(Editor’s Note: This post, written in late-February 2011, was inspired by an email exchange I had with Ann Michael. I quickly whipped up the post, and scheduled it for April 1st. But we had to abandon it as an April Fool’s post because on March 13th, I came across a news story entitled, “Local inventors create way to autograph eBooks.” Once again, the adage that truth is stranger than fiction was verified. But to give you an idea of how silly I still think this is, here’s the original April Fool’s post. And, yes, yesterday’s post about erecting a pay wall was an April Fool’s joke. Don’t delete us!!)
With its Kindle e-bo0ks outpacing its robust sales for paperbacks and hardcovers, you might think Amazon could rest on its formidable laurels. But in another attempt to lock up the e-book space, Amazon yesterday unveiled its latest innovation — the autographed e-book.
Using the debut of a new business book by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos entitled, Bezosiness 1.0: How Great Ideas and an Infectious Laugh Beat the Street, the company introduced the technology to a select group of bloggers and publishing moguls at an event just off Central Park. During the demonstration, attendees were able to email their requested inscriptions to the author; moments later, the same inscriptions appeared in their e-books along with the signature of Jeff Bezos, the smoothly rendered graphical signature preceded immediately by the words “Best Wishes.”
The head of e-book development at Amazon read a short statement as the demonstration concluded:
Today, we have been able to show how the circle of narcissism embodied in the inscribed book can now be transferred via smart XML insertions into e-b00ks, flattering the vanity of the reader in a fully modern manner.
Bezos did not attend the event, pointedly remaining in Seattle to further demonstrate how the magic of the e-signings would work. In a pre-recorded statement, Bezos added this to the proceedings:
Writing a book is hard work. I know this, and many other authors know this, as well. But perhaps the hardest part of publishing a book can be the endless smiling during book signings in order to ingratiate yourself to an indifferent public. Today, we have empowered authors to avoid this onerous chore, allowing them to add the personalization their readers seek while they continuing to dance with their muse.
While one critic of the program argued that the signatures add nothing but sentimental value to the e-books, Amazon disclosed its plans to charge e-book purchasers $1.29 per signed e-book signature. In a quote from Bezos that seemed to anticipate any criticism of the low value these e-inscriptions may add, the founder of Amazon said:
I’ve often been told what will work and won’t work. Billions of time. That’s with a ‘b.’
His mercurial, infectious giggle ended his pre-recorded message.