Burn Notice

Dear BBA Members,

I write to you with great concern. Like much of the print-book world, our existence is being threatened by the rise of e-books. And while the media covers this issue as it affects publishers, booksellers and authors, they ignore the plight of people like us, the loyal and devoted Book Burners of America. As we approach our Annual Bonfire Gala, proudly celebrating the 80th anniversary of when Brave New World was first set aflame, we offer a guide with answers to your most frequently asked questions about how e-books will affect our mission.

1. What are e-books?

E-books (short for “evil-books”) are electronic versions of books that can be viewed on computers, many cellular telephones, and a variety of stand-alone devices, none of which are nearly as flammable as mass-market paperback editions of Lolita.

2. Why are e-books so dangerous?

E-books are dangerous because they cannot be destroyed by conventional means, like a campfire or a warehouse explosion. If print books that we find offensive are like Green Eggs and Ham, easily flushed down a garbage disposal, think of e-books as the mutant, flesh-eating creatures I can only assume populate something that would be called an Animal Farm, complete with adjustable font size and a built-in dictionary.

3. I usually use a thick black marker to cross out the objectionable words in books I read, so that I can safely enjoy great works like Cabin, The Verses, and Moby. Can I do that with an e-book?

No. While ink will indeed black out parts of your screen, skilled amoral e-book users will be able to scroll up and down to see the hidden text. The only way to truly ensure that dangerous material cannot be seen is to black out the entire screen. This, of course, has the side effect of making it impossible to read anything — a long-term goal of ours, but one which, for now, remains unrealistic.

4. Can’t we simply print out copies of our e-books and burn those printouts? There’s nothing I would like more than to toss a few copies of Ulysses into the fire — I expected a presidential biography about a serial adulterer, not smut.

We can, but because e-books exist in computer files, burning one printed copy of an e-book does nothing to change the overall supply of that book–which is, sadly, inexhaustible.

5. I wrote an offensive book about Mark Twain fornicating with a unicorn, and the only copy of that book exists on my flash drive. So can’t I destroy my own book by burning my flash drive?

Yes. If no copy of that file exists on any other device, you can indeed destroy your own book by burning your flash drive. However, if you are in the habit of writing about fictional creatures having relations with animals, it may be more effective for us to burn you than your flash drive. Our new Exploratory Committee for Author Incineration may be in touch.

6. I accidentally bought an offensive e-book — I didn’t realize what George would be so Curious about — and would like to symbolically burn it. May I print the receipt from my purchase and toss that into the fire?
We’re sorry — you “accidentally” bought an offensive e-book? This unfortunately triggers an automatic forfeiting of your membership in the BBA. We’ll have someone else bring the potato salad to the after-fire barbecue.

7. I can bring potato salad, but I don’t have a recipe. Are we allowed to read cookbooks, or are they on the list of objectionable works?

It depends. We’ve been burning the ones with recipes for deviled eggs, chicken breasts, and grapes (of wrath or otherwise), but aside from that, you should be fine.

Jeremy Blachman is the author of Anonymous Lawyer and has written for McSweeney’s, The Wall Street Journal, and other publications that fall somewhere in between.