“Fahrenheit 451: What’s The Temperature At Which E-Books Burn?”

That’s the question that NPR asked yesterday. The article alerted me to the irony that Ray Bradbury’s great novel, Fahrenheit 451, was coming to an e-reader near you.

Reported by the Associated Press:

First published in paperback by Ballantine in 1953 and as a hardcover by Simon & Schuster in the 1960s, “Fahrenheit 451” has sold more than 10 million copies and has been translated into 33 languages. It imagined a world in which the appetite for new and faster media leads to a decline in reading, and books are banned and burned. Bradbury himself has been an emphatic defender of traditional paper texts, saying that e-books “smell like burned fuel” and calling the Internet nothing but “a big distraction.”

Ever since this new technology made an appearance, I have always been a staunch supporter of the traditional paper-and-ink type of book. Admittedly, many more trees go into the production of a physical book than one that is downloaded, but I love to see the design of the book’s cover up front and personal, take out my favorite inky black pen and underline and notate to my heart’s content, and flip back and forth through the prose to remind myself of earlier parts.

However, with the December holidays approaching, I have seen so many more articles and blogs talking about what gifts to get book lovers. I bet 99% of them all mention a Kindle, Nook, etc. When I’m riding the crowded subway, I totally see the appeal of having a small device that you press instead of giving the man next to you a dirty look as you try to maneuver your next page turn. Also, we all forsake our scholarly pursuits at times and indulge in the occasional guilty pleasure. Then the question arises: Should I just take my iPod with me instead or hastily construct a paper-bag book cover à la elementary school so no one on the F train will judge me?? The scenario–well, isn’t it easier to take one e-reader with you on vacation than three heavy books?–is always posed (which I swiftly rebut with: Ah, I’m a poor writer. I don’t go on vacation). But I do understand the logic for all of those holiday-takers.

So, has my opinion changed on the e-reader? Perhaps. Although, I still love a good book, when the day comes for me to go through my Harlequin romance phase, I bet an e-reader will be right at the top of my wish list but for now, I’ll still be perusing the shelves of my favorite bookstores.

Oskar Werner & Julie Christie

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9 comments

  1. Great post. I’ve debated the same…one e-reader vs 2 or 3 books, especially when traveling. The e-reader is convenient, go online and load up. But I would so miss that discovery, that stumbling blindly on some writer, or some story, I had no idea existed, which can only be found while aimlessly wandering through libraries and book stores…preferably used book stores. I also greatly enjoy the idea of books not being property, but being shared, passed from hand to hand. E-readers – a useful and convenient tool, but cold, sterile, and lacking any sense of elegance.

  2. Great post! Even as someone who loves her Kindle, I will be the first to admit that I will never give up actual books. I love their weight, their smell and the thrill of turning their pages. By no means have I given up perusing actual bookshelves. But I did finish 5 books on vacation this summer without having to lug 5 books to the beach. Like anything, ereaders have their pros and cons, you just have to find the balance. It’s not all or nothing, you can enjoy both worlds. 🙂

    PS. I feel like I might be the only one, but I LOVED the brown paper bag book covers from elementary school.

    1. I’m sometimes jealous of people on the train who have a kindle. It seems so much simpler than my attempting to flip through pages during rush hour. I’m glad you are still an aficionado of the printed version!

      In regards to the brown paper bag book, I recently was reminiscent because of these 2 awful books I was assigned to review. I was so embarrassed to take them out in public. If only I had made book covers. 🙂

  3. Ever get an achy hand from holding a big book in a weird position for too long? Never having that feeling again is my favorite part of reading on a Kindle. That and searchable notes…I do love searchable notes and highlights. All that being said, I still use my library and local bookshop more than (grrr) amazon…but I do love my Kindle.

  4. Wonderful blog, wonderful article. A real point of contention that has surely crossed the majority of minds who love reading or writing. I recently wrote something similar; whilst I love a ‘traditional’ book and some of my favourite places in the world are libraries/ used book shops; I think e-books allow a greater accessibility for many, encouraging them to read in situations where they perhaps wouldn’t/ couldn’t be reading. Ultimately, as long as people are reading, I don’t mind the medium with which they choose to do it.

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