How anti-ebook Ray Bradbury finally succumbed to digital age

Jun 7, 2012
Annemarie Lopez

The sci-fi author, who has died aged 91, hated ebooks, the internet and television

SCIENCE-FICTION writer Ray Bradbury, author of hundreds of novels, short stories, plays and film scripts, has died in Los Angeles at the age of 91.

The author, whose famous novel Fahrenheit 451 envisaged a future where books would be destroyed, long resisted the rise of the ebook.

Bradbury rose to literary fame in 1950 with The Martian Chronicles, a satire on capitalism, racism and the Cold War in which Earth colonisers destroy an idyllic Martian civilisation.

For years, Bradbury tried to prevent the publication of his books in electronic form. He said that electronic books "smell like burned fuel" and in 2009 he told The New York Times that the internet was "a big distraction".

But in 2011, Bradbury finally relented, allowing American publisher Simon & Schuster to release the first ever ebook of Fahrenheit 451. The novel, which has sold more than 10 million copies since it was first published in 1953, is set in a dystopian future where books are burned and reading is banned in order to keep people in ignorance.  

Whether Bradbury ever really changed his mind about the virtues of ebooks, or simply succumbed to economic reality, is unclear. The Guardian reported late last year that the publishers had made it clear that the seven-figure contract for all US English language print and digital formats of Fahrenheit 451 along with Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles and The Illustrated Man, "wouldn't be possible without ebook rights".  

Bradbury long maintained that Fahrenheit 451 had less to do with censorship than the dangers of new media, specifically television, which would make people lose interest in physical books.

But his turnaround on ebooks wasn’t his first. Bradbury reportedly rejected other modern inventions, including video games, and hated television, yet he adapted 65 of his stories for a TV series called The Ray Bradbury Theater, which aired first on HBO. He also allowed The Martian Chronicles to be turned into a computer game.

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