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Word Count: 596
The Gutenberg Elegies The Gutenberg Elegies is not only about the loss of the printed word but of books literature reading history culture language sensibility the past community faith the self and the soul Responsible for their unfortunate extinction is technology or so Birkert says Birkerts is out to speak up for the act of reading to stand by the printed book and to defend the literary culture that books and reading created Reading the book and literary culture are put in jeopardy not only by electronic mass media but also by the digitization and electronic manipulation of the written word and by its electronic transmission I would like to suggest two reasons why the book is off First his rehash of electronic media is painted with too broad of a brush The differences between these medias are ignored When he discusses reading he specifically declares that he is not concerned with all written media nor even just books nor even literary works but only literary fiction When he considers electronic media he excludes nothing throwing into the mix computers fax machines e-mail books on tape televisions CD-ROM camcorders answering machines and so on This is not the right way to do it To fail to tell the difference between numerous kinds of electronic media because they are all based on manipulating electrons is as fundamental a mistake as failing to differentiate between tax forms and novels because they are both printed on paper As anyone knows who has experienced them both broadcast media like radio and television are much different then point-to-point interactive media like computer-mediated-communication Video audio and multimedia forms of electronic media are vastly different then the primarily text transmissions that constitute most of the traffic on the Internet E-mail is nothing like television Generalizing across all of these forms of media short-circuits the argument The second problem that undercuts Birkerts criticism of the electronic media is an imprecision in
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