Evan Jacobs
Evan Jacobs

Speaking from personal experience, getting an e-book signed can be a messy process. But as more and more people start reading solely on their Kindles and iPads, that annoyance can turn into a major problem.

Apple has devised a way to make it easier, and in the process has stepped on the turf of a Seattle entrepreneur.

Apple recently filed for a patent that would govern the attachment of a signature to a piece of digital media, like an album on iTunes or an e-book sold through the iBookstore.

The patent describes a method of adding a signature both in person and also through an online purchase, so that it would be possible to buy, for example, an autographed e-book copy of Neil Gaiman’s latest novel without even leaving your house.

That’s a nifty way to create premium e-books, but it’s also exactly what Authorgraph, a startup founded by Seattle entrepreneur Evan Jacobs, does. Authorgraph, which boasts an existing userbase of more than 7,000 authors, allows e-book buyers to get volumes on their digital bookshelf signed by the books’ authors, assuming those authors use Authorgraph.

Some of the titles available on Authorgraph

“It appears that Apple’s filing is very similar to Authorgraph’s current system in that both enable authors to use a mobile device to sign a personalized autograph for a specific reader and then send that autograph to the reader so that it appears on the reader’s mobile device,” Jacobs said in an email.

The new patent filing means it’s possible that Jacobs is on the road to joining Stephen Orth in the pantheon of Seattle developers who have had their ideas “Sherlocked”– commandeered, whether knowingly or not–by Apple.

Of course, Apple files for a lot of patents (remember the Smart Bike?) over the course of doing business, and it’s very possible that they won’t actually be bringing the feature to market any time soon.

But even if Apple does move in on their turf, Jacobs says he thinks Authorgraph has a good chance to hold its own.

“Authorgraph would appear to have an advantage in that the service is accessible to any reader on any platform (e.g. Kindle, Nook, Kobo, iBooks, etc.). In addition, Authorgraph enjoys a strong relationship with thousands of authors (both self-published and traditionally published) who all understand that a startup can sometimes be more responsive to their feedback and feature requests than a larger company,” Jacobs said.

Previously on GeekWire: Sherlocked! Apple’s iOS 7 Photos app gives indie developer a taste of tradition

Like what you're reading? Subscribe to GeekWire's free newsletters to catch every headline


  • EbookMonkey

    Except that Authorgraph doesn’t actually allow the author to sign their ebook, but rather, a creates a single/standalone document..

    Check out item #8 in the FAQ:

  • Vroo (Bruce Leban)

    Apple claims “1. A computer implemented method, comprising: determining, by an author’s device, that a reader’s device is within a coverage area capable of communicating with the author’s device; the author’s device being associated with a first user account controlled by an author; receiving a communication from the reader’s device indicating that a second user account associated with the reader’s device is associated with a copy of the electronic book, the electronic book being authored by the author associated with the author’s device and automatically performing a first autographing task associated with the copy of the electronic book based on the indication.”

    This claim clearly reads on any method of autographing books. Just ignore all the obvious stuff thrown in like determining that the two devices can communicate (duh) and that each device is associated with an appropriate account (duh). Determining that valid conditions exist for doing autographing isn’t limiting and is obvious. All it really clams is “automatically performing an autographing task [with a computer]”. Oooh.

    Yes, claim 4 says they insert an autograph page in the book. The fact that Amazon and Kindle DRM prevent third parties like Authorgraph from doing that doesn’t make this patentable. It’s obvious that you would want to emulate the real world of putting the autograph on a page in the book.

Job Listings on GeekWork