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October 15, 2012 | by  | in Arts Books | [ssba]

Sorry Ray, But I Just Don’t Hate E-Books

Last year Ray Bradbury said, “We have too many cellphones. We’ve got too many internets. We have got to get rid of those machines. We have too many machines now.” He was completely right. I have a stream of unanswered emails dating back to April that attest to that. I get texted at work about what I’m doing when I get home and texted at home about what I’m doing at work. This time next year, most of those emails are still going to be unanswered. It’s almost impossible to keep up with all of it.

That’s not what Bradbury was talking about, though. Not specifically. He was discussing ebooks, a topic on which he has bluntly opposed throughout his life. He told Yahoo to “prick up your ears and go to hell” when they tried to publish Farenheit 451 as an ebook, and made the somewhat apocryphal statement that e-books “smell like burned fuel”.

Other authors are similarly dubious; Ursula K Le Guin is apparently against ebooks, worried that they’ll affect the publishing model, piracy of books and the control that companies like Amazon and Apple will get over content. Maurice Sendak is more caustic, giving a characteristically profanity-riddled speech against them earlier this year: “Fuck them, is what I say. I hate those ebooks. They cannot be the the future. They may well be. I will be dead, I don’t give a shit.”

Well, this is the last issue, which means I get a free pass to rant to my heart’s desire. So, no:  ebook readers are awesome, and you should totally get one, no matter what Ray Bradbury might think. They’re expensive, but pay themselves off if you’re into reading enough to consider buying an ebook reader in the first place. Many have been designed with e-ink screens, which makes the screen look as close to a page as a screen can.

They have problems, of course, although possibly not the one that everyone brings up in every single conversation about ebooks ever, which is that books should be made from trees, stacked on shelves, and admired for their sheer gravity by visitors. This argument reeks of bollocks because no-one is making you choose—you really can own e-books and real books at the same time. In fact, it’s best to do so.

The only real downsides to ebook ownership is that due to the lack of a second-hand market, ebooks don’t go down in price over time the same way that paperbacks do. But for the convenience of having 1,500 books in your hand rather than having to piss everyone off by loading up a bag with half your library every time you go on holiday, it’s worth the extra money. So don’t listen to Ray Bradbury: they’re fantastic little devices, and if you’re the sort of person who reads the books section— attractive, prone to extreme bursts of intelligence and smelling faintly of cinnamon— then you’ll probably love them.


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