John suggests in Comments to “Do we need bookshops?” that the one thing you can’t get on-line is an author-signed book (well he did say e-book). But it’s not really that much of a problem. If Margaret Atwood can invent software in 2004 to permit remote signing via the internet, can she not sign the e-book too? According to this Publishing Perspectives story the Long Pen can indeed also be used to sign an e-book. BlogCritics has the story too. It all sounds pretty old hat actually — which is perhaps cause for concern. If it’s been around so long, how come we haven’t all experienced it?

Maybe the real question is why would you want the author to sign your e-book? What is the reality of an e-signature? Does it increase your e-book’s second-hand value? Does it even have a second-hand value? Is there in fact a second-hand market for e-books?  Ink, Bits, & Pixels appears to be suggesting there’s no such market, though in 2013 TechCrunch was reporting Amazon’s having obtained a patent to enable them to do so. The Amazon site obscures the issue by all its talk about Prime and unlimited access, but as far as I can see “second-hand e-book” is not one of your purchasing options.

Autographs are a bit of an odd phenomenon. I did once use to thrust an autograph book in front of sweaty rugby players but have long since lost sight of that trove. My mother-in-law has an autograph book containing the likes of Frank Sinatra and Tony Martin, but the ink fades with years and you have to take much of it on trust. Our signed photo of rookie Derek Jeter on a snowy opening day is crisp and clear, but the signature can only just be made out now. Is this evanescence part of their appeal?

This video shows Long Pen in action.