Apple moves to let authors sign e-books on the iPad

A crowd waits for Rachel Maddow to sign print copies of her book "Drift" at the Saban Theater in April.
(Arkasha Stevenson / Los Angeles Times)

Want to hand over your iPad so an author can sign your e-book? You might be able to soon.

Apple has registered for a patent that would allow an e-book owner with an iPad get his or her book signed by an author. Readers might even be able to pose for a photo with the author as authentication to go with it -- a photo that would go right into the e-book on the traditional signature page.

As Publishers Lunch tweeted Friday, the patent-following website Patently Apple has posted a description of the patent application. “On September 26, 2013, the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that reveals a new iBook autographing system and more specifically to techniques and systems for embedding autographs in electronic books,” the report said.


To add a way for authors to sign e-books -- and do something extra, like add a photo that would be embedded in the e-book -- would be a boon for readers.

Of all the ways e-books have upset publishing, the signing line isn’t the one with the biggest fiscal impact. But it may be among the most meaningful.

Author book signings have been a staple of the book tour, whether at a local bookstore or a large theater. They provide a way for readers to connect to authors, to have a few minutes of one-on-one time as the author inscribes a book. Some authors, like David Sedaris and Neil Gaiman, are known to stay for hours, signing books for every person who wants one.

With e-books, there’s nothing to sign -- although people have tried handing over their e-readers, sometimes leading to some unfortunate events.

Apple’s patent includes a system that would work with proximity -- a person and author meeting up at a typical booksigning -- as well as online, which would require a different kind of authentication. Sadly, just because Apple has filed a patent to be able to do something, it doesn’t mean the company will be doing it anytime soon.


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