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Margaret Atwood's new invention

The LongPen is a remote-controlled pen that allows book-signings over thousands of miles.

india Updated: Mar 09, 2006 18:51 IST

Margaret Atwood has had enough of long journeys, late nights and writer's cramp. Tired of gruelling book tours, the Booker Prize-winning Canadian author unveiled her new invention: a remote-controlled pen that allows writers to sign books for fans from thousands of miles away.

Some fear Atwood's LongPen could end the personal contact between writers and readers. Atwood says it will enhance the relationship. "I think of this as a democratising device," said Atwood, whose appearances in North America and Europe draw hundreds of fans willing to stand in long lines for a word and an autograph.

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

Yesterday, Atwood's democratic device underwent the most universal of experiences -- the last-minute technical hitch. Its first-ever public demonstration, at the London Book Fair, was delayed as project director Matthew Gibson and his crew engaged in some frantic tinkering.

Anxious minutes later, Atwood picked up a pen to autograph her new short story collection, The Tent, for Nigel Newton, chief executive of her British publisher, Bloomsbury. She wrote the words on an electronic pad while chatting to Newton over a video linkup.

A few seconds later in another part of the exhibition center, two spindly metal arms clutching a pen reproduced the words onto Newton's book in Atwood's angular scrawl: "For Nigel, with best wishes, Margaret Atwood."

When Atwood (66) announced her invention late in 2004, many assumed it was a hoax. But the inventive spirit is not surprising from an author whose interest in science and technology informed science fiction-flavored novels like The Handmaid's Tale and Oryx and Crake.

First Published: Mar 08, 2006 14:25 IST