Ray Bradbury hates e-books and turned down Yahoo publication offer

image Ray Bradbury, 89, a brilliant writer but proud Luddite in some ways, hates the Internet and electronic books, not just television.

TV was the target of his wrath in a 2007 video.

“The Internet?” yesterday’s New York Times says.  “Don’t get him started. ‘The Internet is a big distraction,’ Mr. Bradbury barked…

“’Yahoo called me eight weeks ago,’ he said, voice rising. ‘They wanted to put a book of mine on Yahoo! You know what I told them? ‘To hell with you. To hell with you and to hell with the Internet.’

“’It’s distracting,’ he continued. ‘It’s meaningless; it’s not real. It’s in the air somewhere.’”

More moderate about the Net, earlier

imageIn a past video, this science fiction immortal sounded more moderate, saying he hoped that the Net would be “an experiment that worked” and was used properly. Did the NYT use the just-offered quotes in context? I don’t know.

OK, gang, while remaining civil, how would you respond to Bradbury?

More positively: The NYT piece correctly depicts Bradbury as a big library booster—the major reason the paper interviewed him. Good on Bradbury for that!

Too bad Bradbury can’t grasp the potential of e-books for helping libraries stretch their resources and reach Net-oriented young people, some of them cash-strapped—just as he was as a young man. Besides, when today’s young or their descendants do make it to Mars, what are they going to read? E or P? E-books are a lot more compact for space travel.

And also on the plus side: The existence of a Bradbury Web site. In fact, his e-followers have even posted a Martian Chronicles excerpt. Is the site Bradbury-authorized? I don’t know. But it does carry at least one message from him, and if you follow the links, you’ll find some to Amazon, which does carry at least a few Bradbury works in Kindle form.

Revised for clarity at about 10:30 a.m.

23 Comments on Ray Bradbury hates e-books and turned down Yahoo publication offer

  1. Elroy Jetson // June 20, 2009 at 8:01 am //

    He’s right it is a distraction. It may not always be this way, but today it’s less tool and more distraction.

    But I am here, so why not put one of his books out there? If I am going to be distracted it might as well be while reading Bradbury online.

  2. Ray Bradbury seldomly wrote about science but mostly about human beings.

    Thus I would consider him to be a science fiction author rather “by accident” than by conviction.

    His opinion about the internet is as true as about any other tool or device. It CAN be a distraction. It CAN be a total waste of time, money or efforts.
    But it DOESN’T HAVE to be, since it is us, the users, the human beings, who decide.
    If we want it to be a distraction, so be it. Sorry to hear about his refusla of ebooks, though.

  3. I’d say that Bradbury’s wrong only in his use of the adjective ‘big.’ ‘Big’ isn’t nearly emphatic enough — it’s like using ‘annoying’ to describe a thermonuclear attack. It’s an awfully enjoyable distraction, though.

    Response? Ebooks are simply print books without the bulk of the physical medium (which isn’t to say that the physical medium doesn’t offer pleasures of its own), and this Bradbury-fan-of-more-than-45-years wishes more of his work was available in ebook form — I’d buy ’em all over again and pass the print copies to any local libraries that didn’t already have them.

    Bests to all,


  4. Useful discussion! To be absolutely clear, at least a few of of Bradbury’s works are available in E as files. But it would be nice to see them online too. Sorry he didn’t accept the Yahoo offer, whether it involved downloaded files or the pure online approach! Thanks. David

  5. Of course the internet is a distraction… so are novels and short stories. That being said, they can be wonderful and extremely necessary distractions. Bradbury might not see the benefits of the internet, but then again, there are those who see no benefits to reading novels or short stories. Its all a question of perspective. I wonder if he would feel the same about the internet if he had a grandchild somewhere across the country that he kept in contact with via video conferences on skype?

  6. Ironically, I know many SF writers who are ardent luddites and refuse to embrace technology. Some barely use computers to write their stories. They have no cell phones, they don’t watch TV, they repudiate ebooks.

    It’s interesting to note that, when we look back at the giants of science fiction, there is one thing they didn’t predict: the Internet.

  7. gnawingonfoot // June 20, 2009 at 12:54 pm //

    I would tell him that while I respect his opinions, I really would like to read his books and that the Internet is the best way for me to get them. I don’t understand why any author would want to control how their readers read their book.

  8. I wonder if Mr Bradbury ever made such attacks on radio. Is there much difference between radio and television?

    I wonder if he ever attacked movies. He wrote for movies of course. I wonder if he preferred silent movies to those new-fangled ‘talkies’?

    Alas, it is all to easy to lampoon the old codger, and how much more ironic that he is a SCIENCE FICTION author!

    Sad, really. Just sad. Maybe Mr Bradbury should go to Alaska for a sojourn at Ted Stevens’ house…

  9. Felix Torres // June 20, 2009 at 6:27 pm //

    Science Fiction isn’t about predicting but about imagining. And the main subject of the imaginings has always been humans and their behavior, what we do; what we might do in a given set of circumstances. Any prediction is generally incidental. Stories that actively *try* to predict are more often than not the most boring, most quickly dated. That said, the internet as it now evolving was most closely imagined by Niven & Pournelle in THE MOTE IN GOD’S EYE, (1974)
    …where every body carried pocket computers (described as essentially “one big integrated circuit”) that were manipulated via stylus and connected wirelessly to a massive centralized database.
    If cloud computing really takes off, we may yet see Asimov’s Multivac (the universal computer and repository of all human knowledge, which outlasted humanity and the universe itself, to become god of a new universe),
    …but in general, most pre-80’s SF saw computers in the centralized mainframe computing/data processing model, not the distributed computing model that microprocessors have created. And most definitely, *not* the creativity tool that modern PCs have become.

    As for Mr Bradbury, he is perfectly entitled to his opinion.
    And we are entitled to ignore it as irrelevant.

  10. Here I thought The Hitchhiker’s Guide was the perfect prediction.

    Ray Bradbury has always been a bit of a ludite. Many of his stories are about technology running amuck. Nothing wrong with this–we do need to watch technology and make sure we’re using it rather than it using them.

    I personally think eBooks are a great example of what technology is for, but that’s me.

    Rob Preece

  11. I’m sad he feels that way but many (how do I put this lightly) people of his age group feel similarly towards technology. I have a lot of respect for him, though. He’s a very perceptive writer and he sticks to his guns. I saw him speak at San Diego Comic-Con 2007 and he spoke his mind (as if he has anything to lose) when asked a political question when many people of his public standing would have sidestepped the question. But the world evolves and how humans live and interact change; we go on.

    I know it’s not what many here would ideally like to hear but my introduction to Ray Bradbury came from darknet ebooks when I was a young, cash-strapped individual. The internet definitely opens up a lot of possibilities, especially for younger people. I was able to get a hold of many things I never would have had access to without the internet (and I’m not talking just about porn!). Generally, I think society is better for it. People who want to use the internet to better themselves by downloading fine literature and taking advantage of all the other educational resources on the net can do it quite easily.

  12. I’d hate to comment on Mr. Bradbury’s dislike of the internet without more details. Does he feel it distracts people from reading? Does he feel it is preventing himself and other elite authors from making a living, while the paupers and outsiders undermine the old publishing castle? Does he own Weyerhaeuser stock?

    Mr. Bradbury is well-known for his attitude that technology has to be watched closely, lest it get away from us. If he feels the net has already gotten away from us, I can understand how he could feel that way. Hopefully he’ll stick around long enough to see more of its potential (Hello universal access!) than its downsides.

  13. Like many e-readers, I only read e. my eyes cannot take the fonts used in most p, and all my old Bradbury books are in a box somewhere (not necessarily in my possession).

    If Ray’s books were available in e, I would re-purchase them ALL and read them all again after 25+ years. Alas, he chooses to ignore this not-so-new but definitely “emerging” medium, and hence him and his publishers loose out on sales.

    And when something isn’t available in e at all, like “Martian Chronicles”, “Dandelion Wine” and the rest of his classic and compelling works, do I feel the LEAST bit guilty about getting it from the darknet (considering I have already purchased it ALL in p before, and would gladly repurchase it in e if I could) ? Nope….

  14. Well, I wouldn’t go so far as digging Mr. B’s works out of the darknet (I still have the paperbacks, as it is). I just won’t be carrying them around on trips, on the train, in my pocket to yank out while waiting for people, etc…

  15. While I don’t think printed books are going to go the way of the dinosaur, I do believe that the new technologies that can offer wonderful stories such as Mr. Bradbury’s are going to have their day. I see far too many young people that just don’t read and anything that encourages them, from putting books on computers or Blackberries or whatever is something I have to approve, even though I happen to be a book dealer, myself!

  16. FYI, gang.

    Five minutes ago while poking around Amazon’s Kindle store, I found Fahrenheit 451, Dandelion Wine, The Martian Chronicles, and Something Wicked This Way Comes for 1.99 each.

    Bests to all,


  17. Garson O'Toole // June 25, 2009 at 2:59 am //

    There is a conversational thread at Kindle Boards about the $1.99 editions of the Bradbury books. Some commentators state that the ebooks are badly formatted, and other participants wonder if the works are unauthorized bootlegs. The same “publisher” was offering two works by Ayn Rand that were expeditiously pulled from distribution claim the distrustful discussants.Of course it is imaginable that the Bradbury editions are authorized.

  18. That’ll teach me to hit that buy button at 1:30 in the morning.

    They ARE badly formatted (no TOC for Martian Chronicles, for instance). Hadn’t taken note of the publisher first as HarperCollins has done a few of Bradbury’s titles as ebooks already and was now doing print editions of the 4 titles that just showed up on the Kindle. Wouldn’t be surprised if they are bootlegs.

    So, re: my note from earlier this morning — never mind.

    Bests to all,


  19. Maybe now we know why Ray’s so unhappy…

  20. The internet is a series of tubes in the air somewhere.

    The phenomenon of e-books needs some – a lot of – work, but that doesn’t make them unworkable. Every new publishing medium needs work starting out, but I think online publications hold a lot of potential to be how most people read in a decade or two. Bradbury shouldn’t knock it ’til he’s tried it, or at least not until it’s evolved further.

  21. I agree with Mr. Bradbury. The internet is a distraction, and I would be a hell of a lot better off had I never associated with it. I consider it an addiction.

  22. I think we should cut Ray Bradbury a little slack here considering he is 89 years old. The fact that he made the comment the internet is “meaningless; it’s not real. It’s in the air somewhere” demonstrates that his faculties are not once they once were. He will always remain a great author nonetheless.

  23. In my opinion Bradbury is right and wrong. The internet does waste time that could be used for something else but the internet is also a provider of knowledge. The internet is a teacher. It has taught me so many things. So many things that has become useful in life. It all depends on how you use the Internet. The internet isn’t all useless. The Internet to me is a way to get to the outside world a way for me to get out of my cage that’s binding me and I’m thankful for it. I don’t know why Bradbury doesn’t like the internet but the internet isn’t all that useless

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