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A Better Pencil: Readers, Writers, and the Digital Revolution
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A Better Pencil: Readers, Writers, and the Digital Revolution

3.32  ·  Rating details ·  76 Ratings  ·  15 Reviews
Computers, now the writer's tool of choice, are still blamed by skeptics for a variety of ills, from speeding writing up to the point of recklessness, to complicating or trivializing the writing process, to destroying the English language itself.
A Better Pencil puts our complex, still-evolving hate-love relationship with computers and the internet into perspective, descri
Hardcover, 259 pages
Published September 1st 2009 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published August 26th 2009)
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A. Bowdoin Van Riper
A Better Pencil spends two-third of its brief length being an utterly fascinating book, then veers—abruptly and without warning—into being a dull, derivative, and outdated one. Its original, interesting self briefly reemerges in the conclusion: a reminder of lost opportunities that intensifies, rather than diminishes, the sense of loss.

The first half of the book is an argument that the technology with which we write has always affected the way we write. Baron makes the point by considering first
Book Calendar
Apr 03, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reading, computers
A Better Pencil Readers, Writers, and The Digital Revolution by Dennis Baron

Dennis Baron is a professor of linguistics at the University of Illinois. He is writing about how technology expands and creates new varieties of communications. He includes his own experiences with early computers, Wordstar, and word processors. He is writing about the history of technology from the point of a social scientist.

He starts with what it means to transition from an oral culture to one where everything is w
Paul Fidalgo
Jan 01, 2011 rated it it was ok
(From Near Earth Object)

Apart from some interesting bits about the challenges presented by, and the romanticism associated with, various writing tools and implements, Dennis Baron’s A Better Pencil: Readers, Writers, and the Digital Revolution is a very repetitive book with little to say. Essentially, Baron gives laborious, truly unnecessary explanations of some of the most common and basic writing means — from pencils and typewriters to Facebook and IMs — fit only for those to whom these techno
Gerard Brown
May 04, 2012 rated it it was ok
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, wi ...more
Jun 22, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2012
Though Baron hints at his ideology in the many iterations of "writing has always been a technology" formulations he gives, he stops short of ever really coming down on one side or another in terms of the contemporary debate regarding the effect of digital technology on writing, specifically, or literacy, more broadly. Thus, this book was more informative than argumentative, which obviously meant that you had to have an inherent interest in the subject to enjoy it. That said, I found many of its ...more
Jan 28, 2010 rated it liked it
In A Better Pencil, Dennis Baron explores the development of writing technologies, showing how the computer is just the most recent in a line of writing technologies that follow similar paths of development and acceptance:

1) starting off not as a communication device, but for another purpose (writing, for example, was a memory device to begin with) (xi)
2) become re-adapted for writing (xi)
3) become adopted as they become easier to adopt and cheaper to make (xii, 13)
4) developed ways to trust tha
Autumn Shuler
Oct 08, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Because this book was assigned for class, I figured it would be dry and purely concerned with being informational. I was thrilled to discover that Baron's voice comes through strongly throughout the work and lends a conversational tone to a book that could easily become either dry or preachy.

I'm not sure I would just pick it up to read for fun, but if you're interested in digital technologies and their evolution and/or (slightly dated) usage, you will probably find this an enjoyable and informat
Jane Hammons
Mar 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
Baron is a linguist and gives a good overview of the history of communication. I began reading this because I teach writing but I ended up really liking it for many reasons. It does inform my teaching, and it is also generally informative. I'll probably use some excerpts from it in a hybrid composition course I teach.
Feb 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
A witty overview of the history of writing technologies--from tablets to payprus to pencils, print, and the digital revolution. Demystifes a nostalgia for old forms of writing; assuages fears about new ones. A useful, synthetic text.
Feb 11, 2010 rated it liked it
Not dreadfully dry, but the approach taken regarding internet technology makes one wonder if the author is technologically-challenged, or if he is excessively dumbing it down for a mistargeted audience.
Phil Simon
Jan 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Excellent story of the evolution of writing. For the whole review, click

Jan 23, 2010 rated it liked it
Quite an interesting read of the history of writing and be therefor reading also. Not necessarily memorable but interesting.
May 14, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: junk
Rather long, boring, dull, tedious, and I can think of a few more words. What has the pencil to do with this?
Keck Williams
Jul 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
Oct 21, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: technology
Review soon.
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