Ray Bradbury and Ebooks

Electronic books are junk. To hell with them,” he said slamming his palm against the table. “It’s fake, it’s stupid! Goddamnit, it’s wrong! A book is a book!” Ray Bradbury


I love books printed on dead trees. You don’t need any gadget or batteries, and you can read them with the sun shining full on the page. I’ve spent an inordinate amount of my childhood reading in the fork of an apple tree or under the blankets with a torch. I love the smell of them. I love running my eye along the shelf and choosing. I love rummaging through a box of them at a flea market. I have over a thousand books at home, and how I love libraries!

But in spite of this, and in spite of my vast respect for Ray Bradbury, I disagree with him. A book doesn’t have to be ink on paper.

It’s not so much the practical advantages, like saving money (provided you read a lot) or carrying a whole library around in your flight bag. Paper or ereader, what matters is the words.

Think of a childhood memory. I’m thinking of a Christmas tree in the front room of the house I grew up in. The room lights are off, and the tree lights are on, and the smell is magical. The tree is at nearly four times my height, which means I was less than three years old.

Go ahead and think of your own memory. Take a moment to get it clear.

Consider this. Practically every atom in your body and changed since then. (I believe the exception is the atoms in your bones.) So what makes me me? What makes you you? Whatever you are, it’s not the atoms in your body.

In the same way, ink and paper don’t make a book. The essential thing is the power those squiggles have to carry you to Mars or the Diskworld, or to let Plato speak, long after his bones have turned to dust. Put enough good thoughts into good words, and you’ve got a book. It doesn’t matter how the words are stored. Parchment scrolls are real books. Paper books are real books. Ebooks are real books.

And it’s much harder for Montag to burn them.