Archive for March, 2010

So, I absolutely love my Kindle. I could rhapsodize for pages and pages about how it elevates the reading experience, how convenient it is, and how wonderful it is to no longer have to find storage space for several boxes of new books each year. But I won’t go into all that. This time.

One of the big drawbacks of an e-reader though, if you enjoy going to author appearances and getting books signed, is that they can’t sign an ebook! Unless maybe some of those devices that use a stylus allow it to work somehow. But for most of us it just ain’t happening.

I was excited that my favorite urban fantasy author, Kim Harrison, was coming to Seattle on tour again this year for her latest release. But then kinda bummed because I was having a hard time finding my old paperbacks she hasn’t signed yet (you know, that whole boxes of stored books issue), and I didn’t want to pay $25 for the hardcover in addition to buying the ebook just so I could get a signature.

Last year when she was in town she signed my Kindle cover, and that was fun and it looked great for a while. But a year later it’s all faded, and well, it’s already been done. It would be kinda silly to get a new signature on the cover every year. Plus, it’s not associated with the individual books in any way.

Kim Harrison's signature on my Kindle cover from 2009 when it was fresh.

A few days before her appearance I had a brainstorm. I could go to the bookstore with my digital camera, take a picture of the title page, make a print, have her sign the print, and then scan it to put on my Kindle. So that’s what I did.

When I got to Third Place Books (where the signing was to be held in a couple days) I found the bestseller shelf that had the hardcovers of Black Magic Sanction on display. Since the cover designs for her books are so beautiful and striking I decided to include that in my photo also, not just the title page. I arranged two books on the shelf side-by-side. One was open to the title page for signing, and the other was overlapping it to display the cover. I took a few pics to make sure I got a good one. (I didn’t look around to see if anyone was staring at me wondering what the strange lady was doing taking pictures of a book!)

My next stop was at Bartell’s, a local drug store chain which has kiosks where you can do all sorts of nifty self-service things with digital photos. I put the card from my camera into the machine slot and chose the option to make a print. The largest they offered without having to come back and pick it up later was 6×8. I was originally wanting an 8×10, but it turns out the 6×8 size worked just fine. I sorted through the pics I’d taken and chose the one I wanted, ordered a copy, and it printed up right there while I waited. It only cost me a dollar.

I took the photo print to the book signing and when it was my turn explained I was trying something new because I read ebooks. Kim signed the print for me using a Sharpy. I’d recommend for anyone doing this to bring a suitable pen with you, just in case the author doesn’t have one. A ball point pen would have worked okay I believe, but it wouldn’t show up as well in the final result I don’t think.

Signed photo print

After the signing I went to Kinko’s and used their flatbed scanner to scan the signed print and save it on my USB thumb drive. That cost me a dollar for the computer time needed to scan and save the image. After I transferred the image to my computer I sent it to Amazon to convert for display on my Kindle. The Kindle doesn’t display graphic images like .jpegs natively, but Amazon provides a conversion service that works really well. You can use the free option and get the image back via email, or you can pay .15 per megabyte and have the converted file sent directly to your Kindle wirelessly. I was feeling lazy, so I used the latter option.

Signed "book" on my Kindle

I left the image sideways instead of rotating it before having it converted, because I wanted it to display on my Kindle as large as possible. It’s easy to just tilt the Kindle sideways when I want to look at it. Though I used the screen rotation feature to see how it looked “right side up”, at a much smaller size, and it turned out it still looked pretty good that way too.

Signed book right side up using screen rotation

So for $2.15 I got a book-specific author inscription, instead of something generic or having to just look wistfully on while other people got their books signed. For those with their own scanners and photo capable printers it could be done for the cost of ink and paper. Much cheaper than having to buy the book twice!

I ended up loving how this worked out and I’ll be doing it for any author signings I go to in the future. For those who don’t have a bookstore nearby to make it easy to get the photo ahead of time something similar could be done by getting cover images from the web and creating your own custom signing page.


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