Fashion & Style
By STEPHANIE ROSENBLOOM
SITTING at a table in a Barnes & Noble in St. Petersburg, Fla., T. J. Waters was signing copies of his book “Hyperformance” when a fan standing in line with the eBook version walked up and said, “It’s too bad you can’t sign my Kindle.”
Mr. Waters, a senior consultant for United States Special Operations Command Headquarters, suddenly found himself wondering, “How come the tech world can put a man on the moon and I can’t sign an eBook?”
With consumers now accustomed to experiencing music and movies on Lilliputian devices, they’re also increasingly reading Tina Fey, Scott Turow and Suzanne Collins on Kindles, Nooks and iPads. You can be a die-hard Haruki Murakami fan and not have a single novel of his on your bookshelf.
And that’s only going to become more common. By 2015, sales of eBooks in the United States are expected to triple to nearly $3 billion, according to Forrester Research. But the sea change has created a dilemma: what, then, do authors autograph at book signings?
Some readers have resorted to asking authors to sign the backs of their iPads and the cases of their Kindles. But the growing demand for more-elegant solutions has software and marketing companies scrambling to propel book signing into the digital age.
Mr. Waters is in the vanguard. At the BookExpo America in New York in May, he and Robert Barrett, an information technology executive, plan to debut Autography. Here’s how an Autography eBook “signing” will work: a reader poses with the author for a photograph, which can be taken with an iPad camera or an external camera. The image immediately appears on the author’s iPad (if it’s shot with an external camera, it’s sent to the iPad via Bluetooth). Then the author uses a stylus to scrawl a digital message below the photo. When finished, the author taps a button on the iPad that sends the fan an e-mail with a link to the image, which can then be downloaded into the eBook.
Wait time? About two and a half minutes. Bragging potential? Endless: Readers can post the personalized photo to their Facebook and Twitter accounts.