I’ve never really understood the appeal of getting a book autographed by the author; the only writing in mine is incoherent margin-scribbling and the occasional phone number. But the author tour reading/signing is still a staple of the book business, despite rising travel costs, airline hassles, and increased concern about carbon footprint. Enter the Longpen, invention of author Margaret Atwood, which uses technology to allow almost in-person encounters (and signings) between authors and fans. It’s been around for a while, largely as a novelty and topic of autograph-authenticity debates, but this fall machines will actually be installed in stores around the world.
Here’s a picture I took of a demonstration at BEA:
When I expressed cynicism, the company’s trade show representative called me out on my New York snobbery (touché) and explained I might be more excited if I lived in a small town where authors never deign to venture on even the most extensive tours. Writers who are elderly or disabled can have face time with readers. And for the younguns in the audience: you can take home digital video of your autographing and blog your little hearts out.