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Margaret Atwood invents the virtual autograph

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Sometimes you find the most interesting things in the most unlikely places.

The New Yorker arrived today, and I was idly paging through it when, in the Talk of the Town section, I came upon a short item about Margaret Atwood’s new invention.

Who knew the great Canadian author, whose most recent book, “Oryx and Crake,”

is a masterpiece of dystopian fiction, was also a tinkerer?

She has created a machine that allows an author to remain at home while autographing books in faraway bookstores, anywhere on the planet.

It’s a two-way video hookup with a robotic pen arm at the bookstore end.

The author sits at the kitchen table in pajamas and makes a personalized inscription for the book buyer by writing on an electronic screen; in a distant mall, the robotic pen replicates the message on the title page of the fan’s propped-up book.

Atwood came up with the idea last spring during an expensive and exhausting three-week publicity tour for “Oryx and Crake.”

She says the invention will be manufactured by a new company called Unotchit (“You no touch it”).

The author believes the device will increase both the safety of the writer-reader interaction — “My germs and my bio-material won’t be in the same place as your germs and your bio-material” — and its profundity: “I’m more likely to be gazing deeply into your eyes as I’m signing on the screen.”

From the article:

    And she insists that there will be no apprecialble lessening of an autograph’s authenticity, because writing is already only a distant cousin of thought. “The mind is a device that is thinking out the signature,” she said.

    “The hand is the extension of the mind, and the pen is the extension of the hand — so the pen is at two removes from the author’s mind already. This thing is just another remove.”

Atwood plans to launch her invention this fall.

“We’ve just built a clunky, Model A prototype of the machine, and we don’t have a name for it yet,” she said.


She’s come to the right place for marketing advice.

Call it the RightAway.

Not bad, eh?

[via Tad Friend and the New Yorker]
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  • RJ

    Sounds like she’s lazy to me.

    Most people go for autographs in order to “meet” the person doing the autographing. Not for the sig.

  • Snaggy

    Nitrozac and I have been doing Virtual Book Signings for over a year now. We use iChat AV to set up two way communications, (so we can interact live with the fans in another city or country). We then sign a digital file that is transmitted to them over iChat, it’s printed up in front of them, then they can stick it in their book. :-)

    A howto at the link above, and a report on one of our Virtual Book Signings here:

    What’s great is that you still have the personal interaction with the fans, and real-time watching as we sign.

  • DrPat

    I look at it this way – now I can finally get Salman Rushdie’s autograph in his book…

  • Vern Halen

    Salman Rushdie? Now if you could get Samuel Clemens – THAT would be cool……….