The Temperature at Which the Kindle Burns

So this is a news story I stumbled across forever ago that I meant to kind of rant about and somehow it just kind of got lost in my giant, ever shifting, to-do stack. The main thrust is that despite Ray Bradbury’s dislike of technology and the e-book format, his iconic book “Fahrenheit 451” has been published in the format.

I came across the story on the BBC news site, where they said Bradbury had “previously claimed electronic books ‘smell like burned fuel’,” and that he had told the Los Angeles Times in 2010 that, “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.’”

However, the BBC story states “Mr. Bradbury’s agent said the rights for the author’s books had been close to expiring and the publisher had insisted the new contract include e-book rights.” His agent said he explained to Bradbury that, “a new contract wouldn’t be possible without e-book rights.”

Now let me step in here for a moment. This is Ray Bradbury, right? Ray, I wrote “Something Wicked This Way Comes”, “The Martian Chronicles”, and oh yeah, motherf’ing “Fahrenheit 451” Bradbury. It seems to me if this Ray Bradbury fellow would like to find a publisher for his books with the caveat of no e-books there should be plenty of grateful publishers happy to say, yeah, we totally publish Bradbury books. It’s not like Bradbury was being sleazy and looking to publish e-books on the sly, or with some other company, or on his own. Bradbury no likey e-bookies. Seems to me a writer of his stature should have been able to get the respect he deserved from a publishing company out there where they would have published his work in the formats he wished. Sigh….I wonder at what temperature the Kindle burns.

The BBC article indicates that Bradbury was persuaded and now his overall views on the matter have changed. Now I’d like to think the previous paragraph made it abundantly clear, but if it didn’t, let me speak it plainly for you; Ray Bradbury is a bad ass. I mean he’s the man who wrote “Fahrenheit 451”! The man is a legend, a wordsmithing hero, and nothing that I’m about to say changes that one bit, okay? I’m willing to bet that 90% of you reading this own a beat up paperback copy of “Fahrenheit 451”. How many of you out there own an e-book version of it? I’m guessing almost none. The portable electronic reading device is new, and still a growing and expanding market, and a lot of people are going to start recreating, or building up, their perfect e-book libraries. That’s a lot of people that will potentially be buying an e-book version of “Fahrenheit 451”, and with the US publisher Simon & Schuster selling it at a list price of $9.99 (which FYI is more expensive than the physical paperback book is on Barnes and Noble’s website and we’re talking about some serious cash. That’s right folks, I’m a total asshole. I’m suggesting that Ray Bradbury is looking to get paid.

What I want to end with is, good for him. There’s nothing wrong with the man getting paid. It’s not like he’s doing paid advertisements for a book burning organization or something, he just put aside his dislike of the e-book and allowed his own work to be published for it. And honestly, the e-book thing is here to stay, so better he sign a contract, do it now, and get paid now, rather than have it all happen via his estate after he’s gone.

Of course, I’ll never buy “Fahrenheit 451” as an e-book….