On the Books: Orwell estate swings back at Amazon

george-orwell

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Bill Hamilton, literary executor of George Orwell’s estate, penned a scathing letter to the editor  in yesterday’s New York Times criticizing Amazon’s misrepresentation of the author in a message the online giant posted on ReadersUnited.com last week. The letter was intended to defend Amazon’s position in its ongoing conflict with publisher Hachette over e-book prices, but Amazon’s choice of words has backfired in an ironic way.

In comparing its current e-book pricing standoff to the resistance Penguin Books faced with the introduction of inexpensive paperback books in the 1930s, Amazon quoted George Orwell “out of context as supporting a campaign to suppress paperbacks,” Hamilton wrote. Hamilton likened Amazon’s subversion of the truth to the propaganda tactics employed by the authoritarian government in Orwell’s famed dystopian novel, 1984.

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,” wrote Hamilton. “It doesn’t say much for Amazon’s regard for truth, or its powers of literary understanding. [NPR]

Online book boutique venture Best Little Bookshop launched a beta version of its storefront this week, announcing that publishers will be able to begin selling books directly to customers in 100-plus countries within the coming weeks.

The retailer intends to bring a different kind of book-shopping experience to the web, offering personalized expertise to customers in the hopes of bringing “a human touch to book buying that is sorely missing online,” explained founder Kieron Smith. Smith, former CEO of the U.K.’s Amazon-owned Book Depository, adds that although the store will offer competitive prices, “we don’t want to encourage a race to the bottom”— standing in clear opposition to Amazon’s current price-paring business model. [The Bookseller]

The Smithsonian Institution is enlisting the public’s help in transcribing old texts, including personal correspondences, business ledgers, diaries, field notes, manuscripts, scientific records and dictionaries from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.

The online transcription center is intended to crowdsource the millions of pages of documents in the Smithsonian’s collections that have already been digitized, but are too faded or irregular to be deciphered by computer transcribing software. The project will vastly expand the Smithsonian’s digital library, improving research resources for scholars and the public alike. The Smithsonian said in a press release that otherwise, it would take their staff several decades to transcribe all the documents. [ArtsBeat]

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