. And his novel “Animal Farm,” an allegory about the rise of communism featuring a dictatorial pig, has jumped more than 200 spots on the list since Wednesday.

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