Sven Birkerts

In “Into the Electronic Millennium,” a chapter from The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age (1995), Sven Birkerts discusses the past, present, and future of the world’s advancements in technology and how they have changed books. Not only does Birkerts explain the new up comings, but also elaborates how these advancements are changing the styles of reading.

Birkerts explains how he feels the new technology is hurting the way books are being distributed. Times have changed from going to a library and reading a book, to being able to purchase a book with a few clicks. The new media has taken over society, which has caused many changes. Today’s generation is experiencing this change first hand as these new changes take place.

Birkerts states that “To get a sense of the enormity of the change, you must force yourself imagine-deeply and in nontelevisual terms-what the world was like a hundred, even fifty, years ago (64).” A hundred years ago, there wasn’t the Internet or iPhones; there was a library and a good book to read. The past has many features that are now fading away because of the new inventions and up to date technology.

The print of a book was static; no one could pick up a book and change the way it was written. That’s why the printing of a book is so unique. A book that was written two hundred years ago is still going to say the same words now as it did in the original. Birkerts explains in the chapter that even though technology is advancing, it might not be helping students and their comprehension in school.

Today,people rely on internet sources instead of stated facts found in a true encyclopedia or another book. Although many sources online are factual statements, there are also many cites that can be mistaken for the truth. Wikipedia is one a site that may be a good source, but also could give false information. Wikipedia is a site that allows a user to add his/her own opinions on a certain subject. This allows many changes to occur, which can easily be misunderstood by anyone reading. If this new media is taking over, then changes to help kids move in a positive direction need to be presented.  This generation is growing up with the technology many didn’t have years ago. Electronic media is here to stay now and in the future. People are dependent on technology. Everyone would be lost if this media were to be taken away from everyone for just one day. A new gadget that is becoming very common is called a kindle. A kindle allows someone to purchase and read books electronically. This shows that society is becoming an electronic based world. People in school are no longer reading directly from books, but now reading from a screen and scrolling up and down. Schooling has also been altered with the new media trends. It has caused students to lose sight on proper grammar, and focus in the classroom. The reading of books helps students work on their focus and grammar.

It is clear that in this day and age, that the near future will become all electronic based.  Birkerts talks about an interview taken by Robert Zich from the Washington Post Magazine. Zich states, “…people will be able to get what information they want directly off their terminals. The function of the Library of Congress will change” (69). Although Birkerts is against the change, the advancements are going to keep upgrading, and, as the quote states, the Library of Congress will change and soon become a museum.  Soon all books will be found electronically, and a device small enough to fit in your pocket. Although reading text from a book or from a screen may seem to be the exact same, the significance of reading a book and seeing a printed book is like looking at a painting in person (70).  In reality, it just depends on the person and what they prefer. Some people may not see any differences in a screen or a book, but soon everything will be read from screens.

Sven Birkerts, an amateur literary critic, describes the changes we are going through with the advancements in today’s world. We have been through a time where everybody went to libraries to rent or read a book, to staying at home and buying a book from a device called a kindle. Presently, we are going through the change first hand. Sooner then we know it a library will only be a building that was in the past. It will just become another type of museum that we visit to see important features from the past. A book will no longer be a book but a form of text we read from a screen. No one knows for sure what will happen with the book world, but we do know that technology is advancing and making a great change as we are experiencing.