Been watching Fahrenheit 451 on DVD (have not read the book) and am amazed this story written nearly sixty years ago got so many things right, and so many things wrong. Yes, paper books may be an endangered species long-term, but they haven’t gone up in smoke. We don’t have book-police/firemen of the kind that Bradbury envisaged – instead we have death by format proliferation. Most successful books also exist as films, DVDs, or audiobooks, with the non-print formats often being the more popular.
The huge TVs Bradbury poked fun at really do exist now, and Fahrenheit 451’s rebel book saviours with their primitive pre-Walkmans can be seen as prophets of today’s audiobooks. But, far from an emergency way of preserving literature, audiobooks now form a sizeable percentage of book sales. Today, as publishers rush to repurpose content for the iPad, good old-fashioned paper has yet another competing format. (For more on this, read what the Washington Post had to say about the iPad as an E-reader.)
In any audience some people will say, ‘I’ve seen the movie – I don’t need to read the book’, but some of us, some of the time, will still want a ‘print version’. Now, having seen Fahrenheit 451, I want to read the novel. But bookshops are vanishing from the high street, and thanks to the real book-police (number-crunchers chasing scalable markets) many of those that remain are filled with unsold celebrity biographies. Let’s face it, my best chance of reading Fahrenheit 451 may be to log back on with the monolithic online retailer that sold me the DVD.