Ray Bradbury’s classic dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451 has recently been released as an ebook by Simon & Schuster (available online Fahrenheit 451 ebook). The novel is about a future in which most books have been burned in order to keep the public “happy”. A world without books and the resulting lack of readily available knowledge and history is bleak indeed.
Ray Bradbury himself was against ebooks at first, saying that they were too distracting. From this article at The Guardian:
“In the past Bradbury has said that ebooks ‘smell like burned fuel’, telling the New York Times in 2009 that ‘the internet is a big distraction’. In an interview … he told the paper that he had been contacted by Yahoo eight weeks earlier. ‘They wanted to put a book of mine on Yahoo! You know what I told them? To hell with you. To hell with you and to hell with the internet. It’s distracting. It’s meaningless; it’s not real. It’s in the air somewhere.’
But the author has now been convinced otherwise, with his American publisher Simon & Schuster announcing that it was releasing the first ever ebook of Fahrenheit 451, a novel which has sold more than 10m copies since it was first published in 1953 and in which Bradbury predicts a dystopian future where books are burned and reading banned.”
I’m glad that we don’t live in a future like that described in Fahrenheit 451 and I think that digital books and the internet in general will make it very hard, if not impossible, for the government to ever truly ban books or other reading material. When I read this book back in middle school, I visualized police overseeing large piles of burning books in the middle of town squares, while people looked on with blank expressions. I wonder what would happen if anyone ever tried to burn a pile of e-readers. The resulting melted pile of plastic would surely be enough of a mess that the government would have to find some other way to destroy books. Maybe that’s why Bradbury imagined that ebooks smelled like burned fuel?