Robert J. Sawyer

Hugo and Nebula Award-Winning Science Fiction Writer

Letter in The Mail on Sunday

by Rob - February 15th, 2010.
Filed under: ebooks.

Britain’s The Mail on Sunday (which has a circulation of 2.2 million copies) solicited a Letter to the Editor from me about the forthcoming Apple iPad and its science-fictional precursors. Here’s what I had to say in full; a shorter version appears in today’s (14 February 2010) print edition of the newspaper:

Once again, science fiction has become science fact. The Apple iPad brings us very close to the portable flatscreens on which the astronauts in the 1968 movie 2001: A Space Odyssey watched the BBC World News — and read their documents.

Even before that, the original Star Trek had characters reading books and manuals on their computer screens, and in one episode Elisha Cook, Jr., guest starred as a Luddite lawyer who, much to Captain Kirk’s amusement, still used paper books.

But as the cover note on the most famous ebook of all — The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy — proclaims, “Don’t panic.” Marshall McLuhan was wrong; the medium is not the message, and a book is a book even if it’s displayed on a Kindle, an iPad, a smartphone, or a desktop computer.

Robert J. Sawyer, Toronto

Sawyer’s novel FlashForward — available in print and as an ebook — is the basis for the TV series of the same name.

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