Margaret Atwood’s Long Pen

On Sunday at Book Expo Canada, I had the opportunity to meet the iconic Canadian author, Margaret Atwood. She was scheduled to do an autograph session at the McClelland and Stewart booth late in the afternoon, but I luckily caught her earlier in the day at the Long Pen booth, where she was urging show goers to try out her innovative product, the Long Pen.

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The premise behind the Long Pen is to revolutionize book tours by eliminating the daunting task of travelling from city to city at ungodly hours of the day. The contraption allows the author to autograph books at a distance, from the comfort of his or her own home, while the reader is hundreds or even thousands of miles away in a bookstore. It still allows for visual communication between the reader and the author which includes being able to talk over the connection.

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The author station includes a two way video screen and a wacom tablet to apply the signature. On the reader end, there is another two way screen where the patron can see and communicate with the author, as well as the mechanical device which does all the signings.

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There are many advantages to utilizing the Long Pen for tours.

– The ability to do autograph sessions in several cities over the course of one day.
– Increased time that you will be able to chat with the author, as it does take a minute or two for the signature to be produced.
– The ability to do autograph sessions in places that are too small or remote to tour in person.
– Easier handling when creating and autograph.
– No need to go through the hassles of travelling, which include long hours and sometimes poor traveling conditions


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The idea for the Long Pen came from Margaret Atwood, who has had her share of long book tours, which have left her haggard and hungry at the end of the day. She wanted to find a better or easier way to do the task. When she saw the signing device that most couriers use to obtain signatures the wheels started rolling and she assembled a group to make it reality.

I was fortunate enough to try the device for myself and was quite astonished with it’s abilities. As I told Margaret, “This is simply amazing”, but what remains to be seen is how well the public will embrace the technology. There is still much criticism in the industry and many perceive that the interaction between the author and the patron is less personal and devalue the autograph and experience. On the flip side, this will definitely provide an opportunity for smaller publishers and bookseller to do special events which they would normally not be able to do. In any case, the Long Pen is something that may revolutionize the way promoting and touring is done in the publishing industry.

Comments

  1. I’m not sure what I think of it. Is it really “autographed by the author” if the author wasn’t really holding the pen that made the autograph? It’s all very meta.

  2. But then you can’t have your picture taken with the author, and actually see them in the flesh. It’s not the same thing! It’s still better than anonymous presigned copies.

  3. This is the dumbest idea since the autopen. As much as I love Margaret’s work (I’ve been reading her stuff since before she got internationally famous), this is incredibly selfish. If you don’t want to do a book tour, don’t do it. If you do, just suck it up and whip out the pen. The value of the book on both an emotional and collector’s level is severely diminished by this. I’d rather have a presigned, anonymous autographed copy than this. Sorry for the rant, Rannie, but it just sticks in my craw…

  4. Jim Munroe says:

    I love this thing, mainly because it confirms my suspicion that Maggie is seriously in the closet about being a science fiction author — you can say you write “speculative fiction” and not SF all you want, but when you CREATE A ROBOT to write for you you are seriously geeking out!

    But generally, asking someone for their autograph is all about the personal interaction: it used to weird me out (I’m a SF novelist too) because it seems fairly silly but I came to realize that it’s proof of a meaningful moment when you met someone you admire.

  5. Bern Nunan says:

    The Long Pen is NOT the same thing as having the writer in front of you. It is too reminiscent of the sort of futuristic hollowing out of society as described in The Handmaiden”s Tale.

  6. Anything that gets people off planes helps the environment.

  7. Who is going to pay to have that machine installed in their bookstore? For Margaret Atwood?

  8. Geesh Margaret, I’ll drive to your house with your new book (and I don’t live in Toronto) to get a signed copy, if that would make it easier for you. This Long Pen thing, I dunno…it seems kind of Wizard of Ozish to me. Is that really you behind that curtain?