Sales of '1984' Spike Amid NSA Spying Scandal

By: USA TODAY Email
By: USA TODAY Email

USA TODAYThe revelations about government surveillance have introduced a new generation of readers to Nineteen Eighty-Four, as sales of George Orwell's dystopian classic soar.

Sales of the "centennial edition" on Amazon.com had skyrocketed more than 5,800% as of Tuesday night. The novel that introduced the world to the all-seeing, all-knowing "Big Brother" had climbed from No. 7,397 to No. 125 on Amazon's best-seller list, the fifth-best performance.

Sales of the "Signet Classics" edition had risen 287% -- moving from 810 to 209 and rounding out the top 20.

Barnes & Nobles has also seen a "significant spike in sales" of the book, which is a perennial top seller, a company executive told Bloomberg.

The book was published 64 years ago Saturday.

A book buyer for the Strand Book Store in New York reported a 50% increase in sales (from an average of about 12 copies a week). In addition to the reports of snooping by U.S. intelligence services, he said interest may also be driven by the novel's inclusion on schools' summer reading lists.

Several 1984 newbies on Amazon opined, "This should be required reading in high school." (News flash: "Back in the day" it was ...)

The New Yorker magazine asks the big question, "So Are We Living in 1984?"

[W]hat will all the new readers and rereaders of Orwell's classic find when their copy arrives? Is Obama Big Brother, at once omnipresent and opaque? And are we doomed to either submit to the safety of unthinking orthodoxy or endure re-education and face what horrors lie within the dreaded Room 101?

In an interview about his leaks to the Guardian newspaper, former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden "could be channelling the novel's narrator" — Winston Smith, who works in the Ministry of Truth — "or at least delivering a spirited synopsis of the book," the New Yorker writer says.

Despite its rapid rise, however, the novel is eating the sales dust from other offerings, including Bill O'Reilly's look at the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, a doctor's promotion of stem cell nutrition and an account of a 2006 coal mine explosion in Mexico.


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