A Quandary

"In a Pickle" © 2008 by Mike Bitzenhofer

"In a Pickle" © 2008 by Mike Bitzenhofer

These days, e-book sales are burgeoning. They’re not up to the level of traditional books, yet (according to what source you listen to, that is). Kindles, nooks (oh, that lowercase ‘n’ really gets to me . . . ), iPads, and other electronic readers are becoming more and more prevalent.

I’ve now read a total of two books on my Kindle app for my Android phone. I’m in the middle of a third, and I have a number of others queued up. I have the Kindle app on my (work) Windows XP machine, my Windows 7 machine, and my MacBook Pro. And I’m definitely seeing the advantages to having the books electronically. I can read them literally anywhere I am, at any time, without having to tote around a huge backpack or satchel, and without having to have a bright light.

But there’s one major question that this trend brings up: when I see my favorite authors at conventions, what do I give them to sign?

It’s not an issue for me, yet, because I still buy five or six dead-tree books for every one e-book, but at some point, the convenience is going to win out over the “nostalgia,” for want of a better word. The tactile feel of the paper, the smell of the ink and paper, the weight of the book, the sound of pages turning . . . It’s a multisensory experience that just isn’t the same when the book is just electrons. And yet, if the book is good enough, the medium just isn’t as important. I’d read Jim Butcher’s books shaved into the backs of baboons. Granted, it might be a little difficult to mark my place, but . . .

So, have authors found a solution to this, yet? Or do we just need to start carrying around a deck of index cards at conventions and book signings?

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2 Responses to “A Quandary”
  1. StoryChuck says:

    I always thought it’d be cool to develop some software that would automate the process of signing ebooks. Let’s say you have an online store. A reader could immediately download the “generic” version and fill out a form to get a signed ebook. You then scribble your signature on a cover page, scan it, and have your software grab your scan, reassemble the customer’s custom ebook, and shoot them an email with a download link.

    Pretty cool, huh?

    • I think maybe we will have to redefine what it means to have a “signed copy” as much as we will have to redefine books themselves.

      I think a refinement of your idea might be to have the author have one of those peripherals that’s a drawing pad so they could basically bring up a blank template of their cover page, sign it electronically using that software, and then shoot you the email as you said. It would cut back on the time it would take, and would also ensure that each person would receive a unique signature, so I like that part. I’d hate to think I was getting the electronic version of a rubber stamp.

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