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Thursday, October 6, 2011

Ray Bradbury's Fulfilled Predictions for the Future

The origin of "Fahrenheit 451" started with Ray Bradbury's short story "Bright Phoenix," written in 1947. The short story was rewritten into the novella "The Fireman", and published in a 1951 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction, a periodical. Later, it was expanded and given the title "Fahrenheit 451".
The story is about a futuristic world in which firemen do not put out fires, but start them. These firemen are the law enforcement officers who were given the directive to burn books and to arrest those who own the books.
Most people do not read books. Rather, they watch TV and participate in interactive television shows where the audience can interact with the person in the TV screen. Surprisingly, the televisions take up most of a wall and seem strikingly similar to the large flat-screen televisions of today.
Other technological wonders in Bradbury's book include tiny radios that fit into one's ear. The wife of Montag, the main character of the story, constantly listens to music through tiny ear radios. This is hardly different from what we have today.
Montag, the protagonist of the story, is a fireman who has hidden away, in his house, books which should have been burned. Eventually discovered, he decides to flee from his home town. While out in the country, Montag ends up meeting a group of survivalists who have memorized books and are able to quote them verbatim.
Ray Bradbury has stated that "Fahrenheit 451" is not about the topic of censorship. Rather, he said, it is a story of how television destroys interest in reading literature, leading to a replacement of knowledge with "factoids": partial information devoid of context, such as Napoleon's birth date with no explanation of who he was.
Could this be somewhat prophetic of today? Without a doubt. Many people have ear buds connecting them to their ipods, massive plasma-screen televisions in their living rooms, and an addiction to watching TV. At the time the book was being written, televisions were a new technology and not everyone had one. Today, the average American watches four hours of TV per day, according to the A.C. Nielson Company. By the age of 65, a person would have spent nine years of his or her life watching TV. How beneficial was that time spent watching TV?
According to a study conducted by the Higher Education Research Institute of the University of California Los Angeles, 15- to 24-year-olds read for only, on average, 7-10 minutes each day, for their own pleasure. At the same time, this same category of young adults watches TV, on average, for 2-2.5 hours each day.
Sadly, it seems TV has a hold on the general population, just as Bradbury imagined it would. Some questions come to mind: 'Is there something that can be done to change this trend?' and 'Will fiction books become obsolete?'
Despite all this, a new type of book has come out of obscurity and has now surpassed traditional hard cover and soft cover book sales. The ebook is an electronic book that can be downloaded onto a portable device, such as a kindle, a smartphone, or a personal computer. Early in 2010, Amazon announced that it sold 105 ebooks for every 100 normal books. In July 2010, Amazon announced that the sale of ebooks had surpassed the sale of traditional books. According to Amazon, for every 100 paper books sold, 143 kindle ebooks were purchased. A new form of book has taken the stage. Part of this increase was due to the sales of Apple's new ipad with its kindle apps and Amazon's reduced price on its basic Kindle.
Where technology goes from here remains to be seen, but the future may hold many surprises: surprises that Ray Bradbury could not have imagined. Will ebooks completely replace regular books? Only time will tell.

Works Cited

Bradbury, Ray. Fahrenheit 451. Los Angeles: Ballantine Books, 1953. Print.

"About the Book: Fahrenheit 451." East Baton Rouge Parish Library, n.d. Web. 30 Sep. 2011.

Johnston, Amy E. Boyle. "Ray Bradbury: Fahrenheit 451 Misinterpreted." LA Weekly, LP, 30 May 2007. Web. 30 Sep. 2011.

Herr, Norman, Ph.D. "Television & Health." California State University, Northridge, n.d. Web. 30 Sep. ‎2011.

" Now Selling More Kindle Books Than Print Books.", May 19, 2011. Web. 6 Oct. 2011.

Miller, Clair Cain "E-Books Top Hardcovers at Amazon." New York Times, July 19, 2010. Web. 6 Oct. 2011.

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