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    Location: Aberystwyth, Wales, United Kingdom

    I am the owner and managing director of Information Automation Limited (IAL), a company that specialises in research, consultancy and training for the information profession. We are particularly interested in all forms of electronic information resources (e-journals, e-books, etc) and I teach a course in electronic publishing at the Department of Information Studies in Aberystwyth. Drilling down still further(!), my interests centre on the quality and evaluation of electronic information, and in the thinking that underpins activities in library and information science.


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    Tuesday, June 03, 2008

    Time has fallen asleep in the afternoon sunshine

    … but what does Ray Bradbury mean when he says that
    There is no future for e-books because they are not books
    Variously quoted - Kindleville, The Leary Letter, etc: at BookExpo America
    When, or indeed, why is a book not a book?

    If we take digitized version of William Blake’s Songs of Innocence, or even of his Fahrenheit 451, and present it on-screen, surely we have an electronic or digitized version of the book? It could, I suppose, be argued that that without pagination and formatting it is simple ‘text’ or ‘images’ – but paginated into ur-book form one might suppose that the neologism works.

    I would guess – I hesitate to put words into his mouth, but I would guess – that Mr Bradbury may mean that robbed of sentience; unable to touch, hold, heft, weigh, smell, to generally experience the physicality of a book, we cannot experience the same pleasure and pain of reading a book. We cannot have shelves of them in our houses or libraries. We cannot pile them for reading beside our armchair or bed. We shall never be able to return to one, dog-eared with use, to have it fall open at our favourite passage. Thus, with such differing properties, they cannot be the same: we cannot call an e-book, a book. It is like comparing oranges and apples.

    And, perhaps, we will never read an e-book in the same way – with the same attention, diligence and apprehension as we do a book. Indeed, there is some evidence that readers often only ‘dip’ into e-books.

    So, further, Ray Bradbury may fear that, like Montag, the digitizers and the e-book purveyors are the firemen of our culture. Bradbury has said that Fahrenheit 451
    is, in fact, a story about how television destroys interest in reading literature … His fear in 1953 [was] that television would kill books
    It is not a long step to suppose that e-books could kill books.

    “They smell of burned fuel”, indeed!

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