I don’t want an autographed ebook

The ebook signing systems I saw at BEA this past week got me thinking. It’s great that they’re being developed, but after thinking about it for a few days I realized I don’t want a signed ebook.

The concept of a signed book doesn’t translate well to a signed ebook. The symbolism doesn’t match up. A physical signature is a unique item that is limited to the one copy. A digital signature is  not not a singular unique item. If I have a digital signature for an author I can add that signature to all the author’s ebooks. It would take some work but it’s doable.

Also, an ebook exists in order to be read. A signed physical copy of a book exists to be put on display, so a signed ebook doesn’t really fit with the purpose of a signed book. I don’t display my ebooks; I read them.

That’s why I’d much rather have a collection of signatures in an album of some kind. I could set the album to be my screen savers, or just show them off when ever I get a chance.

I did a little looking, and there are already several free autograph apps for iOS. One in particular does all that I want. BTW, there are also over 240 free paint apps for the iPad, and I bet a bunch could double as an autograph app.

A+ Signature Lite

This app will let you sign a blank screen or you can import an image from your photo album. So if you make a template for an event you can sign multiple versions of that template (1 for each fan). Or, if you’re using a camera equipped iThing, you could take a picture of the fan+author and sign that. It also has a fair number of options for ink color and thickness. Plus you can add a typed message along with the signature.

This app doesn’t support email, but it does support posting the signatures to Facebook. It’s not the perfect solution, but it works.

You can sign with a fingertip, but if you plan to do this often then it might be worth investing in a compatible stylus. There are several nice ones out there that really feel like you’re signing with a pen on paper.


Of course, iOS isn’t your only option. There are any number of Android tablets out there that could be used for this, and there are several apps. but I couldn’t find one that I though was worth trying. Do you have one you like?

And don’t forget you could cobble together a laptop based option if you have a Wacom graphics tablet. Or, there’s a growing number of tablet-convertibles out there that run Windows, and if you add a decent paint program you have more than enough to do a signature.

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills weekly. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.


  1. Name29 May, 2011

    1. Scan paper signature
    2. Put into ebook
    3. ???
    4. PROFIT

  2. Chris29 May, 2011

    Autograph albums used to be fairly common years ago. I’d be surprised if there wasn’t an autograph album app for the iOS or Android.

    1. Nate Hoffelder29 May, 2011

      I didn’t find one, but that would be a good idea.

  3. Jane29 May, 2011

    “If I have a digital signature for an author I can add that signature to all the author’s ebooks. It would take some work but it’s doable.”

    Nate, are you suggesting that you can cut / paste an author’s signature into an e-book just because you may find the tools to do so? Hello Copyright Law!

    The author, and ONLY the author, may insert their signature or any content into their copyrighted material.

    The value of having a customized signing is the author took the time to write a personal dedication, and therefore the ebook you receive is a one-of-a-kind.

    So question, is the image you posted really signed by Margaret Atwood, or did you create that? It looks hacked to me…

    1. Nate Hoffelder29 May, 2011

      You missed the point completely.

      BTW, you do know that if I’m getting an author’s autograph then I already bought most of her books, right? And I probably paid to get the autograph, right?

      If I’ve already given the author all this money, how exactly did I harm anyone by embedding the autograph in all that author’s ebooks?

    2. E. Wylie29 May, 2011

      “The author, and ONLY the author, may insert their signature or any content into their copyrighted material.”

      Bullshit. If I want, I can pick up a pen and sign Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom, thereby “inserting my signature into his copyrighted material.” Willful destruction of privately-owned reproductions of copyrighted material is perfectly legal, and does not infringe upon the author’s copyright. Of course, many ebook vendors/publishers may “forbid” modification of ebook files, although those terms and conditions would probably never hold up in court.

  4. Mike Cane29 May, 2011

    I don’t even want a signed *paper* book. Buy as many used as I have and you find it depressing, coming across inscriptions in them. Like peeking at the dead.

    As for autograph albums, great idea to complement my signed postcard idea:

    1. E. Wylie29 May, 2011

      There’s an “ebook signing” day at the annual RT Convention, and nearly all of the authors sign postcard reproductions of their covers. The upside is that these can also be framed–something that’s not quite as attractive with a signed print book’s title page.

      1. Mike Cane29 May, 2011

        Once again, Romance is on the cutting edge.

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