Like the oft-lamented “smell of books,” I’ve found that there there are some concepts that people consistently get hung up on when discussing ebooks. I used to try to puzzle out answers to these, but in this new, Zen-like approach I’m experimenting with in 2010, I’ve decided to try to actually evaluate the meanings behind the questions. Get your Desktop Rock Garden ready: we’re going behind the scenes on three of them this week.
Question 1: “How will people get their ebooks signed?”
As far as I can tell, the logic behind this question seems to go like this: authors have always signed books, and readers have always come to events to get their books signed, therefore not being able to do that = huge problem.
Here’s the logic I’d love to see people using: instead of wondering how we can adapt an older model to suit new technology, maybe we should think about what getting a book signed represents to a consumer, and see if there’s a way an ereader could make it better.
I’m not big on signed books, so it’s possible I’m missing something here, but it seems to me that they tap into a few different things: the impulse to memorialize an event, the collecting jones, and also the desire to have a unique experience directly with the author. Why else stand in line for an hour with your name spelled out on a post-it note waiting for Salman Rushdie to scrawl his signature and your name in Shalimar the Clown? (←An actual unfulfilling personal experience I’d prefer to not relive.)
We can make this a different encounter. It’s a paradigm shift. Instead of forcing people to wait in line hoping to get some small face time with an author, maybe everyone who attends the reading gets a recording of the event immediately following. Maybe the author is excited enough about being sent on tour that he writes an additional story with the book’s characters, available exclusively to those who show up at his appearances. Maybe a risk-taker even releases the first chapter of her upcoming work-in-progress and an email address where comments can be sent.
The suggestions above aren’t meant to be definitive, and more importantly, they aren’t meant to be changes that need to happen overnight. I mean for them to be examples of the ways in which we can reconsider the signing experience wholesale, instead of merely adapting old practices.
What ways would you be excited to see the signing experience change?
Part II in this series, Kindles For All!, can be read on The New Sleekness.
Ami Greko is the director of business development for AdaptiveBlue, working primarily with their add-on Glue. She has previously worked as a publicist at Viking Penguin and FSG, marketing director at Folio Literary Management, and digital marketing manager at Macmillan.