Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Bookplates or Signed Books?

I buzzed by Borders tonight to pick up Emma Holly's newest release, Kissing Midnight and see what else was hitting the shelves for June. I don't buy many Baen hardcovers as a general rule (they've fallen apart on me too many times) but I spotted a copy of Longeye, the sequel to Sharon Lee and Steve Miller's Duainfey, which I had already bought as a gift for a friend, and picked that up to add to the gift. I knew going in that I had to wait until the 30th for Darkness Calls, the sequel to Marjorie M. Liu's The Iron Hunt, but that I have on preorder. From there it was just casual browsing.

I caught a glimpse of a zombie version of a classic literary novel, spun around and walked the other way. I've heard a lot about it, but the cover art is beyond repulsive, and the shock value or whatever didn't work on me. I ended up in the lit/mainstream aisle, and spotted a popular author's new title, which had an autographed sticker on the cover and a nice bookmark sticking out of it. Since I don't often have the chance to get signed copies of anything, I grabbed two copies (one for me and one for LB&LI) and headed for the register. Only when I got home did I discover that the books weren't actually signed, but had a signed bookplate glued to the inside cover.

This bothered me, as I don't care for signed bookplates. I made up a batch once for an indy bookseller who requested them, but that left me feeling like I'd cheated, and I never did them again. I don't know why I don't like them, either. They're certainly a practical alternative to doing the real thing. Authors, especially popular ones, can't be expected to hold signings all over the country. Most can't travel overseas to sign books for non-U.S. readers.

To me a signed book, even if it's flat-signed, has some value, not just as a collectible but as a memento. If you attend signings, you get to meet the author in person, and that's usually an event a reader likes to remember. Even if the author is like me and doesn't do signings but instead mails out signed books, there's still a degree of personal connection there. The author held the book to sign it before sending it off.

The bookplate is signed, too, but that happened when it was probably in a stack of blanks that the author signed, one right after another, then mailed off to a bookstore where one of the staff glued it to the inside of the new stock. It just doesn't seem as personal to me.

Maybe I'm being too picky, though. What do you guys think? Are bookplates okay with you, or do you prefer to have the author sign the book itself?

28 comments:

  1. Autographed books don't really make a difference with me one way or the other, but if I had to choose, I'd rather the author genuinely signed it than using a bookplate.
    That is just a little bit too cold.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm with you on this one, although I will send out a signed, handmade bookplate if someone asks me for one.

    It's cheaper than mailing the book, after all.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Eh, I don't like anything stuck to my books!

    I've always claimed that I don't care about signed books one way or the other. However, when my second-hand copy of the Norton Book of Science Fiction arrived, and I discovered UK Le Guin had signed it...well, I admit it, I squeed! lol

    Signed books for me; don't stick things in my books!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hmm, I am a bit torn. I love it when the author signs the book for me, but here's the deal...

    I have three writing friends in other countries. I've bought their books but the cost to have them sent overseas and back for their signatures is insane. I've asked them for bookplates and they agreed. So I still have their signatures and it was personal b/c they thought of me when they did it.

    Alison Kent did the same thing for me for the same reason.

    I *do* wish there were lovelier bookplates out there, but I think sometimes a bookplate is the best way to go.

    I'm not sure how I'd feel about it right off the book shelf though...

    ReplyDelete
  5. I'm with Buffy. I don't like things stuck to my books - inside or outside. I guess if I had writer friends overseas, where signing and shipping a book would be a pain, I'd live with it. If I bought it in the bookstore, expecting a signed page, I'd be miffed.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I agree that having an author send me an autographed book plate seems just as personal as having the book signed.

    Actually, I don't see much of a difference between buying an already autographed copy at the bookstore or one with a signed bookplate--both feel different to me than having something signed as part of some (even distant and tenuous) personal connection with the author.

    I do have a book of Rumi poetry translated by Coleman Barks that I waited in the rain for Barks to sign. I treasure it both because I love the poetry but also because he took the time to connect with me and have a real conversation.

    :)

    ReplyDelete
  7. Keita Haruka9:11 AM

    Well...I didn't mind either way...until I recieved a (very unexpected) signed copy of a certain book in the mail. It meant a HELL of a lot, and it crystalised the preference for signed books over bookplates. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  8. If I have an autographed book then I want it signed by the author not a bookplate. Just seem too impersonal.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I don't care one way or another. If there's a personal connection--I actually communicated with the writer in some way--then it makes a signed book (whether directly or via a glued bookplate) fun for me to own. If not, then I'd rather the book wasn't signed at all.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I send out a lot of signed bookplates to people who request them. But I personally would much prefer the actual book signed.
    Kind of one of those funny things...why does it matter? But it does. :)
    Lori

    ReplyDelete
  11. i love the one i have signed the best but for authors that I can get to or like you that don't sign then i'd love to have book plates or since I have started a scrapbook with authors I've met just their autograph would be great.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I acquired my first signed books ever last year--from author websites :) I'd never paid much attention to signed copies of anything--I read for pleasure, not for profit, and I'd always considered getting "signed first editions" of books to be some sort of collecting/money-making scheme.

    In the past year, I've enjoyed collecting a few signed books, either won from websites, or from in-person signings. I don't think I'd care much for a book or bookplate that was signed that I didn't witness.

    On the other hand, I wouldn't have a preference for a personally (in-person or mailed) signed book vs bookplate. Its the memento factor that's important.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I definitely prefer the actual book signed, but there are a few authors I interact with on a fairly regular basis, some I've grown to know quite well for it being online.

    I know my chances of meeting them in person are almost nil so in that case, signed bookplates are great. But I don't glue them in the book, I set them in. If, by some weird chance, I lend the book to someone, I put them in my file rather than send them with the book. Keeps the plate nice and reminds me when I haven't gotten the book back.

    A personal signing is always treasured, but the bookplates are very nice too and I wouldn't turn one down.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I would not want a "reasonable facsimile." I prefer attending book signings, or communicating with the author by mail, as I've done in the past, so that when the author signs the book, he or she uses my name when signing a book. Having a book with an author's facsimile or duplicated signature means nothing to me.

    ReplyDelete
  15. As a writer, I don't do them. My reasons are related to a physical thing, though. Actual handwriting flares up my carpal tunnel issues, so I limit my handwriting as much as I can.

    As a reader, bookplates don't bother me, but I'd prefer an actual signed copy.

    ReplyDelete
  16. A signed bookplate directly from the author is fine, but glue one to the inside of the book feels wrong.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I could care less whether or not a book is signed. In my mind there is no value to a scribble of ink. But meeting an author that I admire - now there's a great thing. I love meeting my writing heroes and since I need to stand in an autograph line to do it, I usually walk away with a signed book. : )

    ReplyDelete
  18. I think it's funny you brought this up, because in several weeks I'll be attending a book signing for the mentioned zombie version of classic literature. (It's a book that's definitely a matter of taste. I thought it was hilarious in a juvenile fashion, although a bit over-the-top.)

    I prefer having the book actually signed. A signed bookplate means nothing to me. It's meeting the author to get the book signed that I enjoy experiencing.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Anonymous5:13 PM

    It's funny you mentioned the zombie book, since I actually like zomie stories, and am not squeemish, but I had a similar reaction to the cover of the book. I'm still curious, but I don't know if I'll be reading it any time soon. (So many books, so little time...)
    I seem to agree with the majority -- I'd prefer the signing on the book if possible. :)
    JulieB

    ReplyDelete
  20. I mail out a fairly good amount of signed book plates, all personalized to the recipient and book, because mailing books back and forth isn't always practical for me and I don't go out in pubic much any more. If I am in a bookstore and they have copies in stock, I physically sign my books.

    For myself, as a reader, signed books really don't make that much difference to me. I'm always happy to sign, but I don't seek signatures myself.

    ReplyDelete
  21. I love actual signed, but one day, when I make it there, I'm going to do both. I want to make ATC bookplates that I can sign and obviously I won't be able to churn them out, but I hope that when a readers gets one they know they're special.

    ReplyDelete
  22. I don't think I've run across a book that had been pre-signed or bookplated on the shelf. It seems odd to me but Little Bits sums up my take on the subject.

    ReplyDelete
  23. I prefer a book signed in person. It never occurred to me to send the book to the author to sign. And to me, a bookstore advertising an "autographed copy" that is a glued in bookplate is cheating.

    I like to speak with the author to thank them for their work and for the enjoyment I got reading.

    ReplyDelete
  24. I think that a signed copy is more personal than a bookplate because I consider a bookplate similar to mass (e)mailings...impersonal. At least, if it's signed I feel the writer added a personal flare to the work.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Anonymous11:07 PM

    Oooh! @ Eva Gale: I LOVE the ATC idea!
    JulieB

    ReplyDelete
  26. Anonymous9:09 AM

    Autographs don't matter to me one way or the other. Meh.

    ReplyDelete
  27. So long as the bookplate has the actual author's signature I don[t mind. Now if it's some rubber stamped signature printed on the bookplate. No thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  28. As an author I'm considering it because most of the people who know me and have been cheering me on as I wrote this book, live far away, since we moved from the east coast to California. So I am thinking that if they want a signed copy, a bookplate is a way I can do that, and I can personalize it just for them. Again, I'm thinking of the people I know and who have known me for 20+ years (or more!).

    ReplyDelete