IdolVine is the haute couture of ebook signing

BEA is a few days gone, and I finally have time to get to writing about the booths I visited.

There were 3 ebook signing systems at BEA, and IdolVine were by far the biggest and the flashiest. It was also the most lavishly funded. They'd hired a number of authors to remotely sign autographs, and even had a few on site (that's where I found Margaret Atwood). But this is not really an  ebook autographing system. It's actually a lot more than that. IdolVine are trying to recreate the entire author/fan experience as it exists at cons.

Their system consists of a local computer plus webcam setup plus a second setup where ever the author happens to be. One of the demos was Neil Gaiman remotely signing autographs (from his home in MN). It was very shiny to watch him do it, but the whole webcam thing gave me an icky feeling. I'm not sure why.

IdolVine requires a fair amount of hardware, and that can be a problem. I was only watching the demo for a few minutes when they had to shut it down. Interference from something was causing feedback in the speakers. I later found out that they'd been having trouble the day before, too. I'm sure the technical bugs can be hammered out, but I'd rather go with a system that has fewer parts.

This system is probably also the most expensive, both in terms of hardware and bandwidth. It's designed around 2 webcams running at any one time. For convention centers like the Javits Center, that's a lot of bandwidth. Another problem with this system is that it depends on the remote author being tech-savvy enough to get it up and running. You also have to ship at least some parts of the system to the remote author, which is another expense.

I expect to see IdolVine show up elsewhere with interesting digital experiences. Hopefully they'll work better.

About Nate Hoffelder (11463 Articles)
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader: "I've been into reading ebooks since forever, but I only got my first ereader in July 2007. Everything quickly spiraled out of control from there. Before I started this blog in January 2010 I covered ebooks, ebook readers, and digital publishing for about 2 years as a part of MobileRead Forums. It's a great community, and being a member is a joy. But I thought I could make something out of how I covered the news for MobileRead, so I started this blog."

9 Comments on IdolVine is the haute couture of ebook signing

  1. From what I saw at the event, the IdoLVine system didn’t provide actual ebook signings. The system only allowed the author to remotely sign a virtual book cover, which was then displayed on one of the monitors. At least Autography and InScribed Media actually produce a signed ebook that the fans can take home.

    • Well then, for folks who can say, strip their ebooks and run them through Calibre, the signed cover thing would be the way to go.

      IdolVine seems to be trying to make virtual the entire book signing experience, while folks like Autography are trying to make an esigning option for in-person interaction.

  2. Don’t know why Autography can’t be just as virtual. All the author needs is their app and something like Ustream. I read in another post somewhere that they have already done a book signing from Florida with a radio station in Ireland.

    • There’s no reason they can’t. I’m pretty sure I remember reading something about being able to do virtual signings on their website. IdolVine, however, looks like their main focus is going to be virtual signings. I figure folks are in the “Hey, let’s try this, or that, or the other things” mode and will have options for both in-person and virtual esignings.

  3. Thanks for all the terrific comments – it’s good to see that this topic is generating some comparative thoughts on the subject of eBook signings and dedications. I will declare up-front that I am one of the founders of iDoLVine just to put my comments into perspective. Yes, iDoLVine at BEA had some sound and quality issues however we suspected this may happen despite our best efforts as we have intentionally soft launched so that participants and beta testing could provide us with exactly the kind of quality improvement suggestions I have been seeing in these forums – so thank you.

    I can’t comment on the business model for any for the other services in your review; however I can correct some of the assumptions on the iDoLVine service.

    First, by the time we fully launch the finished service this fall, we will offer signing and dedication which will apply to customers of eBooks and customers of Paper books – ie: both can be signed remotely. Look for news of this in the next few weeks. Second, only iDoLVine provides a dedication and signature which is legally authentic and is in three dimensions – anything done on an iPad is a low resolution 2D graphical image of the signature – and we verify and authenticate the signature for the customer. Third, we provide the customer of the book with a video clip of themselves taken with the author via 1:1 video. Fourth, by full service launch this fall we will be able to provide fully integrated, DRM locked, limited edition original eBooks (and paper) direct to the customer through virtually all eRetailers currently in the book space. Fifth, only iDoLVine can at the customer’s request, provide a 3D real pen on paper original print of the eDedicated page the customer has received (see LongPen). Sixth, we have been filing patents in this space since 2004 so it will be interesting to see how this all shakes out.
    Needless to say, iDoLVine can be used as a remote service where all participants are separated by space or, it can be used to augment a touring author so that markets not on the physical tour can also be reached. As you will see, should you visit the site, we are also strongly pushing into Music, Film and sports verticals – all of which are gaining rapid traction.
    I welcome the questions and comments and thank all of you who have taken the time to weigh in on this exciting new field of service technology.

    Matthew Gibson

  4. Thing is, I get the idolvine model, but I don’t see all that much value in the Autography one. Haven’t we had the ipad style autograph app for awhile? What counts is either getting it into a DRM protected book, or being able to add more elements of a promotional tour. Otherwise, how new is it? I can sign and send my signature now on my ipad.
    What I mean is, I’m an author (trying to be), and I want to publicize my book. Part of that is to give a signed book to the reader (although in my case, not much value there, since I am not Neil Gaiman:) ) but if I’m trying to grow my reader base I want the whole tour experience, not just an ebook signing. Without the tour, the ebook signing means I have to find a reader or fan willing/wanting an autograph (hard to do when you’re new like me). At least a tour, especially online, might entice people to want that signature. It’s different. Anyone who is an author understands the tour and not the autograph is what matters. Tours promote, autogrpahs reward.
    So I need the tour, but I can’t travel, so idolvine makes tons of sense to me. A crazy good concept. Whether they get the bugs out or not, I would guess is a time issue, not an will they/won’t they issue.

    I have an ipad, love my ipad, but I don’t want my autographs to be only on my ipad. I want them to be in my ebook, and from everything I’ve seen, only idolvine has declared that they are going to be able to put the autograph in a secure e-book. That requires a big partner in distribution or retail, and I believe Ingram is already partnered with idolvine, and they handle a lot of the biggest retailers for ebooks, so they seem to be the ones who are doing this. For Autoraphy, the only ebook route so far seems to be the ibook store from Apple, but I don’t see how that works (it’s not being promoted on the ibook store, anyway). Plus I’m not sure about adding in a page. I’d prefer the idolvine approach which seems to be able to sign anything (title page, cover, etc)
    It’s not all about ebooks, either, because I like the idea it can be hard signed with pen as well from a distance. That’s the original Longpen idea from the esteemed Ms Atwood, but this is more doable now as I understand it because you no longer need the robot printer. I think the announcement indicated they will be doing this as a service.
    Anyway, I’m wide open to both, but leaning towards the full tour experience. I’m going to beta on idolvine this summer. I think Neil Gaiman and Michael Chabon are as well, so good company. Should be fun.

  5. Dave, Nate,

    Thanks again for the keen insights. Dave, I searched the membership on iDoLVine and did not see you there – should you decide join, please reach out through the social network and let me know you are there -it’d be great to have you as a beta tester. (and yes, most of the bugs are already out!)

    Nate, curious, why have you focused on digitial signatures instead of a fully signed eBook. Do you also collect paper book “wet” signatures?

    And yes, you are both correct – in fact, there are many iPad apps which allow 2D signings and it was the original Sony eReader that started the whole pen on digital reader trend when they first launched – my 7 yr old signs and draws things to me all the time 🙂

    All best,


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