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April 18, 2019, 8:39 p.m. EDT

Amazon’s audiobook of the Mueller report has an Orwellian price tag of $19.84

The price for one version of the audiobook for Audible members appears to be a pointed jab at President Trump and an allusion to George Orwell’s ‘1984’

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By Quentin Fottrell, MarketWatch , Andrew Keshner


MarketWatch photo illustration/Getty Images
President Trump has said The Washington Post, which is owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos ‘ignored basic journalistic standards because it wanted to advance its well-known and easily documented biased agenda against President Donald J. Trump.’

Publishers are hoping that the Mueller report is going to be a mass market and, perhaps, salacious read. So, it seems, does Amazon founder and chief executive, Jeff Bezos.

Robert Mueller, special counsel to the U.S. Department of Justice, spent two years researching and writing the report, entitled “Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election.” The world has been eagerly awaiting his findings.

The report was released at 11 a.m. Thursday. Attorney General William Barr delivered the report with “limited redactions” to heads of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees. Amazon’s Audible unit will sell one audio version of the book “presented with related materials by the Washington Post” for $19.84, a discounted price from $28.34 for Audible members.

That pointed price tag appears to be a reference to George Orwell’s seminal novel, “1984,” a dystopian tale that introduced the world to terms like “doublespeak,” which became shorthand for the coded language of authoritarian governments.

Amazon’s Audible unit will sell one version of the book for $19.84 or one credit for Audible members. That pointed price tag appears to be a reference to George Orwell’s seminal novel, ‘1984.’

The Post’s edition of the Mueller Report comes with “ exclusive analysis by the Pulitzer Prize-winning staff of The Washington Post,” and an introduction entitled “A President, a Prosecutor, and the Protection of American Democracy.” It’s one of several versions of the Mueller report available for pre-order on Amazon. The one listed as the best seller as of Thursday was a $7.99 Kindle edition with an introduction by famed lawyer Alan Dershowitz.

So was the $19.84 price tag an intentional jab at Trump? “That’s pure coincidence,” Lauren Pires, assistant director of marketing and publicity at Simon & Schuster Audio, a division of CBS Corp. /zigman2/quotes/200340870/delayed CBS -0.14% , which is producing the audiobook, told MarketWatch. (A spokeswoman for The Washington Post said the paper has no role in the pricing.)

The themes from Orwell’s “1984” still echo. Audible touts the Mueller report as essential reading “about the fate of the presidency and the future of our democracy.” Trump has repeatedly called the mainstream press “fake news.” Bezos bought The Washington Post in 2013 for $250 million.

The Mueller Report in paperback form is already a No. 1 pre-order best seller in Amazon’s /zigman2/quotes/210331248/delayed AMZN -0.54% “nationalism” and “history & theory of politics” sections. Barnes & Noble /zigman2/quotes/202392098/delayed BKS -3.21%  will release the report for free on its e-reader Nook. You can also read it here.

Three publishers — Simon & Schuster’s Scribner imprint, Melville House and Skyhorse Publishing — will publish the Mueller report. The latter said it would have an initial print run of 200,000 copies, according to The Wall Street Journal . (Amazon and Audible did not respond to comment.)

The report has two sections. One details the lack of collusion between President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russian-backed efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. Presidential election. The other section details the question of whether the Trump campaign engaged in obstruction of justice.

Mueller made no recommendations on charges. Barr said “the president was frustrated and angered by his sincere belief the investigation was undermining his presidency.” Ahead of the report’s release Thursday, Trump tweeted a “Game of Thrones”-stye photo saying, “ Game Over.

Don’t miss: ‘No collusion’ — here are Barr’s full remarks on the release of the Mueller report

Other government reports have been widely read, including as Special Counsel Ken Starr’s investigation of President Bill Clinton over his affair with former White House intern Monica Lewinksy ( currently available for $4.19 ) and the 9/11 Report on the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Bezos and Trump have been at odds throughout his presidency. In February, Trump encouraged a student from Covington Catholic High School, who filed a $250 million lawsuit against The Washington Post, tweeting, “Covington student suing WAPO. Go get them Nick. Fake News!”

The student, Nicholas Sandmann, was filmed in a confrontation in Washington last January with a 64-year-old Native American, Nathan Phillips; the student’s attorneys say the newspaper led a “mob of bullies which attacked, vilified & threatened” an innocent 16-year-old school kid.

Trump alleged the newspaper’s coverage of that event was designed to damage his presidency. “The Washington Post ignored basic journalistic standards because it wanted to advance its well-known and easily documented biased agenda against President Donald J. Trump,” he tweeted .

In 2017, when special adviser to Trump Kellyanne Conway cited ‘alternative facts,’ Orwell’s novel went straight to No. 1 on Amazon’s best seller list.

In January 2017, when special adviser to Trump Kellyanne Conway cited “alternative facts,” Orwell’s novel went straight to No. 1 on Amazon’s fiction best seller list. Penguin reprinted 75,000 copies of the book in the days following Conway’s remarks.

The phrase “alternative facts” went viral after Kellyanne Conway, special adviser to President Donald Trump, and Chuck Todd, host of NBC’s /zigman2/quotes/209472081/delayed CMCSA -1.75% , “Meet the Press,” discussed the size of the crowds at Trump’s inauguration on Jan. 20, 2017.

The novel, first published in 1949 as “nineteen eighty-four,” is set in Airstrip One, formerly the U.K. and a province of a superstate that includes North and South America, Australia and parts of Africa. It depicts a dystopian society immersed in war, overseen by Big Brother and society’s elite.

In ‘1984,’ Orwell writes, “He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.” Critics have also pointed out that the plot bears much resemblance to that of Russian writer Yevgeny Zamyatin’s “We,” published in English in 1924.

“Orwell’s great obsession, from his observations of Stalinist distortions in the Spanish Civil War to the time of his lingering illness, was the distortion and abuse of the English language,” Paul Kennedy, a director of international security studies at Yale University, told MarketWatch.

Amazon shares are up 24% year-to-date compared to 14% for the Dow Jones Industrial Index /zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime DJIA -0.33%  and 15.9% for the S&P 500 /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX -0.67%  over the same period.

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Quentin Fottrell is MarketWatch's personal-finance editor and The Moneyist columnist for MarketWatch. You can follow him on Twitter @quantanamo. Andrew Keshner is a personal finance reporter based in New York.

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