Saturday, December 31, 2011
Monday, December 5, 2011
A 21st century electronic Fahrenheit 451 slowly becomes reality.
Let’s get this straight, I think that e-books are a good thing and frankly, I think Project Gutenberg is an absolutely wonderful treasure trove of copyright free books. Electronic format books are here to stay and they have some great contributions to make to society.
However, the publishing industry has found that e-books are cheaper than paper and by golly you are going to have them, whether you want them or not. The main problem I have with e-books is their plasticity and vulnerability of flash editing. I am reminded of the book, Brave New World, with political leaders constantly changing positions and making people believe it’s always been that way. With present and emerging technology e-book burnings are just a click away – eat your hearts out 20th century dictators, using old fashioned bonfires.
Reading has always been revolutionary and magical. Johannes Gutenberg didn’t invent the printing press and not even moveable type in the 15th century, but he did make printing books and easier to use. The drop in book prices over the next century allowed well-to-do literate people to own books and then even upper middle class folks to have books. This all trickled down over the centuries to the Victorian dime novels and pennydreadfuls that allowed even the poor access to books (let’s not get into literary quality here).
Recently, Ray Bradbury, Science Fiction author extraordinaire was bullied into letting his publisher get e-book rights on Fahrenheit 451, despite his reservations. Now, Ray Bradbury is no neoluddite, (neither am I), in fact he has been a champion of thoughtful technology, that which liberates and doesn’t enslave. Technology is supposed to enhance our lives and take the drudgery of living, rather than living to appease technology. I have been reading Bradbury’s writings all my life and his works have given me endless hours of enjoyment. It’s not surprising that a good deal of science fiction holds up with time when the old adage, “it’s not good science fiction, unless it’s good fiction first”.
Fahrenheit 451 is a novel about a government outlawing the written word and destroying all books to political ends. Written in 1953, it seemed a stretch of a dystopian novel to some readers, but as the years progressed, it seemed more feasible. In the late 1970s, the dictator Pol Pot of Cambodia went as far as making ownership of calendars, alarm clocks or being literate a death sentence for such counterrevolutionary activities. Read about or see the movie, The Killing Fields for details.
Like myself, Ray Bradbury loves real books; the ones you can hold, ones you can smell, ones that don’t plug in and above all, cannot be altered electronically from afar by faceless members of the nanny state. Conspiracy theory? Maybe not, but who watches the watchers? All I know is that it is harder to run down and edit ten thousand books paper books in ten thousand undocumented places than to push a few buttons and modify or delete electronic books.
OK, I went a little overboard in the depiction of possible abuse, but now that the horror show of our program is over, read a book, it’s the literate thing to do. Read the about Bradbury in a story by BBC News, 30 Nov 2011