The Tyranny of E-mail: The Four-Thousand-Year Journey to Your Inbox
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The Tyranny of E-mail: The Four-Thousand-Year Journey to Your Inbox

3.51 of 5 stars 3.51  ·  rating details  ·  155 ratings  ·  42 reviews
"The computer and e-mail were sold to us as tools of liberation, but they have actually inhibited our ability to conduct our lives mindfully, with the deliberation and consideration that are the hallmark of true agency."

The first e-mail was sent less than forty years ago; by 2011, there will be 3.2 billion e-mail users. The average corporate worker now receives upwards of...more
ebook, 256 pages
Published October 20th 2009 by Scribner (first published January 1st 2009)
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Lewis Manalo
3.5 stars. The correct title of the book is just The Tyranny of Email, and even that title is a little strong. Freeman's not a Luddite, trying to extract humankind from the internet. He's trying to examine just how much the advent of email has affected the way we communicate, think, and feel.

I started reading this book while shopping for a new smartphone. While reading the first half of the book, which is mostly a history of written communication, I was ready to get a top-of-the-line smartphone...more
Brian Ayres
It is not often that I pan a book, but there is some serious laziness associated with Freeman's work here. This book should win recognition for the gluttony of random statistics that are pulled out of thin air and impossible to validate. There are so many instances of disconnected data to back up an already tired idea -- we use e-mail a lot in this society? Really? -- that they are simple to find by doing a random scan through the book. Let me just see, oh, here is one -- "By some estimates, 85-...more
Janet
As I expected, this book shed some unflattering light on my online behavior. Yes, I click "refresh" on my Facebook and Goodreads.com pages more than is practical. Yes, I check my email many, many times a day. But now I understand more about why I do so (when there's a payoff, say a personal email instead of some junk mail, I get a little endorphin rush, furthering my obsession with the refresh button--Freeman and researchers liken this to the slot machine's tendency to feed gambling addictions)....more
David
I never thought that email was tyranical. Over the years I have just gotten used to email interruptions. On my desktops I even run 2 copies of gtalk so that I get an immediate popup when new email arrives.

Now that I have read this book I am thinking more about how to get work done in blocks and not get stuck in an email loop.

The book feels padded a bit but is still an interesting read. Mobile email will only make email worse in the future. The book didn't deal with IM which surprised me as this...more
getAbstract
Practical guide to mastering e-mail

Send dramatically fewer e-mails and everything else will get better, says writer and editor John Freeman. Before explaining that promise, he offers a nostalgic look at the history of mail, starting with clay tablets. He covers the changes that each new burst of speed caused along the way. Then he describes the way that today’s employees are ruining their attention spans, productivity, relationships and even their health with e-mail overload. In fact, he says, m...more
Sarah
Reading this book gave me anxiety while explaining to me why email gives me anxiety; it also made me nostalgic for the time before email. I felt this way when I arrived at college, too, right before everyone first got email addresses. I wanted to keep writing letters! Obviously that didn't work out so well for me. I think it's a big loss, though. I think communicating now is almost *too* easy, and it's not necessarily even communicating, since the risk of misinterprating tone without visual or a...more
Ryan Mishap
"By parceling our days into smaller and smaller units, by giving us the impression that we can reach all people, at all times, e-mail is helping to put this cycle of overworking and impatient desire for gratification into hyperdrive. We work to live, the saying goes, but when work takes everything, what's the point?"

With a provocative title like that you need a stable argument but Freeman doesn't build a case as much as he merely points out obvious truths. His argument, then, becomes self-eviden...more
Mary
The vocabulary and sentence-building capability of this author made me swoon. This was not the type of book you expect to be gorgeously written, but it most definitely was!

The story started out with great momentum tracking the history of communication from clay tablets to the telegraph to today's beeping smart phones. And it was all great! The author also offered some helpful tips that even I, a recent convert to email haterism, could take to heart in shaping the type and amount of communication...more
Talia
I heard the author speak on public radio, and was compelled to read this book!

Things I liked:

- The reminder that communication hasn't always been this way, and that it's not necessarily ideal!
-I thought this was a great observation: "Brain imaging is beginning to show that when we get a big reward--such as a jackpot payout--dopamine, the hormone and neurotransmitter, floods the anterior cingulate, the part of the brain that appears control mechanical functions such as heartbeat and breathing, a...more
Sherri
Wow - lots of food for reflection here. Freeman first discusses the long history of our ever more rapid communication technologies -- from the clay tablet to the invention of standard time to the telegraph to the postcard to the typewriter, noting the consternation with which each new development was greeted, and the changes that it wrought in our world. Then he makes us think about what email, and this brave new world in which everyone is a writer and can reinvent their identities at will, but...more
Chase Appich
I wish I read this 10 years ago (if it was published then). My generation relies to heavily on the digital world. Before you know if we won't know how to react face to face. I've been around situations where this happens already. If you don't have something social to talk about, there is a solid chance of silence in the room. At this time, I have been off Facebook for 3.5 years. I've learned to appreciate conversation over the phone and in person more than electronically. This books helps unders...more
110
Another book on "philosophy of technology" and how technology affects the human behavior and human brain... To be read with the book by Nicholas Carr "The Big Switch: Our New Digital Destiny" and the two articles "Is google making us stupid", http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200807..., and "The autumn of multitaskers", http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200711...: "Neuroscience is confirming what we all suspect: Multitasking is dumbing us down and driving us crazy."

An interesting paragraph in the cha...more
Jennifer
This was a super interesting book - a history of how we humans have communicated via the written word. From prehistory scribbles to the development of the printed word, to the postal service and now email, this book takes us through the ways in which how we say something affects what we say, who hears it, how fast they receive the information and how all of that affects our understanding of time and space. It really is cool. And the end has some VERY practical tips for how to take control of you...more
Grace
What I've read so far is great. Do you know the average worker sends or receives 200 e-mails every day? Every day! I believe it, oh boy, do I! I have had times where I've been gone one day and have 89 new messages in my in box. E-mails can decrease efficiency and communication. I get e-mails from the people that sit less than 10 feet from me because we all want it in writing to CYA. Blerg! The author gives suggestions at the end of the book on how to end the tyranny. Not that I skipped ahead or...more
Meghan
Decent extended essay on how we've let e-mail take over every waking hour: "It has encouraged flotillas of unnecessary jabbering, making it difficult to tell signal from noise. It has made it more difficult to read slowly and enjoy it, hastening the already declining rates of literacy. It has made it harder to listen and mean it, to be idle and not fidget."

Of course, I checked my e-mail several times while reading this book.
Marjanne
I get it, but unfortunately there is a 'the-sky-is-falling-!!' kind of feel to this book. I agree that the over use of technology is kind of undermining our society; just look at texting-while-driving (not to mention watching DVD's while driving). The author does concede that there are benefits to a lot of the technology available out there. I suppose this would do more for me if I were more of an email/internet addict.
Nicole
This provided an interesting overview of the history of communication technologies and some compelling examples of the types of things we might be losing by increasing our dependence on e-mail (although I would have liked more details about some of Freeman's arguments here). Freeman's suggestions for how to manage e-mail more effectively were heavily slanted toward those who use it primarily at work.
Robyn
This book has a great description of why I am always stressed out - it's the tyranny of email. I am now on the path to reform - we will see how long that lasts.

This book is good for anyone who is sick of email. It's not a perfect book. It seems to suffer from the same problems of email writing - it is written more in soundbites. But it does get you thinking about how email has changed our culture.
Melissa A.
An interesting and delightfully scathing review of our new primary means of communication. I always thought I was behaving somewhat like an addict when using e-mail, and this book confirms it. I enjoyed the "snail mail" history lesson in the first few chapters. Everyone will be able to relate to vignettes in this book and at the very least, think twice the next time you check your inbox.
Faith
Somewhat interesting, though as someone who doesn't have a deluge of work email, I found parts of it not as relevant as others might. The best part of the book was the last two chapters were he gives advice and a vision of a world were email is less demanding and more sane. I wish he would have spent less time talking about the development of the postal system and more time on that.
Katherine
Fabulous book. One of those books that you read and then say, duh why didn't anyone write this book already, it is completely true and everyone needs to think about these things. Great history of email's history (and what came before it) and how it affects us today. And some excellent specific ideas of what to do to change your relationship with e-mail. A great read.
Eric Thirolle
This book does a great job describing the accelerating pace of communication over time, and the stressful world of work email. It is an entertaining read, and does a nice job discussing some alternatives to the email treadmill. I read this a few years ago now, so my memory of specifics is vague, but the sense of how meaningful it was to me remains.
Lucy
Very important book
Kelly Selander
A good historical over view of communication. Lacking in original thought, but it could be that I work in an environment that gives me a first hand glimpse into "The Tyranny of Email," as the author titled his book.
Walt DeGrange
Great background on human communication leading up to email. The author sets up the problem nicely and then offers ten tips in the last chapter. The tips are not given more than a few paragraphs explaination.
Lindsey
Oh, if you've ever had an office job or telecommuted... this book is for you. Gives a nice historical view of the development of email and how overloaded we are today. Also gives some suggestions for a cure.
Laurie
Dec 29, 2010 Laurie marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Read a chapter in an airline magazine and it looks promising. He seems to address and explore many of the points I find myself thinking about when sitting in front of the computer screen (like right now).
Jennifer
This book is making me reconsider how much time I spend online and how I manage my work. I don't know that it will change my life, but upon finishing it I did delete my twitter and tumblr accounts.
Phil Simon
This well-researched book is making me reconsider my whole approach to communication. It should be required reading for just about everyone with a computer, tablet, or smartphone.
Erika Delaney
This book pointed out many truths about how the way we work has changed because of e-mail. very interesting non-fiction read that I have recommended to many people since I read it.
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