Orwell’s ‘1984’ Soars on Amazon After NSA Surveillance Reports

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Sales of George Orwell’s novel “1984,” featuring a futuristic totalitarian state, jumped on Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN)’s website following reports of a classified program that lets the U.S. government collect personal data.

One edition of the book, which was originally published in 1949, moved to the No. 3 spot on Amazon’s Movers & Shakers list, which tracks dramatic increases in sales volume over a 24-hour period. That made it the 100th-best-selling book on the site late yesterday, an increase from its previous rank of 11,855.

The sales gains come after the revelation of a top-secret electronic-surveillance program that allows the National Security Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to access data from audio and video chats, photographs, e-mails, documents and connection logs from the biggest U.S. Internet companies. The Washington Post and the U.K.-based Guardian reported the program’s existence last week.

Orwell’s novel portrays a dystopian society where individuals are monitored through ubiquitous television screens and overseen by a leader called Big Brother.

Barnes & Noble Inc. (BKS) has seen a “significant spike in sales recently as government surveillance and Orwell have been paired in the news,” even though the book is consistently a top seller, said Patricia Bostelman, vice president of marketing at the bookseller.

The U.S. government program, code-named PRISM, traces its roots to warrantless domestic-surveillance efforts under former President George W. Bush. The companies include Microsoft Corp., Google Inc., Facebook Inc (FB)., Apple Inc. and Yahoo! Inc., the Post report said, citing a slide presentation.

Multiple Editions

On Amazon, another publication of “1984” jumped to 179th from 626th, while a separate edition including “Animal Farm” - - another Orwell work -- along with “1984” reached 228th on the list, up from 656th.

At the Strand Book Store in New York, sales of the novel have increased more than 50 percent from an average of about 12 copies a week, according to Carson Moss, a buyer for the store. He attributed the increase to the reports of NSA spying as well as the prospect that the book was included on schools’ summer-reading lists.

None of the booksellers disclose statistics on who is buying the books.

To contact the reporter on this story: Danielle Kucera in San Francisco at dkucera6@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Tom Giles at tgiles5@bloomberg.net

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