Apple patents autographs. Checkmate, eBay

Novelists! Now you can please fans without getting your nib wet (so to speak)

Steve Ballmer's signature on a Trevecca Nazarene University student's MacBook

Apple, for some reason, has decided it wants to make the process of getting a book autographed even more sterile and impersonal than before.

The Cupertino giant was granted a patent on Tuesday covering a method by which an author can digitally sign his or her autograph onto readers' copies of e-books.

Yes, it seems that the old method of hearing an author read their work and then waiting in line for a quick chat and a signature on the inside of your physical, paper book is too passé for Apple, which wants to remove all of those steps in favor of a single, boring, faceless data dump.

According to the text of US Patent No. 8,880,602, first filed in 2012 and published on Tuesday, authors would use their devices to create signatures that are associated with their personal online accounts and the books they have written.

They could then, with the touch of a button (or swipe of a screen), upload the signature data to all devices in the area containing a copy of the book. This could provide multiple readers with an "autographed" e-book instantly and save the author the trouble of shaking hands and saying "thank you" a few dozen times.

The system would use authentication certificates on both devices, which would both verify that the autograph data is legitimate when it gets sent to the user device and when copies of the book are downloaded from the Apple book store.

Apple's autograph patent

The next best thing to a clammy handshake and hastily scrawled note!

Apple's reasoning in filing for the patent seems to make enough sense. The company notes that some readers still prefer books made out of dead trees rather than ones made out of digital bits for the simple reason that authors can scribble on them.

"The electronic versions have some advantages over paper media products such as containing additional content, are user interactive, are cheaper to purchase, and are more convenient to carry around," Apple's patent helpfully explains.

"However, some users still prefer paper media products for the physical attributes of paper media products, which include the ability to have a copy of a book personalized. For example, a user can go to a book signing and get his copy of the book autographed by the author. The autographed copy can hold some special meaning to the reader."

We can't help but wonder, however, if this whole idea sort of misses the entire point of the autograph, namely to meet with the author and, however briefly, get a personal connection and appreciation beyond the book itself. And then flog the thing on eBay.

Is an autograph worth anything when it's just another mass-produced and distributed blob of binary? ®

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