Sales of the George Orwell Classic Nineteen Eighty-Four Soar

Big Brother is watching you - and now everyone wants to know why.

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An edition of "1984" by George Orwell, right, is displayed among other Penguin books, part of Pearson Plc, at a bookstore in London, U.K., on Friday, April 5, 2013.

The unfolding story of the National Security Agency’s surveillance program has catapulted privacy rights back into public discussion, as well as sales of the classic 1949 dystopian novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four. The book had jumped in sales 292% as of 6:30p.m. ET Tuesday, making Amazon’s “Movers and Shakers” list and ranking no. 209 versus no. 821 a day ago.

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Last Friday, President Obama referenced the novel in his defense of the program, PRISM, which might have caused a surge in sales of the George Orwell novel, as NPR reports. “In the abstract, you can complain about Big Brother and how this is a potential program run amok,” Obama said. “But when you actually look at the details, then I think we’ve struck the right balance.”

The phrase “Big Brother” was coined in Nineteen Eighty-Four, which describes a totalitarian surveillance state in the future. The book, which celebrated its 64th anniversary on June 8, brought terms like “Big Brother” and “Orwellian” into the mainstream to describe police states and secret surveillance. As more information is revealed about the U.S. government’s far-reaching net of surveillance data, readers are curious to learn how closely it parallels the 64-year-old book.

This isn’t the first time a news event has sparked a surge in novel sales. As the Los Angeles Times reports, the 2008 bank bailout spurred sales of Ayn Rand’s 1957 classic, Atlas Shrugged. 

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