I ordered and read Sven Birkerts', The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age, when I ran across the following quote in Morris Berman's The Twilight of American Culture: "Language is the soul's ozone layer, and we thin it at our peril."
In short, Birkerts believes that the growth of the electronic age will result in the erosion of language and the use of critical thinking skills. Initially published in 1994, certain of the author's concerns are now fulfilled prophecy. This book should be read with Neil Postman's Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology, which is a classic on the cultural impact when technology is deified, meaning "the culture seeks its authorization in technology, finds its satisfactions in technology, and takes its orders from technology."
From Birkerts: "A change is upon us--nothing could be clearer. The printed word is part of a vestigial order that we are moving away from--by choice and by societal compulsion. I'm not just talking about disaffected academics either. This shift is happening throughout our culture, away from the patterns and habits of the printed page and toward a new world distinguished by its reliance on electronic communications." From Postman:"Technopoly (when new technologies come to alter the things we think about) eliminates alternatives to itself in precisely the way Aldous Huxley outlined in Brave New World. It does not make them illegal. It does not make them immoral. It does not even make them unpopular. It makes them invisible and therefore irrelevant. And it does so by redefining what we mean by religion, by art, by family, by politics, by history, by truth, by privacy, by intelligence, so that our definitions fit its new requirements. Technopoly, in other words, is totalitarian technocracy."
I found Birkerts insightful and virtually prophetic, given the early date of his initial publication. The first half of the book was difficult to put down and the last half was difficult to finish (it was dry and technical), but the author is on to something important for the future of our culture. "If a person turns from print--finding it too slow, too hard, irrelevant to the excitements of the present--then what happens to that person's sense of culture and continuity?"