The folks at Ward Six have responded to my recent lack of enthusiasm about the LongPen. I won’t excerpt the first (the comment) as it’s short and you can read the whole thing; here’s some of the second (you’ll have to read the whole post to make sense of the Weird Dude reference):
It isn’t that Condalmo’s wrong, per se, but he is missing the point that author autographs overall are just kind of pointless. And if you’re as famous as Margaret Atwood, you could spend your whole damned life sitting at a pressboard buffet table gazing up in exhaustion at the Weird Dude, and why not make something that can obliterate that experience from your life?
First: am I Condalmo? Or is the site Condalmo? These are unanswered questions.
No, I agree that autographs are by-and-large pointless, and certainly beside the point made by both responses, that the experience of the story is the key point. I have two books signed by authors, and those signatures were not requested – the authors simply signed the books before sending them to me. I appreciate their doing it, the personal touch – like receiving a note, instead of a 8×10 glossy picture of Kurt Russell. (What would Kurt Russell write in a note to me? Kurt, are you reading this site?) The Weird Dude gets his just desserts when he waits for the LongPen signature, as I doubt that would hold anywhere near the potential future eBay value.
Where autographs are of value are to people of a deeply sentimental nature, for whom a picture with the author, a hand-written note (not Dalek-written) in the book, means a lot. In JRL’s own words, it commemorates a pleasant human interaction.
Sentiment aside, getting a signature may be superfluous to the real heart of reading and writing, but what value is there in cheapening it? Unless the LongPen is an insidious way to undermine the whole "getting it signed" value system, and not just monetary value, so that no authors will be pestered to sign anything. As for Atwood: isn’t she kind of in a place in her life where she doesn’t really need to sign anything if she doesn’t want to? Aren’t all authors, for that matter? If it’s an inconvenience to travel across the country for book signings, then don’t do it. But don’t try to sell the reader on a cheap substitute that removes the human interaction from the equation.
In related news, you can sign up to receive "love letters" from well-known authors, including Margaret Atwood, who will be submitting her letter via LongPen, at which point it will be printed, overnighted to someone at the Times, transcribed into e-mail, and then forwarded along to you. I put a lot of effort into this small joke and I hope you are feeling less let down by the result than I am.