Monday, October 31, 2005


Remember that pretentious garbage Margaret Atwood was spouting a while back about making a device that would allow her to sign books long distance without personally showing up for the signing?

Scary news: Apparently she actually went and invented the damn thing:

"...the "LongPen" which will be launched at the London Book Fair next March. This week, Pen Canada is auctioning off the right to receive the first official trans-Atlantic autograph at its “Lives of Girls and Women” fundraising event in Toronto. Bidding will start at $1,000. The package includes the signature and an original poster hand-drawn by Atwood. The hope is that it will sell for $2,500 to $5,000. The signing in March will be of Atwood’s next book, the short-story collection The Tent. Atwood will sign in London, and that signature will appear on the auction winner’s copy at a Toronto bookstore, yet to be named. Massive media coverage is expected for the signing. Atwood’s company will be leasing LongPen devices rather than selling them; leasing fees will depend on location and number of uses."

What amuses me is that for all the anticipated oohs and aahs over LongPen, this device still produces a mechanical reproduction of an original signature. Sure, there's lots of nuts and bolts and fun futuristic SF stuff, and the promise of a boatload of leasing fee royalties for Atwood, but it's still the same basic thing as stamping a sig with an ink pad and a rubber stamp.

**Add-on**: In comments Simon brought up the fact that another auto-sig device like this, Scriptwriter, has been out for years.


  1. To me, a signed copy of a book is (usually) a reminder of a fleeting moment with the author. Some of the signed copies I've stashed away bring back memories of entire conventions.
    Having a book signed via glorified etch-a-sketch takes away the whole point. Why not just stamp a signature in the front when they're printing the books?

  2. I agree with Simon. That has all the personality and warmth of a scanned copy.

  3. Scriptwriter has been available for donkey's years. Rumours have it that Dubya signs his condolence letters with it. What's the problem?

  4. Anonymous10:13 AM

    It's not about the signiature for me. It's about meeting the author and having that little memory when I look at the signiature later. If I'm not meeting them face to face, the signiature means next to nothing for me.

  5. Anonymous10:26 AM

    Feh. Atwood. Just ugh. Feh and Ugh.

    leave it to her to take literature and make it head-smashingly dull. Now she takes the human interaction joy and fun and beat the life outta that too.

    What's next, Atwood? pulling the ears off baby bunnies?

    ( worse, as a canadian, it's nearly required by law to revere the woman. Gag.)

  6. Anonymous11:44 AM

    Don't really get the point. Hope she electrocutes herself on it, the trope-plundering carpet-bagger!

  7. Anonymous11:59 AM

    I have a different opinion on signatures apparently than some here... I have some that I have obtained at conventions and some that I have obtained through mail, including contests here...I adore having them all because the signatures I have are from authors (or actors) whose talents I have spent many hours enjoying. The ink on the page (or in one case tee shirt) reminds me of the real person behind the talent, the work that went into those hours of enjoyment, and impressions I have of that person, either through meeting them or through reading about them or their words on a blog. It's hard to describe... sort of like applause I guess... I see a play I like and I clap like heck... I read a book I like or get to meet an actor I like and get an opportunity to have their signature, it seems like an exchange: they gave me something I value, I value their signature in return, whether I met them in person or not.
    Having said that though... a stamped image (and I collect rubber stamps which have their own appeal to me) just wouldn't be the same, neither would a signature from a mile, a state, a country or an acean away done over some sort of computer science state of the art thing- a- ma- jig... guess I feel the same way as I do when I sign the eletronic signature thing for my credit card at the store: ok I'll sign it, but it isn't real!

  8. US Presidents have been using automatic signing machines for years. It simply isn't possible for a President to sign everything that needs signing. I believe the old ones were mechanical, and strictly(!) controlled. I don't remember the brand name... was it Autopen? I can't remember.

    As for Canadian female literary authors, which we seem to be turning out by the basketful, I prefer Alice Munro.

  9. Anonymous3:40 PM

    Had a buddy that did a few years as an intern to a congressman. He told me that they ALL used auto-signing devices for things like mailed autograph requests, Xmas letters, routine paperwork, etc...

    Makes you wonder - if the auto-signing device is used on routine paperwork that he never sees, what is the point of the signature?

  10. Anonymous4:56 PM

    When it was originally announced she got a lot of this kind of reaction and pointed out that she *does* intend to interact, via satellite feed I think, with the readers; but her health just isn't up to doing the kind of book tours she used to do. This is the compromise she came up with to keep from abandoning her fans entirely.

  11. Regarding politicians signing things with auto-wotsits... Good. We're paying their wages, and we don't want them sitting around writing their name in a leisurely fashion.
    They don't read our letters in the first place (or reply to them). That's why they have secretarial staff. At best they get a summary showing '3 people moaned about taxes, 5 complained about unemployment and 5,998 wrote to savage you for kicking that dog'

  12. Anonymous8:14 PM

    According to her reply to Gaiman's rant about the subject, she "signs" it, but also does a satellite feed and the person gets to keep a video of their exchange.

    It's better than nothing, I guess.


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