For immediate release
A SIGN OF THE TIMES – MARGARET ATWOOD’S VIRTUAL AUTOGRAPH MACHINE GETS THE THUMBS DOWN IN ABEBOOKS.COM VISITOR POLL
(Victoria, BC - February 2, 2005) Visitors to AbeBooks.com - the world’s largest marketplace for new, used, rare and out-of-print books - have reacted coolly to Margaret Atwood’s apparent invention of an autographing machine.
The Canadian author announced in January her company, Unotchit, had developed a remote signature device so she could conduct signings from home and avoid the drudgery of lengthy bookstore tours. The news received international media attention but the St Petersburg Times reported on 30 January that the story could be an Atwood hoax after interviewing the author.
Fact or fiction, the idea of an autographing machine was firmly rejected by readers and booksellers in an AbeBooks’ on-site poll* that revealed an overwhelming 96 per cent of voters believed a book signed via a machine was worth less, emotionally and financially, than one signed by in person.
The site’s public forum discussion pages also revealed a belief that meeting the author in person was more valuable than the signature. Comments included:
• “I have signed copies of George MacDonald Fraser's books and to me it is not just that they are first editions with his name in them. I stood in line and was able to shake his hand. No machine could give me that. It couldn't give me the pleasure of seeing the author actually sign my book.”
• “I was able to meet Paula Danziger. A machine could never give anyone that advantage to meeting and having the author personally sign a book for us.”
• “The first few books that are signed that way will possibly be worth a lot one day...even if the virtual signing machine doesn't take off, because they will be a piece of failed history.”
There is a market for signed copies of Atwood’s work. AbeBooks.com lists more than 12,200 Atwood books, including a signed 1969 first US edition of her debut novel, The Edible Woman. Originally priced at $5.95, the book now costs $2,450.
“The virtual autographing machine may remain a figment of Margaret Atwood’s imagination but it has sparked debate about what the public want from a book signing,” said Lisa Stevens, VP of marketing at AbeBooks.com. “It appears an author’s signature is just the icing on the cake. What people care about is meeting the writer in person, exchanging a few words and then shaking their hand. An autographing machine would deliver the signature but not the personal contact that buyers want.”
Notes to editors:
*451 visitors to the site voted in the poll
AbeBooks.com is the world’s largest online marketplace for books, with over 60 million new, used, rare, and out-of-print titles listed for sale by more than 12,500 independent booksellers from around the world. AbeBooks has millions of registered customers who collectively purchase more than 20,000 books a day from its 4 global websites (AbeBooks.com, AbeBooks.co.uk, AbeBooks.de, AbeBooks.fr). A true internet success story, AbeBooks.com has been selling books online since 1996, and is a private company based in Victoria, BC Canada, with offices in Düsseldorf, Germany.
Richard Davies, PR & Publicity Mgr., AbeBooks.com