Monday, March 6, 2006

Gadget Lets Authors Sign Books From Afar:

Margaret Atwood has had enough of long journeys, late nights and writer's cramp. Tired of grueling book tours, the Booker Prize-winning Canadian author on Sunday unveiled her new invention: a remote-controlled pen that allows writers to sign books for fans from thousands of miles away.


"I think of this as a democratizing device," said Atwood, whose appearances draw hundreds of fans willing to stand in long lines for a word and an autograph.

"You cannot be in five countries at the same time. But you can be in five countries at the same time with the LongPen."


Atwood set up a company with Gibson and several others to produce the device, naming the firm Unotchit — pronounced "you no touch it."

They plan to lease the gadget, rather than sell it, renting it out to publishers for one-time signing events or tours. Atwood hopes publishers will use it to promote lesser-known authors and to bring author signings to small towns and small countries that usually aren't on the book tour circuit.

Publishers are intrigued by the idea. Both Bloomsbury and Atwood's other British publisher, Virago, invested in the project.

"This creates the possibility of an entirely new book-promotion event that will inject new life into the marketing of books and authors' relationship with their readers," said Bloomsbury's Newton.

Dejan Papic of Atwood's Serbian publisher, Laguna, said the device could help bring international authors — at least virtually — to his small, poor, European country.

"We are not always in a position to invite international authors and pay their costs," he said.


Atwood said the gadget had applications — from education to law — beyond the traditional book tour. It can already sign hockey sticks; Gibson and his team are working on basketballs.

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