Monday, April 03, 2006

From a Distance

Have you heard about author Margaret Atwood's new invention?

It's an electronic pen!

Perhaps I'm one of the last to hear about it, but I just got wind of it over the weekend. Authors can actually sign books "live" for fans anywhere in the world---without having to leave their living room!

Apparently, the grind of lengthy touring was wearing Ms. Atwood pretty thin, so she invented "The Long Pen". While I don't think it should take the place of the traditional person-to-person contact with your readers - and the obvious value of it - an electronic pen can be tremendously time and cost-effective. I think it's sweet! Not to mention the potential for usage beyond just book signings. Here's a bit of the article:

The idea came to Ms Atwood, who is in her sixties, during lengthy tours around Britain to promote her book Oryx and Crake two years ago. She said: "I am just finding the whole business very wearing now that I am an old age pensioner.''

Developed by a company of which Ms Atwood is now president, the Long Pen consists of two connected video screens and an electronic pen at one end and a document or book holder at the other, together with an electronic arm wielding a pen.

The author and the recipient can see and hear each other on the screens, while the arm replicates accurately the movements made with the electronic pen. Unotchit, the company, stresses that the device is not an automatic pen - because it can only operate when the signer is present - or an electronic signature.
So, what do you think?

Readers - do you think it would be a cop-out for authors not to make as many personal appearances simply because they can just pop up on a screen and sign your book with a remote-controlled arm?

Authors - do you see this as a major convenience, or simply as the "stuck up" or "lazy author's" answer to making personal appearances to meet readers, making them virtually obsolete?


  1. I don't get to attend many author signings anyway, so it wouldn't affect me much at all! I'd be just as happy speaking to an author via a monitor as in person, no big deal!

  2. I have a special spot for Atwood. And I love most of her books. I would love to meet her even if it was via screen.

    As for younger and more virile authors... no.

  3. Well, if this device actually takes off, I suspect publishers will pretty much dictate where an author will actually appear in person and where they'll be there via "The Long Pen". It won't likely be up to the authors...even the "younger and more virile authors", LOL.

  4. Hi Millenia!

    My opinion on "the long pen" is that it takes the spark out of it. I think there's nothing like meeting your favorite author and being able to shake his or her hand. I can understand the inconvenience of touring heavily, but I think it's worth it to give something back to the people who support you.

    Just my two cents! Tia

  5. Hi Tia - you know, I suspected many readers/fans may feel that way, and I can certainly understand that. Thanks for chiming in!


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