Nearly 60 years after Ray Bradbury’s science fiction classic Fahrenheit 451 was first published, the book has entered the digital age with an e-book release from Simon & Schuster. Given how prevalent electronic editions of books are becoming, you wouldn’t think this would be that newsworthy. Bradbury, however, was a long-time holdout who had spoken out against e-books in the past, saying they “smelled like burned fuel.”
The Washington Post says that the 91-year-old author was finally forced to concede to the emerging technology as the rights to his book were about to expire. His agent, Michael Congdon, said, “We explained the situation to him (Bradbury) that a new contract wouldn’t be possible without e-book rights … He understood and gave us the right to go ahead.”
It seems strange to think that the author of a story so in love with the concept of books would be hesitant to embrace a technology that will make his works even more readily available, but Bradbury was hardly the only one. The Post’s article mentions that J.K. Rowling, author of the insanely successful Harry Potter books, was also a digital holdout until recently.
In addition to the electronic version, Simon & Schuster will also release a new paperback edition of Fahrenheit 451 this January, with new paperbacks of Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles and The Illustrated Man to follow in March. That’s good news for the luddites and anyone with an aversion to the smell of burned fuel, I suppose. I know it’s hardly uncommon for the elder generation to be uncomfortable with new technologies, but I hope Bradbury will take comfort in one fact: if the world envisioned in Fahrenheit 451 were to come to pass today, it would be a lot harder for the firemen to destroy every copy of his book.
The Fahrenheit 451 e-book is available from Simon & Schuster for a list price of $9.99.