This week, Simon & Schuster released the eBook version of Ray Bradbury’s classic novel Fahrenheit 451.
The famed 1953 dystopian classic about a future America in which people are ruled by electronic devices, reading is banned, and firefighters are ordered to set fires to burn books expressed Bradbury’s deep-seated belief at the time that society was heading down a bad path where people’s interest in literature and learning would eventually be replaced by television.
He wasn’t entirely wrong. That first part about our dependence on electronics has since come to fruition, as I’m not typing this article on a manual typewriter any more than you’re reading it from a piece of paper. But that’s the key difference: you’re still reading and so am I – avidly so. I wish this fact was what prompted Bradbury to finally change his mind about his extreme distaste for all electronic media, particularly his hatred of the internet, about which he was quoted in a 2009 NY Times article as saying, “It’s meaningless; it’s not real.”
The man is not terribly fond of eBooks, either. According to Bradbury’s agent, Michael Congdon, the rights for Fahrenheit 451 were expiring and due to the undeniable fact that the digital book market continues to grow, a deal that included eBooks was inevitable. Bradbury didn’t have much choice but to allow his books to be sent “in the air somewhere.”
At 91 years old, Ray Bradbury isn’t likely to relent in his opposition to machines-with-screens, but he should at least be happy that we’re still interested in reading. I don’t foresee a future in which eBook readers and laptops are destroyed in mass public stompings just because some group thinks a particular book should be banned, for even those who eschew literature are probably just as addicted to Facebook as the rest of us.
Following this week’s release of the eBook edition of Fahrenheit 451, Simon & Schuster will also publish a new trade paperback edition on January 10, 2012. The mass market editions of Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles and The Illustrated Man will go on sale in March 2012.