Michelle Knight. Writer, photographer, programmer, truck driver and general, all round nut case. Life is a journey and that's what this blog will probably end up being. Let's see where we go, eh? ;-)
I've just read Dear Author's piece on power - http://dearauthor.com/features/letters-of-opinion/on-why-authors-have-more-power-than-readers/ - and the case why the author has all the power while the reader has none.
While Robin Reader has painted the reader base as a group of people who can mobilize on behalf of an author, even when the author themselves hasn't requested any such mobilization, when it comes to the reverse, Robin has pained the reader as a lone individual and has not acknowledged that the reader base can turn against, and pressure, an author just as effectively. Look at the people who pursued Salman Rushdie in to hiding. That's power for you! (well, actually, that is a simplification and I encourage you to read her post in full and then come back to this one.)
Also, when Robin is talking about risk, she seems to ignore the fact that reading a book is, in itself a risk on various fronts for the reader as well as the author.
Firstly average life. How much time do we spend living. An interesting article here - http://www.thefactsite.com/2010/03/how-much-time-people-spend-doing-stuff.html - now, removing the Daily Mail assertion, that gives you 233 months left to actually live your life. I've also been graceful and kept the twelve first years of life. That's 167,760 hours.
Given the rough calculation of 250 words per minute reading speed and a novel of around 70,000 words, that's a little over 4.5 hours. So in your lifetime, assuming you spent all your leisure time since birth, reading books, you'd only have the time to read about 37,000 novels at 70,000 words. (and that's being generous in my humble opinion. And according to a lot of rough maths and other people's assumptions, of course!)
Now, given a rough figure from Wiki as 2,200,000 works published worldwide per year - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Books_published_per_country_per_year - then if I was a reader, I'd be very cautious about what I spent my precious hours reading, because I'm not going to get those hours back.
Secondly, information and emotional effect. A reader can not un-read what they have read. There is a chance that, in among the words on those pages, is something which will greatly upset the reader and hurt them. Change a small part of their lives forever. As an author, I'm mindful of these things and I've had some very interesting discussions with people as a result.
Some books have changed an entire societies viewpoint. For better or worse.
She says, "Most of us online fall somewhere in between the most powerful author and the least powerful reader." But you could say that the other way around; most of us online fall somewhere in between the most powerful reader and the least powerful author.
Power is down to reputation. Whether an author, reader, paid reviewer or blogger, each of us has a reputation and our actions affect what people think of us and, therefore a certain weight is attached to what we say. Take for example, the President of the United States. If he, as a single reader, was to deliver his opinion on an author or an ARC, then people would listen.
What about the author who no one is reading? How much power does that author have? Very little. Indeed, that author could come under attack if they declared their position in some discussions; as I have done. My opinion in discussions about books have been decried on the basis that I am just taking part in conversations in order to draw attention to myself and thus I'm booted out. If I wanted my position known then I would have to invent a pseudonym and fly under the radar; not the best thing to do in these days of full-disclosure. Damned if I do and damned if I don't.
If you are willing to decry my opinion on something because you want to pre-judge me, then I think there is a word for that sort of behavior ... bigot. I'm not going to use a pen name just so that I can add my voice to a debate without fear of persecution and judgement. I have a valid point of view here, and if you want to turn your back on me and others like me, then where does that leave the validity of your discussion? Up a creek without a paddle, I think!
Just the other day someone asked me, as an author and a reader in the same person, what were my views on Digital Rights Management. We had quite an interesting and positive discussion. If I had been, "masquerading," as someone who was just a reader, then it would have not only skewed any answer I could have given, but also would have risked outing me as an author. Incidentally, I'm against DRM, by the way. It hurts my one reader by how they can read my book; ties them down to one reading platform and they are at the mercy of the backup/download limit system that the purchasing company imposes on them. Pirates are going to smash DRM anyway.
But to my mind, power is not simply a case of being in the hands of one group over another group; but power is wielded by the individual and the respect that society has given that individual; wherever they sit in the book sphere.