Ray Bradbury Discovers The Internet Is Real After All; Publishers Force Him To Offer Ridiculously Overpriced Ebooks

from the does-it-burn? dept

It's pretty firmly established that acclaimed author Ray Bradbury is a bit of a technological curmudgeon (understatement alert). Way back in 2001 we wrote about an interview where he bitched about the internet, and how it was really a big scam perpetrated by the computer companies. Video games? Those are "male ego crap." In 2009, he expanded on his complaints, talking about how "the internet is a big distraction" and "it's meaningless; it's not real. It's in the air somewhere." Not surprisingly, he has absolutely and steadfastly refused to allow his classic work Fahrenheit 451 to be published as an ebook... until now.

A bunch of press reports are noting that Bradbury has finally joined the latest millennium by allowing an ebook of Fahrenheit 451... but the details suggest that this wasn't a choice he made willingly. Basically, his contracts were up, and no publisher would take him on without ebooks:
Bradbury's agent, Michael Congdon, said Tuesday that rights for Bradbury's book were expiring and that the growing digital market, estimated at 20 percent or higher of overall sales, made a deal for e-books inevitable....

"We explained the situation to him (Bradbury) that a new contract wouldn't be possible without e-book rights," said Congdon, who added that six publishers had been interested. "He understood and gave us the right to go ahead."
Of course, if Bradbury is worried that people are going to leave behind his precious paper (more on that in a minute), perhaps his publishers are saving him... by pricing the ebook at a ridiculous $9.99. This is for a book that you can buy in a paper copy used for a penny and new for $2.84. And the publisher thinks $9.99 for a version that doesn't require materials, packaging or shipping should be many times the cost?
Of course, some people like to point out that Bradbury's hatred of ebooks is kind of ironic, given that they believe Fahrenheit 451 is about censorship and book burning. But it's not. As we've noted in the past, Bradbury has long maintained that the book had nothing whatsoever to do with censorship, but was about the dangers of new media, specifically television, to entertain people in a way that made them no longer care about physical books. To Bradbury, it seems, the physical book is everything.

Either way, it appears that Bradbury, despite his visionary nature, simply can't get past the idea of a flashy screen, and still fails to realize that his fears were totally unfounded, and digital technologies mean that more people read today than in the past. But, who knows how many will read his ebooks at that ridiculous price.


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  1.  
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    :Lobo Santo (profile), Nov 29th, 2011 @ 2:39pm

    Authors... sheesh!

    I hear Kafka, author of "The Metamorphosis" maintained it was just a story, no underlying anything.

     

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  2.  
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    justok (profile), Nov 29th, 2011 @ 2:45pm

    Rachel Bloom has some opinions of Ray Bradbury (NSFW or school) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e1IxOS4VzKM

     

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  3.  
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    Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile), Nov 29th, 2011 @ 2:48pm

    The conversation

    Publishers: Ray, we need to offer an ebook because, whether or not you actually use the internet, millions of other people do.

    RAY: HARUMPH.

    Publishers: However, due to your stature as a respected writer and general curmudgeon, we are making every effort to ensure ebook fans won't actually purchase it.

    RAY: SPLENDID. NOW IF YOU'LL EXCUSE ME, I'M LATE FOR MY LUNCHEON WITH HARLAN ELLISON IN WHICH WE WILL DISCUSS EVERYTHING THAT IS WRONG WITH EVERYBODY ELSE, ESPECIALLY THOSE WHO SPEND TIME PUSHING AROUND ELECTRONS OR WHATEVER [trails off....]

    (I have no idea if Bradbury actually speaks in all caps, but given his general distaste for modern technology, it just seems likely, as if he spoke BASIC. Or something.)

     

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    xenomancer (profile), Nov 29th, 2011 @ 2:48pm

    Ray, Ray, Ray ...

    I honestly hope he gets over the hump and begins curiously exploring what is possible with new and evolving technologies rather than continue to stomp his feet and bitch about how no one gets the message of his overrated book. I, too, thought it was about censorship and then I finished the book and sat confused by the lack of any credible resolution. Then that newfangled light bulb clicked on above my head and I realized his book sucked. For a book that so inadequately portrays the wrong message, you would think its continued sales would receive less thought. I almost feel like its becoming a joke with how high the price gap is. There really is no saving grace to his point of view anymore. He is irrelevant, the Ray Charles of luddites, pointlessly complaining about the wrong wrong things luddites complain about. Its good that he got dragged kicking and screaming forward an inch, but the two feet behind and four decades ahead around him speak more to his mastery of humbug than the minor achievements symptomatic of a contract renewal in which he has no choice but to accept progress at no extra effort. If anything, his apparent coming of age will simply add more paradoxical fuel to his pyrrhic cognition misfires.

     

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  5.  
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    Blaine (profile), Nov 29th, 2011 @ 2:51pm

    Agree and disagree

    Disagree - I'm sure many many people will read his ebook.
    Agree - Not at that ridiculous price.

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 29th, 2011 @ 2:52pm

    Uh.. you said 9.99 and the picture shows 6.99.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 29th, 2011 @ 2:53pm

    ".... and digital technologies mean that more people read today than in the past."

    There you go again making up "facts" to try to give you blog more credibility.

     

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  8.  
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    A Dan (profile), Nov 29th, 2011 @ 2:58pm

    Re: Ray, Ray, Ray ...

    I made it about halfway through the audiobook before I realized that I didn't remember what had happened and I didn't care where the story was going. It's one of the few audiobooks I never finished. And I listened all the way through Atlas Shrugged (63 hours), so that's saying something.

     

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  9.  
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    xenomancer (profile), Nov 29th, 2011 @ 2:59pm

    Re: The conversation

    I have no idea if Bradbury actually speaks in all caps
    I have the distinct feeling that he writes in all capitalized Gothic cursive calligraphy using tea and rust based ink on stretched and dried cow skins using a bent reed that happened to snap off its roots with the right angle to make a usable nib. There's also a high likelihood of grammatical errors everywhere and missing or extra letters. Damn newfangled written word makes communicating a dangerous proposition. People could completely miss the message!

     

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  10.  
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    Chosen Reject (profile), Nov 29th, 2011 @ 3:01pm

    Re:

    Yes, the picture shows $6.99 for a paperback. See the little red squiggly line? It points out that you can get it used for $0.01. To the left of that you can see you can get it new for $2.84. But none of that is for the ebook, which is what is selling for $9.99. I guess Brad is right, no one can read anymore.

     

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  11.  
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    E. Zachary Knight (profile), Nov 29th, 2011 @ 3:02pm

    Re:

    $6.99 is the Amazon price for the Paper back. Other sellers are selling the paper back for as little as $2.84 new and $0.01 used.

    The e-book will be released at $9.99

     

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  12.  
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    xenomancer (profile), Nov 29th, 2011 @ 3:02pm

    Re: Re: Ray, Ray, Ray ...

    Holy shit! Ayn Rand is an amazing author, but 63 hours of listening to someone else talk would drive me bonkers.

    *tips hat in respect*

     

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    Aaron Ortiz, Nov 29th, 2011 @ 3:04pm

    He's not as crazy as you may believe

    Imagine how ridiculously easy it will be to censor books when all the government has to do is "ask" someone to delete a file on a server somewhere.

    Hard copies (like physical books) matter. The situation that Mr. Bradbury describes in Fahrenheit 451 is coming true. Should the government censor a book in the near future, the only alternative to preserve it would be a hard copy, or outright memorization. If no hard copies are made, the book will vanish in a puff of bits and electrons.

     

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  14.  
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    AG Wright (profile), Nov 29th, 2011 @ 3:07pm

    Science fiction fan here

    I tried to read "Fahrenheit 451" years ago when I often read a book every two days.
    I couldn't get through it. I did make it through most of the stories in "The Illustrated Man" but once I read it I took it to the used book store and traded it in. I've read and enjoyed books by dozens of authors but Bradbury is entirely over rated IMHO.

     

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    Mike42 (profile), Nov 29th, 2011 @ 3:07pm

    Re:

     

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    Paul Pentz (profile), Nov 29th, 2011 @ 3:09pm

    Publishers

    Most publishers don't get ebooks. Browsing through books on Amazon shows a lot of books that have ebook versions priced higher than paperback. When I see that, it makes my choice easy ... no hardcover, no paperback, and no ebook. Idiots.

     

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    A Dan (profile), Nov 29th, 2011 @ 3:11pm

    Re: Re: Re: Ray, Ray, Ray ...

    To be fair, the hours weren't consecutive.

     

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    Keroberos (profile), Nov 29th, 2011 @ 3:12pm

    At least Bradbury has the excuse of being an old curmudgeon to explain his dislike of modern content consumption. What excuse do all the others in the content industries have? It seems to be quite common to place more importance on the delivery mechanism over the content, or equating it with the content, instead of trying to reach as much of the paying populace as they can regardless of the medium. They have forgotten that their whole purpose is to sell stories, music, news, and movies, not to sell books, cds, newspapers, and DVDs.

    Of course don't even get me started at pricing digital goods as if they were the same as physical ones.

     

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  19.  
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    Chosen Reject (profile), Nov 29th, 2011 @ 3:13pm

    Re: He's not as crazy as you may believe

    Hard copies aren't necessary to prevent the government eliminating a book by deleting it off a server. They can delete all the copies from all of the servers, but doing so won't erase it from my computer.

    Your argument is against centrally controlled storage or the "cloud". It's a fine argument to have and would be a fun debate with pros and cons, but it's only slightly related to whether or not you or a publisher should spray ink on dead trees.

     

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  20.  
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    The Groove Tiger (profile), Nov 29th, 2011 @ 3:19pm

    Re: The conversation

    Ironically, Harlan Ellison participated quite actively in the design of the videogame based on his book I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream. He was even glad that he had the chance to flesh his characters even more in the game than he could in the book. And he lended his voice to the main EVIL computer (henceforth nicknamed "HAM"). I think he even considers the multiple-choice ending in the game the "definitive" ending.

    Now, I haven't heard any quotes from him denouncing how crappy computers are or anything, but maybe I just missed it somewhere.

     

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  21.  
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    The Groove Tiger (profile), Nov 29th, 2011 @ 3:23pm

    Re: Re: The conversation

    Yeah, never mind, apparently he was horrified when someone asked him to sign a PowerBook.

     

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  22.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 29th, 2011 @ 3:24pm

    Re:

    I suppose that by your standards saying smartphones mean more people text and communicate constitutes a lie as well

     

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  23.  
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    Rich Kulawiec, Nov 29th, 2011 @ 3:25pm

    Re: Re: Re: Ray, Ray, Ray ...

    Everyone should read Ayn Rand when they're about 17 years old. It's a useful exercise.

    Of course, by the age of 21, they should realize that it's absolute bullshit, worthy only of mocking contempt. See, for example:

    http://www.gq.com/entertainment/books/200911/ayn-rand-dick-books-fountainhead?printable=true

     

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    srichey, Nov 29th, 2011 @ 3:37pm

    Why does he care about media? All media does is deliver content. Not sure what he was so upset about.

     

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    A Dan (profile), Nov 29th, 2011 @ 3:54pm

    Re:

    "They have forgotten that their whole purpose is to sell stories, music, news, and movies"

    That's their current business model, not their purpose. Their business (purpose?) is to make money in a way related to providing entertainment and information to people who want it. They would not fail in their goal if people paid for production instead of copies, or if sponsors/advertisers provide the money instead of end-users.

     

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  26.  
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    bjupton (profile), Nov 29th, 2011 @ 3:58pm

    If Ray Bradbury had been born earlier, he would have been screeching about the way that bound book publishing was ruining everything.

    Farenheit 451 would have been about scroll burning.

     

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  27.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Nov 29th, 2011 @ 4:11pm

    Re:

    Uh.. you said 9.99 and the picture shows 6.99.


    6.99 is for the paperback from Amazon. The article says the ebook will be offered at 9.99.

     

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  28.  
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    Rose M. Welch (profile), Nov 29th, 2011 @ 4:55pm

    Re:

    I have always loved this video, except in my head it's about Heinlein. :P

     

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  29.  
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    RobM (profile), Nov 29th, 2011 @ 5:14pm

    451 F

    So the temp that a paper book burns at is relevant to those reading an e-book how?

     

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  30.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 29th, 2011 @ 5:35pm

    Re: Re:

    No, their current business model is to sell stacks of paper with words printed on them or plastic discs with music or movies on them.

    Their business (purpose?) is to make money in a way related to providing entertainment and information to people who want it.


    Seems to be exactly what I said. If they actually saw their businesses that way, they would have a much better financial outlook than they seem to have at this point.

     

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    Keroberos (profile), Nov 29th, 2011 @ 5:37pm

    oops

    That was me, forgot to sign in.

     

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  32.  
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    Haggie, Nov 29th, 2011 @ 5:37pm

    YOU KIDS PUT DOWN MY EBOOK!!!

     

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  33.  
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    circleofconfusion (profile), Nov 29th, 2011 @ 5:45pm

    Here's the reality:

    http://thepiratebay.org/torrent/6571322/Science_Fiction__Horror_and_Fantasy_Mega_Ebook_Collection#fi lelistContainer

    I see that there are 13.75 MB of Bradbury's e-books in this bittorrent download....

     

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  34.  
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    Ima Fish (profile), Nov 29th, 2011 @ 6:32pm

    I can still remember in Sci Fi Lit class in high school, probably about 1982. The teacher asked us what Fahrenheit 451 was about. Of course we all said censorship. He smiled and went on a coffee fueled sermon about how Fahrenheit 451 was actually about the dangers of new technology making us intellectually complacent where we make it against the law to express or absorb large and important ideas.

    I get that. What I don't get is how Bradbury refuses to admit that it's the censorship that's the harm, not the complacency of the many. There has never been any time in history where the majority of people were intellectually curious. The intellectually curious are always in the minority. Thus the problem in the world of Fahrenheit 451 is not that the vast majority of people are intellectually complacent, that's the norm, it's that those intellectually complacent people make it illegal for anyone to be anything else.

    Thus, it's the censorship.

     

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  35.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 29th, 2011 @ 6:41pm

    Ray Bradbury can say that his book was about the dangers of new media and how they could make something obsolete like paper made stone writing obsolete, but seriously, what I took from that book and movie the first time I read/saw it, for free no less decades ago was that it was about censorship and I believe many people saw it that way too.

    I think that is something natural to all human beings, we fail to transmit a message or the meaning of something to others because we don't understand how others see the world and try to impart that blame on the others not being able to see it, well that is true, some people just can't see it, but if you fail to pass that information to the majority of people than it is not them the problem it is you who failed to communicate something by failing to understand the current common sense of the day.

    That is why it doesn't surprise me to hear about such ludicrous statements by him, he didn't get it then and he doesn't get it now and probably never will.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 29th, 2011 @ 7:49pm

    isn't this fucker dead yet?

    isn't this fucker dead yet?

     

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  37.  
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    Overcast (profile), Nov 29th, 2011 @ 8:06pm

    I could just 'pirate' the IP at the library though...

    Wouldn't have to copy it - but dang - at the Library it's FREE - how do you compete with that?

     

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  38.  
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    Overcast (profile), Nov 29th, 2011 @ 8:17pm

    Ray Bradbury can say that his book was about the dangers of new media and how they could make something obsolete like paper made stone writing obsolete, but seriously, what I took from that book and movie the first time I read/saw it, for free no less decades ago was that it was about censorship and I believe many people saw it that way too.

    Yes, either way he spins it - or the way most of us understand it to mean - it's about *control* - to the demise of the people and the natural urge for freedom; as evidenced in Montag's 'hiding out' in the end.

     

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  39.  
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    RAA, Nov 29th, 2011 @ 9:45pm

    the future

    Most conservatives believe the future is out to destroy us. Eventually, death comes; yet to remain stuck in the here and now for your whole life is as ancient a failure as Egypt. Getting past ones inability to find instructions easy to follow is where true experience makes its mark.

     

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  40.  
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    BentFranklin (profile), Nov 29th, 2011 @ 10:24pm

    eBooks are all about censorship. Do not trust the cloud.

     

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  41.  
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    xenomancer (profile), Nov 29th, 2011 @ 11:42pm

    Re:

    Scary as it may seem to you and your ilk, a sizable presence of nay saying caprophages tends to legitimize a topic more so than does simply having facts and logic on ones side.

     

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  42.  
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    Wahrheit, Nov 29th, 2011 @ 11:48pm

    Let us note that when books exist as eBooks only, they are gone forever with a few keystrokes.

     

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  43.  
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    Wahrheit, Nov 29th, 2011 @ 11:51pm

    Re: 451 F

    If you like, think of 451 as a metaphor for the maximum number of keystrokes it will take to make an eBook disappear forever.

     

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  44.  
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    PaulT (profile), Nov 30th, 2011 @ 1:04am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Ray, Ray, Ray ...

    "Two novels can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other involves orcs."

     

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  45.  
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    PaulT (profile), Nov 30th, 2011 @ 1:11am

    Re:

    ...assuming that piracy is completely eradicated, nobody ever created unprotected copies of those books, nobody ever stores them on devices that are not connected to the cloud and nobody ever makes a hard copy.

    Realistically, we're safe for a long time.

     

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  46.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 30th, 2011 @ 1:51am

    Re:

    Right. And none of your asinine trolling won't change that.

     

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  47.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 30th, 2011 @ 1:54am

    Re: Here's the reality:

    So what? Rowling's stuff was out from day 1, way before she finally came around.

     

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  48.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 30th, 2011 @ 1:56am

    Re:

    Except those I stripped from DRM and backuped away from my Kindle, right?

     

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  49.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 30th, 2011 @ 1:57am

    Re: He's not as crazy as you may believe

    Centralized systems are vulnerable to it, but decentralized ones are a very effective way to thwart censorship. The US government pulled countless strings trying to erase Wikileaks, but only succeeded in fanning the flames and looking foolish.

     

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  50.  
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    dcee (profile), Nov 30th, 2011 @ 2:20am

    I think that Asimov just cried in his grave...

     

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  51.  
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    Piotr Kowalczyk, Nov 30th, 2011 @ 2:41am

    Fire is not needed any more...

    ...to prevent people from reading.

    Releasing F 451 as an ebook brings a totally new context:

    "The book is available in Adobe DRM format from Simon & Schuster site."

    You don't need fire. DRM is enough and works in every temperature.

    http://ebookfriendly.com/2011/11/30/fahrenheit-451-in-digital-times-drm-instead-of-f ire/

     

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    kenichi tanaka, Nov 30th, 2011 @ 3:13am

    I really wish Techdirt would get its information right when they report on this stuff. The SRP on Fahrenheit 451 is around $6.99 or $7.99. Amazon Marketplace is not your legit retail industry. These are just guys who pay pennies on the dollar for new and used merchandise who use Amazon to sell them secondhand.

    I'd like to know of a retailer who sells this book for one penny. They don't exist and what kind of moron would buy merchandise where the shipping costs more than the item you're ordering.

     

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  53.  
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    PaulT (profile), Nov 30th, 2011 @ 3:29am

    Re:

    "The SRP on Fahrenheit 451 is around $6.99 or $7.99"

    So what? New copies are being sold on Amazon in the screenshot for $2.84. I don't care what the publishers would like for the product, it's worth what I wish to pay. If I think $2.84 is the better price point, they won't get $6.99.

    "I'd like to know of a retailer who sells this book for one penny."

    Some Amazon Marketplace sellers are retailers, so you have your answer already.

    Sorry if you don't like it, but the market value on the story is currently $0.01 used. People may like to pay more for a new physical copy, some may be willing to pay more to ensure the author gets money, but the text alone of the story is currently worth $0.01 without additional value being added.

    The digital version may be worth even less to some people, as restrictions and DRM make it unobtainable and/or unusuable. Strange that S&S think that it's worth more than the physical version, but it's their choice to lose those sales. Especially for a story that should really be in the public domain anyway by now.

    "what kind of moron would buy merchandise where the shipping costs more than the item you're ordering."

    If you have the order including free shipping, they wouldn't? If you have to pay shipping, the $0.01 book may still be cheaper than the new copy. In your eyes, moron = frugal shopper who doesn't care about buying new. Do you also think library users are morons, or is it only the internet that attracts this opinion?

     

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    fb39ca4, Nov 30th, 2011 @ 6:09am

     

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  55.  
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    Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) (profile), Nov 30th, 2011 @ 6:32am

    Another conversation

    PUBLISHER: Mr. Bradbury, we must make your book an ebook because that is how millions of people read books now. We'll price the ebook at $10 to encourage people to buy the cheaper, physical versions.

    BRADBURY: I guess so...is it $10 for the hardcover ebook or the paperback ebook?

    PUBLISHER: ...?!

     

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  56.  
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    Marcus Carab (profile), Nov 30th, 2011 @ 7:29am

    Re:

    the first time I read/saw it, for free no less decades ago was that it was about censorship and I believe many people saw it that way too.

    If I recall, he actually walked out of a Q&A he did at a university when the students refused to accept his explanation of the book's meaning and flat out told him he was wrong and it was about censorship whether he knew it or not.

     

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    A Dan (profile), Nov 30th, 2011 @ 8:58am

    Re: 451 F

    I believe paper's ignition temperature is around 451 degrees Celsius, but that's not as cool a title.

     

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    Jeff Rife, Nov 30th, 2011 @ 10:04am

    I guess he's OK with new media as long as he makes money

    It's a bit ironic that somebody who was the main driving force behind a television show for 6 seasons would be complaining about the dangers of television and other new media.

     

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  59.  
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    bg, Dec 2nd, 2011 @ 6:20am

    Larger Point

    "Quality" of an author's work is strictly subjective. The price disparity between "zeroes and ones" and a REAL book you actually own and can sell, give away, or donate is pervasive throughout the industry. Answer? Don't pay it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  60.  
    identicon
    Nezumi, Jan 25th, 2012 @ 10:22pm

    Random fact

    Actually... Bradbury has been inconsistent on whether Fahrenheit 451 is about censorship and book burning, or about how New Media Are Evil -- an early edition's foreword by him pretty clearly describes it as being the former.

    I've heard at least one source suggest that his reversal was due to censorship no longer conjuring up the sort of "Political Correctness Gone Mad" images the conservative author wanted but -- especially in the wake of Bush -- government silencing opposing political views; a very conservative form of censorship that he would not be so much against. But that's just a guess.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  61.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 6th, 2012 @ 5:43pm

    Re: isn't this fucker dead yet?

    done

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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