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All traces of Jonah Lehrer’s e-book, *Imagine*, recently vanished from the shelves of online bookstores, Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
The gesture of expunging tarnished content has incited a debate; is it possible to burn an e-book? Maria Konnikova of the Atlantic reflects on questions of censorship in online retail and the nature of books:
An e-book is not a physical book. That point might seem trite until you stop for a moment to think how much simpler it is, in a certain sense, to destroy electronic than physical traces.
Readers on the Daily Beast respond:
But the opposite is equally true. That is, it is much harder to destroy electronic than physical traces. As anyone who has lost control of an image of themselves online can attest, electronic artifacts can be copied anywhere and everywhere at the speed of light, and be stored anywhere and everywhere. They are extremely difficult to wipe out.
In 2011, artist Paul Chan published Wht is a Book? an eBook examining the ontology, and mortality, of books:
What is reading? How does reading turn into knowing? How does knowing become doing? Does it matter if knowing only knows? What is a book? Is reading a book different from reading a menu, or an affidavit, or a painting? Why are books associated with bodies? When books are burned, why is it natural to assume that people are next? Does it have to do with Eros? How do you burn an eBook?