Fahrenheit 451 Finally Comes To iBooks In A Format That Can Never Be Burned

Fahrenheit 451 Finally Comes To iBooks In A Format That Can Never Be Burned

Ray Bradbury is a living legend of futurism, and short of Tolkein and Asimov, probably the most important writer of fantasy and science-fiction in the 20th Century. He’s also a feisty old technophobic grampaw who would rather smash an iPad into pieces with his walking stick than read a book on one. That’s just one reason why Bradbury’s most famous book, Fahrenheit 451, has never been available in e-book form up until now.

The other reason? The novel famously describes a future dystopia in which books are burned on sight by a totalitarian government, and Bradbury has long contented that the power of the premise goes away when you’re reading it on a medium besides paper.

Bradbury’s had to suck up his objections to iPhones and iPads, though. The 91-year-old author has finally lived to see Fahrenheit 451 comes to iBooks and Kindles.

First thing to keep in mind when reading this story is that Bradbury really hates technology. He’s sort of made a name for himself later in life for making bitter tirades against tech, especially smartphones, tablets and e-books.

For example, he has described e-books as “smelling like burned fuel,” which doesn’t even really make sense. He later told the New York Times that e-books were “meaningless” and “not real” and “in the air somewhere,” which isn’t really the sort of accurate description of e-reading technology that you’d expect from one of the greatest futurists of the 20th century.

It really can’t be labored enough how much Bradbury hates machines. In a denture-popping, stick-shaking tirade that would make any comic strip grandpa proud, Bradbury once said: “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.” GET OFFA MY LAWN, YOU’M KIDS!

In other words, Bradbury has basically spent the last decade saying that his books (and particularly Fahrenheit 451 would never come out as an e-book. Yet if you go to iBooks right now, there it is, sitting pretty. What happened? Well, it was either let them come out as e-books or lose the publishing right.

Apparently, the publishing rights to Farenheit 451 were expiring, but when Bradbury’s agent went to publishers and tried to ink a new deal that left the novel off of iPads, Kindles and iPhones, they all laughed him out of the room. Nobody would publish the book without giving the option of an electronic edition. Eventually, even cantankerous Bradbury had no choice but budge, which is why you can read his most famous novel on your iPad today.

I have a lot of respect for Bradbury, but he’s one of those guys who should really shut his mouth about technology, because it really discredits a lot of his most important work. For example, back in 2007, Bradbury told L.A. Weekly that Fahrenheit 451 wasn’t against government censorship of art, it was just about how television was bad for you, and should be censored by the government. Not hard to imagine how he’d feel about iPads.

What’s so weird about Bradbury’s stance against e-books — and particularly this e-book — is that Fahrenheit 451 has finally been put up for sale in a format that can never be burned or fully eradicated. After all, the burning temperature of an iPhone or iPad is a hell of a lot higher than four hundred and fifty degrees. Perhaps he just doesn’t want to change the title.

  • Phil

    But will it blend?

  • Shaunathan Sprocket

    Honestly, you’d think he’d be happy.  His warning of what can happen could have met it’s own ironic end.  Now that it’s digital, it can never be burned, it can never be truly deleted.  Not while I own a copy at least.

    the internet will be richer for it, and humanity as well.

  • Jonathan de Winter

    “He’s one of those guys who should really shut his mouth about technology, it really discredits a lot of his most important work, Bradbury told Fahrenheit 451 wasn’t against government censorship of art, it was just about how television was bad for you”

    Do you mean that he shouldn’t complain about technology since he wrote about it and it brought him fame?

    Or are you supposing that he just changed his opinion about what his own book is about?

  • Eoin

    Just burnt it to disc…oh…

  • Doug Bursnall

    Those of you stating that digital equates to immortality should look back and think forward. The digital medium is no less impervious to deletion, than a book. It requires the dedication of man to retain the ability to read and decode old digital formats (think magnetic reel to reel, hard disk platters, extinct file formats, 3.5′ disks). And now with the reach of wireless, companies and individuals can erase files, apps and storage without physical access. The rate of digital evolution is accelerating and without care and work, bits will be lost and forgotten. In 5 years you will not be able to buy a player for that CD you burnt of his book and if you could the encoding formats and drivers will have become obsolete and incompatible with the machines of the day.

  • Saul Tannenbaum

    It may not be able to be burned, but it can be disappeared. Remember what happend to 1984 on Kindle? (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07

  • zeiche

    In July 2009, Amazon remotely removed copies of George Orwell’s books from Kindle owners due to copyright issues. This is the equivelant of a book burning in a massive, automated fashion so cut Bradbury some slack here.

  • ma2oliveira

    Hmmm, Fahrenheit 451 on a Kindle Fire… :-)

  • Bryan Lunt

    Actually, Apple/Amazon/etc can delete your copy of Fahrenheit 451, or alter your copy of 1984 any time they please, remotely…

About the author

John BrownleeJohn Brownlee is a Contributing Editor. He has also written for Wired, Playboy, Boing Boing, Popular Mechanics, VentureBeat, and Gizmodo. He lives in Boston with his wife and two parakeets. You can follow him here on Twitter.

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