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Last Updated: Monday, 6 March 2006, 13:47 GMT
Author Atwood invents 'magic' pen
The LongPen
Margaret Atwood is hoping to avoid writer's cramp
Author Margaret Atwood has invented a remote-controlled pen which allows her to sign books for her fans from thousands of miles away.

Autographs are signed on an electronic pad while Atwood chats to a fan via a video link.

Seconds later two metal arms holding a pen reproduce the signature in the fan's book.

Atwood, 66, invented the LongPen after tiring of travelling round the world on book tours.

"You cannot be in five countries at the same time. But you can be in five countries at the same time with the LongPen," said Atwood.

The pen had its first public outing at the London Book Fair after a technical hitch delayed the demonstration by a few minutes.

Margaret Atwood
Atwood's latest work The Tent is a collection of fictional essays

The Canadian author signed her new short story collection, The Tent, for Nigel Newton, chief executive of her publisher Bloomsbury.

In another part of the exhibition, the message appeared via the LongPen in Mr Newton's copy: "For Nigel, with best wishes, Margaret Atwood."

The pen's next venture will be to deliver autographs in copies of The Tent for fans in New York and Guelph, Ontario.

The idea for the LongPen came after Atwood signed for a package on an electronic pad.

"I thought my signature was whizzing through the air and landing somewhere else, and I thought as I was crawling through the night on another maniacal book tour, wouldn't it be great if I could sign a book like that?

"It turns out they don't work that way. But I asked some technically-minded people if such a thing was possible, and they said it was."

The gadget will be leased out to publishers for one-off signing events and tours.


"This creates the possibility of an entirely new book promotion event that will inject new life into the marketing of books and authors' relationship with their readers," said Nigel Newton.

Dajan Papic of Atwood's Serbian publisher, Laguna, said the device could help bring international authors - albeit virtually - to his small country.

"We are not always in a position to invite international authors and pay their costs," he said.

But some had concerns that it might end the personal contact between author and reader.

"I might do it if she wasn't in the same room," said Jeff Doorn, a small-press author who queued up at the book fair to have Atwood sign his book in person.

"But it's nice to have the personal touch," he added.

The pen can also be used to sign hockeysticks and the project director Matthew Gibson is working on getting it to sign basketballs.

Atwood's novels include The Handmaid's Tale, Alias Grace and The Blind Assassin.

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