Handle with care: Publisher apologizes for fake autograph in Bob Dylan’s $600 book

A man with curly gray hair sings onstage
Bob Dylan performs in Los Angeles in 2012.
(Chris Pizzello / Associated Press)

Publishing giant Simon & Schuster has apologized to Bob Dylan fans who spent $600 on a signed, limited-edition copy of his latest book, “The Philosophy of Modern Song,” but instead received a fake “penned replica” of the legendary musician’s signature.

Those who purchased the book, which was published Nov. 1 and is Dylan’s first since his 2004 memoir “Chronicles: Volume One,” will get their money back, the publisher said after admitting to the error in a statement Sunday.

Simon & Schuster took the book off sale and initiated the process of issuing an immediate and automatic refund to all customers who bought the book, a spokesperson for the company said Tuesday in an email to The Times.

“To those who purchased THE PHILOSOPHY OF MODERN SONG limited edition, we want to apologize. As it turns out, the limited edition books do contain Bob’s original signature, but in a penned replica form,” the publisher said Sunday in a statement. “We are addressing this immediately by providing each purchaser with an immediate refund.”


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The 2016 Nobel laureate’s tome consists of 66 chapters about 66 of his favorite songs by artists including Nina Simone, Elvis Presley, Willie Nelson, the Clash, the Who and his childhood hero, Little Richard. Only 900 of the $600 limited editions were available in the U.S., and each arrived with a letter from Jonathan Karp, chief executive of Simon & Schuster, that served as “confirmation that [each] copy has been hand-signed by Bob Dylan.”

Karp also personally responded to those who emailed him, informing them of the forthcoming refund and saying they could keep their copy of the book at no cost, the spokesperson added Tuesday.

The books started arriving Friday, Variety reported, and Simon & Schuster’s apology came shortly after customers took to social media to compare the “Tangled Up in Blue” singer’s suspiciously similar autograph in each of their copies. They noticed at least 17 different variations of the signature, which appeared to be signed by “autopen” — a digital reproduction of a real signature, Variety said.

"The Philosophy of Modern Song" by Bob Dylan
(Simon & Schuster)

Critics also took to the comments section of the statement that Simon & Schuster posted on Instagram and Twitter with wide-ranging opinions — some applauding the publisher for swiftly rectifying the mix-up, others accusing the book house of fraud and concluding that the snafu had sullied its reputation. (It’s the latest hurdle the company faced this month after Paramount Global rescinded its offer to sell Simon & Schuster to larger rival publisher Penguin Random House.)

The publisher also has removed the page devoted to the limited edition of “The Philosophy of Modern Song” from its website.

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Dylan, 81, has not publicly commented on the blunder.

Refunds are supposed to be made automatically to the customer, with no action necessary on their part. It’s unclear if all the refunds have already been issued, but on Tuesday some buyers took to Twitter to inquire about a timetable.


In his review for The Times, staff writer Josh Rottenberg described Dylan’s first book since winning the Nobel Prize for literature as having “its own wild flavor.”

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“It is — for better and, alas, worse — a special kind of bonkers,” Rottenberg wrote, concluding: “Dylan is a brilliant songwriter, of course; the truth is, he’s a better singer, a master vocal stylist whose performances speak to the deeps of human emotion even when they carry unseemly attitudes and ideas. But when his words just sit there, between hardcovers on a stark white page, their discordant notes are hard to bear.”