Gerard Brown's Reviews > A Better Pencil: Readers, Writers, and the Digital Revolution

A Better Pencil by Dennis Baron
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Jun 26, 14

Read from November 03, 2012 to June 25, 2014

I cannot say this was a page-turner. Many books were able to leapfrog over it when I would curl up for bedtime reading...why? Baron has chosen a fascinating subject - the transformations wrought by changing writing and reading technologies - but his book suffers from an unusual condition: too much reasonable thinking. When the conclusion of your book includes the sentence, "The effects of the technologies [forcing changes in how we write, read and circulate text] have typically been positive, with some negatives inevitably mixed in - the plusses and minuses owing as much to the vagaries of human nature as to the advantages or disadvantages of the technology itself", you're being a little wishy-washy.

While the book includes flashes of imagination (a good section of Ted Kaczynski as author, an imaginative and inclusive overview of writing technologies form clay tablets to forgotten early word processing programs, a thoughtful meditation on global citizenship in the information age), Baron seems to have written a book that would be better discussed over dinner than actually published. His informal, conversational tone contribute to this impression.

All of this perhaps says more about my expectations than about Baron's book - an effort to consider the ways we are being manipulated by our own communication is a valuable opportunity for reflection. I wish I'd gotten a little more to reflect on here.
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Reading Progress

11/03/2012 page 100
38.0% "Another reviewer noted that the book is more informative than argumentative and that's kind of keeping me at arm's length..."
06/26/2014 marked as: read

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