Dennis Baron's A Better Pencil
Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009


Reviewed by Kate Pantelides

University of South Florida


For those who romanticize the good old days, the days when we wrote with pen and pencil and weren’t bombarded by emails, texts, and social networking pages, Dennis Baron usefully deconstructs this romantic ideal and places it in its historical context. Thus, Baron’s A Better Pencil: Readers, Writers, and the Digital Revolution offers a provocative argument for anyone reluctant to embrace what he terms new “word technologies,” but especially for those in computers and writing interested in contextualizing the digital revolution. In his text, Baron chronicles the development of word technologies from the advent of writing, or at least some of the first recorded objections to writing in ancient Greece, to the present. Baron’s purpose isn’t necessarily to judge reactions to writing technologies, but instead to place them in context, showing readers that the skepticism and fear of technology that contemporary applications such as Facebook and Twitter have elicited are familiar, easily traced back to each successive development in writing technologies. Ultimately, Baron posits that instead of heralding the demise of writing, the digital revolution has ushered in new authors, making America “into a nation of writers” (109).


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