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?
It kind of seems like this whole thing with the lawsuit over price-fixing of ebooks has just been blowing about in the ether lately. I found a small update today, though. From this post at the Guardian:
Apple and five major book publishers have failed to persuade a US judge to throw out a lawsuit by consumers accusing them of conspiring to raise electronic book prices two years ago. …
HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster and Hachette reached settlements, while Apple and two of the publishers, Macmillan and Penguin, said in court last month they want to go to trial to defend themselves against the government charges.
So the only real update I’ve heard so far is that they won’t be throwing the case out. It sounds like HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster and Hachette must have had to pay a fine, while Apple, Macmillan, and Penguin want to go to trial. The end result of that trial will be fairly important for the publishing industry. This article on The Atlantic does a good job of explaining the whole thing: Confused By the eBook Lawsuit? So Is Everyone Else
On one hand, it appears that the publishers who were involved with this alleged price fixing were breaking the law insofar as that you’re not supposed to team up with your competitors to decide on industry-wide prices. On the other hand, they were attempting to prevent Amazon from becoming an ebook monopoly. I’m no lawyer and I don’t really understand all of the technical details of this stuff, but it will certainly be interesting to see what happens in this trial.
I think that if I were running a big publishing company, I would just try to sell my books at the same price at each store, and then let the customer decide which store and ebook platform they wanted to use. That kind of thing shouldn’t be so difficult, and I hope that in the end things will be simpler for the consumer.