Remember standing in those long lines to get your books signed by your favorite authors and the excitement of meeting them in person.  Well now consider this, with the recent emergence of eReaders and advent of ebooks, how are you going to own a signed ebook, or more important to the industry, how are publishers going to replace the valuable demand generation event?

Some recent stats before we move forward:

  • The American Association of Publishers (AAP) reveals that ebook sales have grown from 0.6 percent of the total book market share in 2008 to 6.4 percent in 2010, meaning a 1274.1 percent increase in publisher net sales revenue year-over-year with total net revenue for 2010 at $878 Million.  AAP also announced that mass market paperback sales dropped to $1.28 billion in 2010, a 13.8 percent change since 2008.
  • In May 2011, Amazon claimed that it is selling more ebooks on than print or hardback combined (see also: Amazon Announces eBooks Outsell Print Books 05/23/2011).
  • eMarketer claims that the number of people in the U.S. who own a dedicated eReader (not an iPad or other multi-function tablet) has quadrupled since 2009, to 8.7 percent of the population in May 2011.  By 2012, the company estimates that 12 percent of U.S adults, or 28.9 million people, will own an eReader, up from 1.9 percent in 2009.

With such strong growth in digital forms of reading and digital content in the consumer space, companies such as Docusign, who earlier focused on businesses now decided to also expand their attention to the consumer arena.  A couple of months ago, the e-signature company DocuSign filled its coolers with beer, rented a nacho machine, and opened its doors to hackers, who were challenged to build new uses for an old service for a chance to win $25,000 in prize money.  While the winner was a developer who worked on a solution for signing petitions, another interesting idea came to light.  A former developer for Amazon, Evan Jacobs, showcased his hackathon entry called the Kindlegraph, which allows authors to send a personal message and verifiable signature to an individual Amazon Kindle eReader (Awesome!).  The service is live and can be checked out at  As an eReader analyst and a reading enthusiast I’ve wondered about signed book copies and how eReaders and ebooks affect the good-old book signing events.  And I’m Glad to know that I wasn’t the only one thinking about it!

The Kindlegraph service is free and powered by Twitter.  Once a consumer authenticates who they are by signing in to Twitter, they can connect with their favorite author and request an autograph.  If the author accepts, the autograph will be sent straight to the Kindle.  Still in its nascent stages, the Kindlegraph already has personalized digital inscriptions available for more than 4,000 Kindle books from 1,000 authors.

I hope that e-sign companies, publishers, and eReader vendors will soon notice the enormous growth in the ebook and eReading space and more players will come forward to offer such a service across a number of ebook formats and reading platform types.  Book signing events have been a great promotional opportunity for authors and publishers to drive sales for decades.  Maybe authors and publishers can use the new ebook signing feature as a similar opportunity to drive sales.  For example, a publishing company can limit the number of books that its author signs to may be first 1,000 copies, or just provide signed copies on the first day, or even for a few hours.  Struggling booksellers can still have book signing events and allow authors to sign books both digitally and physically.  While readers will have the opportunity to meet an author, stores will benefit from the increased traffic.  One thing I know is that it would be a mistake for the eReading industry to ignore the lessons learned over the centuries of marketing and selling hardcover and paperback books.  Although signed ebooks are not the same as having an autographed book, it is the closest equivalent in today’s digital age and signed copies may return some of the value and tangibility that we lost when we transitioned from traditional books.  I would call the Kindlegraph a good start!