Fahrenheit 451 might be the most famous book about book-burning ever written, and its author, Ray Bradbury, has long insisted that it only be available as a print book, on paper. Until today. Bradbury has finally given in, and Fahrenheit 451 is available for the first time as an ebook. It is such a pleasure to Kindle.
Top image: Detail from Ralph Steadman's Fahrenheit 451 illustration.
Bradbury had been one of the staunchest critics of ebooks, saying they "smell like burned fuel." He told the New York Times in 2009: "It's meaningless; it's not real... It's in the air somewhere."
He also told the L.A. Times last year:
I was approached three times during the last year by internet companies wanting to put my books on an electronic reading device... I said to Yahoo: 'Prick up your ears and go to hell.'
The author added that "We have too many cellphones. We've got too many internets. We have got to get rid of those machines. We have too many machines now."
So what changed? Bradbury's agent, Michael Congdon, told the Associated Press that the publishing rights to Bradbury's most famous novel were expiring — and it was impossible to strike a new deal with publishers that didn't include ebook rights. Eight different publishers were interested, but nobody would do it without an electronic edition. Condgon explained the situation to Bradbury, and he finally gave in.
The BBC quotes book industry insiders as saying it's ironic that a science fiction writer should be so technology-phobic — although who understands the downsides of technology more than science fiction authors? — and there's also this nice quote from Neill Denny, editor of the Bookseller magazine:
My view is good publishing is format-neutral, and so long as publishers control copyright and suppress piracy, then e-books are a good thing for publishers and authors in general. However, the e-book is a format that excludes the traditional bookshop and the book trade needs to find a way urgently to support their presence, otherwise there is a danger books drop out of sight permanently for many consumers.