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Everyone’s an Author, But Is Anyone Worth Reading?

 by Bennett Gordon

Tags: Media, Science and Technology, literacy, authorship, privacy, Seed, American Conservative,

Blogging ThisIn just four years, everyone on earth may be an author. When books were the dominant form of publishing, a small minority of the world’s population had their words published. Now, Twitter, Facebook, and social networking sites are making authors into the majority. From the year 1400 to 2000, according to Denis G. Pelli and Charles Bigelow in Seed, the number of published authors rose by tenfold every century. For the past decade, authorship has grown by tenfold every year. Eventually, the authors predict that everyone on earth will be published.

Near-universal authorship is changing society, Pelli and Bigelow write. People are “trading privacy for influence,” and businesses and governments are being forced to adapt to the power that individuals now wield. People who fret about illiteracy throughout the world may soon extend their concern to people who can’t publish.

That concern is misguided, Albert Jay Nock writes for the American Conservative. Universal literacy creates near-universal mediocrity in literature, according to Nock. Teaching the world to read creates a market for schlock that forces worthwhile literature out of the market. In the article, which is fittingly behind a paywall, Nock writies:

The average literate person being devoid of reflective power but capable of sensation, his literacy creates a demand for a large volume of printed matter addressed to sensation; and this form of literature, being the worst in circulation, fixes the value of all the rest and tends to drive it out.

Nock laments mass literacy for the bad writing it creates. He should prepare for mass authorship.

Source: Seed, American Conservative (subscription required)

Image by Foxtongue, licensed under Creative Commons.

UPDATE: We tried to reach Albert Jay Nock for a comment, but found the conversation a trifle one-sided. Indeed, Nock has been dead for more than half a century. We regret the error.