Authors' Tools Must Change with the Times
The evolution of tools is especially apparent in knowledge work. Authors, for example, have gone from bone and ivory tablets, to paper, typewriters, computers, and back to tablets. Amazon told us in May that that they are selling more Kindle books than print books. But books aren’t all only about writing, selling, and reading. They are also about the artefact of the book. Books can be beautiful — and books can be signed by their authors. At least until the ebook form. Developers are having to create tools that will enable authors to sign books in a meaningful way.
Evolution of the autographed edition
In May of 2008, Novelist Jennifer Weiner signed the back of a Kindle that contained her work, Certain Girls. In October of 2010, President Obama signed an iPad — digitally — but that was just for his signature and used a drawing program.
KindleGraph and Autography hope to provide the tools that let authors sign and interact with their readers. Others think that digital autographs are less important than something that shows the reader with the author. Rachel Chou, chief marketing officer for Open Road Integrated Media told the New York Times: “We’re struggling with the idea: is it about the autograph or is it about the takeaway that you met that person?
Her comment made me think. As I looked around my office, I saw several books I’ve had the luck to get signed. What do I show off more? My autographed editions, or my picture with Guy Kawasaki, author of Enchantment? The picture gets far more play, though I was happy to have him also sign the book. (Note that Kawasaki signs the cover of his books, where everyone can see that your book is signed.)
Sometime tools evolve (telephone) and sometimes they are replaced (buggy whips). Are authors signing books to make those particular books more valuable or are they signing to create a memory for the reader? I believe authors and the people who arrange book events are looking for guidance about what their readers/customers prefer.
Which would you prefer? A signed-hardcopy book, a digitally-signed ebook, or a picture of yourself with the author?