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Do Signed Books Mean Anything To You?

With a few exceptions, I really don’t care about owning a signed book. Like if someone gave me a signed copy of John Grisham’s A Time To Kill, I’d probably think, “Oh, that’s nice,” and put it away.

Or if I see some random author at a book signing in Barnes & Noble, the fact that I can owned a signed copy of his book and shake his hand in no way makes me more eager to purchase his book.

In fact, with the lone exception of David Foster Wallace, I can’t think of any author from the last 30 years who would make me want to own a signed copy of one of their books.

I just don’t care that much. Okay, so an author took 5 seconds to write his name on a page. Okay, the author of this very book I’m holding touched this very sheet of paper with the very set of fingers that wrote this book. Amazing!

Look, I’m not criticizing if you collect signed copies of novels or if you wait in line to get John Grisham’s autograph. That’s awesome if you want to do that.

I’m just explaining my thought process on the whole subject.

Now, if we’re talking about a legendary author—a Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Woolf, Joyce, and so on—then I’d love to have a signed copy of one of their books. I’d pay money for such a privilege.

But those are a lot of money. And, again, I’m not sure if the money is equal to the perceived value, at least in my opinion.

But what about you? Do you care about autographed books?

(Image: Premiere Collectibles)

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43 Comments Post a comment
  1. I’d much rather have some kind of intellectual discourse with a favorite author than a signed copy of a book I bought of the internet. I do have one signed book “Looking For God in Harry Potter” by John Granger, a friend got it for me as a Christmas Gift. He actually signed it with his name and an invitation to tell him what I thought. If I were to go to a book signing it would be less about getting the book signed and more about being able to actually talk to a writer I love.

    Like

    April 22, 2013
    • Yes, me too. The only problem is actually getting to talk to them. They move people through those signings so fast that you’re lucky if you get to say more than hello.

      Like

      April 22, 2013
    • I agree with muffinbuttreads. There are quite a few authors who I would love to have a good literary conversation with and I would definitely value that more than a signed copy of one of their books. I only have one signed book and that is a copy of “The Horses in My Life” by Monty Roberts. I got that when I was a pre-teen and I do value that because it brings back special memories of the night when my parents took me to see Monty Roberts demonstrating his natural horsemanship techniques – AMAZING stuff!

      I am a big fan of eighteenth and nineteenth century literature and it would be amazing to have a signed copy of anything by Jane Austen or the Bronte sisters. But the odds of me getting one of them are pretty much zero. Even if I did have the thousands of $$$ to actually buy one if it came up for sale, I don’t think I would really want to spend that much on a signature; in 2010, a signed first edition of “Emma” by Jane Austen sold for around $490,000.
      I can think of many things I would prefer to buy or do, like traveling the world or buying a house, if I had a spare $490,000!

      Like

      April 23, 2013
  2. Reblogged this on rendrasyahputrablog.

    Like

    April 22, 2013
  3. If it’s just the signature or a generic “To ____ from _____,” then I don’t. If you get to talk to the author and they write a sentence memorializing the conversation, or something like that, then absolutely I treasure the extra personal touch.

    Like

    April 22, 2013
  4. No, not really. Unless it’s a friend who wrote the book.

    Like

    April 22, 2013
  5. Signed books are the one thing I do collect, though I’m definitely not an ardent collector, nor do I have the dough to get some of the same kinds of books you mention. I’d love to add Steinbeck someday.

    Of the 20 or so books I have that are signed, the two most notable (imho) are Michael Chabon and Chuck Palahniuk, both of whom I met at separate public readings years ago.

    Waiting in line to get a book signed may just be the small price a reader has to pay to meet an author they’d otherwise never encounter in real-life. Maybe the signature is ultimately superfluous, but it points to a memorable moment for the reader.

    Like

    April 22, 2013
  6. I do have one signed book that happened by accident (I was passing and it was an author I read a lot). And if I ever get the opportunity to get a book signed by a favourite author or purchase one that I appreciate the value of then I would go for it, but otherwise it doesn’t interest me either. .

    Like

    April 22, 2013
  7. Unbalanced pessimist #

    I’m a logic friendly person and signed books are same as unsigned books to me. I have never stood in a line to get an autograph. This doesn’t mean people who do this are illogical or outright crazy. It is their preference.
    If I ever spend my time getting a book signed it will be because I’m going to keep it for a long time till the author dies, wait for a few more years and cash in the value on eBay. A dead author’s signature carries a lot of value. I wouldn’t have been the case if the people who respect autographed copies stopped existing.

    Like

    April 22, 2013
    • If you get Fitzgerald’s signature, let me know…haha.

      Like

      April 22, 2013
  8. Yes. I have one signed by Iain Banks that I got after seeing him at a book reading in Edinburgh so it’s a memento of that and the holiday I was on at the time. I got Brian Aldiss to sign one of his books after I’d interviewed him for a college magazine. This book in particular has a special place for me as it was one of the first non-children’s books I ever owned.

    As an observation, you state that your opinion would be different if it was a copy of a book by a “legendary” author. Does this say more about you and your opinions of various authors? Perhaps in a few decades’ time John Grisham will be deemed as “legendary”. (Probably not, but you get my point.)

    Like

    April 22, 2013
    • Yes, I think it’s all just perspective. I guess I’m not opposed to signed books, but it’s just based on the author.

      Like

      April 22, 2013
  9. I think I would only swoon if my manga were to be signed by the mangaka. Preferably with a personalized drawing. Paperbacks? I don’t really care that much. A book is just a book. Besides, I would mostly read the book only once and then move on to another book.

    Like

    April 22, 2013
  10. I don’t really care about it either, but I did take the chance to get my books signed when I met authors. Maybe someday they will be the Woolfs or the Hemingways.

    Like

    April 22, 2013
    • Good point that I haven’t really considered. You never know…

      Like

      April 22, 2013
  11. This is an interesting topic. I have a small collection of signed books as U have been fortunate enough to attending many readings put on by my alma mater. I think it’s exciting to meet an author in person, and having a signed book is a nice way to remember the occasion. I do agree that a personal message is much preferred to a simple signature or To/from, and I’ve never gone to a bookstore and stood in line for hours just for a signature. But if I have attended a reading I think signed books are nice to have.

    Like

    April 22, 2013
  12. I wouldn’t just go out and buy a book because the author is doing a book signing. But if it is a book that I read previously and really enjoyed it, then yes. A signed copy makes it more special to me.

    Like

    April 22, 2013
  13. From my work in the book industry I went to a lot of signings and still enjoy going to meet an author and hear what they have to say and hear them read from their book. The signed copy is a nice way to remember the event and contribute to the author’s continuing success. I especially enjoy pulling out my signed first editions that I have collected over the years. I have a signed Toni Morrison that I will always treasure.

    Like

    April 22, 2013
    • Toni Morrison would be an awesome one to have. I might wait in a line for that.

      Like

      April 22, 2013
  14. I suppose as a book collector, I feel like it would be nice if some of them are signed. But I get your point. However, I do have a few favorite authors that I would love to meet and have signed books from them. I think it’s just a nice way to make the copy of the book I own a bit more special.
    I don’t know … did you ever want to collect signatures of famous people? I remember the first time my mom came home with the autograph of the guy who played C3PO for me and ever since then I was hooked. It’s just something I can share with my kids and some day grandkids.

    Like

    April 22, 2013
  15. The only reason I would want a signed book is if it were worth a small fortune and even then I would most likely sell it rather than set it on a shelf. Unfortunately, the only way for someone like me to purchase a book worth that much is to have it signed before the author becomes famous. I don’t collect signed books but if I were to meet an author, it’s worth asking for an autograph. You never know who the next Stephen King will be!

    Like

    April 22, 2013
  16. I’m with you – with rare exceptions, I don’t care about a signature. I’ve got a signed copy of a Dave Barry book that was handed out to the audience at a Q&A session he did at a local art film house after a screening of “This is Spinal Tap.” Kinda neat, but it just sits on my shelf.

    I bought a copy for about $5 of a William Saroyan book that turned out to have his signature on the inside. I hadn’t realized it when I bought it, so it was a nice little treat. I love Saroyan’s work, so I am a little more impressed with that signed copy than with the Dave Barry one.

    The only example of a book that I absolutely treasure because of its signature is a copy of Sign Language and the Deaf Community: Essays in Honor of William Stokoe. I was in grad school, studying linguistics and deaf education, and Dr.Stokoe came to speak at a conference that was organized by my department. I not only got to meet him, but I sat next to him at dinner and we had a long conversation. He was such a lovely person and it meant so much to me to have him listen to my ideas and to receive advice. I was particularly proud because when I first approached him, he gave me what turned out to be a little ‘test’ to see if I actually did know about his work or if I was just a hanger-on. I apparently passed that test easily because we talked for a couple of hours. I asked him to sign my copy of the book and he not only signed, but wrote a personal message to me. This was almost 20 years ago and it remains one of my prized possessions.

    Like

    April 22, 2013
  17. I like signed books :3, yah it’s nice knowing the very person who dreamed up one of my favorite stories has actually touched my book. I can’t explain the glee of it, but I like knowing that. Aside from that, famous or not, who knows what that book may be worth in the future. What if (god-forbid) the author dies next year, or 50 years from now that book has become a “classic” or .. i dunno, the world ends and books are burned and I have the only signed copy left on the planet. It’s special :3 none of those things may ever happen, but having a signature is better than not having one to me because of the what-ifs. Do I only keep signed books, or actively look for them? No. But I like them anyway.

    Like

    April 22, 2013
  18. I have a signed, leather-bound edition of Maya Angelou’s Complete Collected Poems. In addition to her signature, which is in a beautiful, round, flowing script, she simply wrote the word “Joy.” I also have a coffee-table book of art by Howard Terpning (he does “western” art, but also designed posters for classic Hollywood films – Sound of Music, Gone with the Wind, etc…) which is signed.

    I guess my short answer is that, yes, I appreciate a signature, especially for books of poetry and art. Would I stand in line to have a book signed by someone I barely knew? No, probably not. But someone I greatly admire? Yes, of course I would.

    Like

    April 22, 2013
  19. dste #

    The only signed books that I have we’re given to me as gifts, one from a friend who came across an author doing a signing and remembered that I liked her books. I think that makes a gift more thoughtful, so, yeah, I was really happy to get it. That being said, my favorite “signed” book is my copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone that my parents gave me for my 9th birthday. Not signed by J K, but by my parents with a happy birthday message. If I ever did meet J K Rowling, that would obviously be awesome, but she would have to sign underneath!

    Like

    April 22, 2013
  20. Claire #

    I have a few signed books, but only three or so that actually mean anything to me. One was written by a favorite and famous basketball coach and another written by one of my favorite journalists and the final by my favorite radio personality. I have a few where I met the author and they signed my book, and a few that were given to me by friends. None those have any particular meaning to be, but they’re cool to show people.

    Like

    April 22, 2013
  21. I have a couple. One is for name, but the rest are because they are books I really enjoyed and had the opportunity to meet the author. But they’re just for me with my name in them. I don’t like the people that just get the authors signature to re-sell at some future date.

    Like

    April 22, 2013
  22. I’m not a fan of collecting signatures on anything, shirts, balls, or books. I do have some autographed books, but I don’t treat them any differently. As you say, if I had a signed copy of Ulysses or any book by Faulkner, I guess I would be much more reverent. But if Faulkner were alive, I can’t say I’d stand in line to have him sign my book. I’d much rather just listen to him speak, maybe answer questions from the audience.

    I wouldn’t want to have a conversation with an author, either. I would much rather have a lengthy, perhaps lifelong, correspondence. That would be a dream.

    Like

    April 22, 2013
    • Yeah, I’ve just never been into signed copies of stuff at all. I have a few signed balls and cards, etc. But it’s not something I would ever pay that much money for. Plus, these days, it’s hard to really trust what you’re getting…there are so many scams out there.

      Like

      April 22, 2013
  23. I have a signed copy of the Book Thief given to me as a present, its beautiful, warm and smells nice 🙂 I think they are only special when the author/story means a lot to you.

    Like

    April 22, 2013
  24. I actually think signed books are really cool! This is just a small part of that opinion but, the legendary authors signed books at some point too, someone had to have cared enough to get their signatures and now they are valuable both monetarily and sentimentally. What if the authors that we are reading now are legends in 50 or 60 years? It would be cool to have a signed copy. Obviously I am not going to stop every author and ask him or her to sign my book… but as a writer too I think it would be cool if someone cared enough about my work that he or she wanted me to sign it. Just a thought.. by the way your posts are so interesting. Whenever I am scrolling through my feed and see a post I want to read, I look down and 9 times out of ten it’s by 101 Books–so thanks!

    Like

    April 22, 2013
    • That’s awesome. Thanks so much for reading!

      Like

      April 23, 2013
  25. I feel like it all depends on the author and your love of that particular author. I’d be thrilled to get one from Fitzgerald or Hemmingway just because of the historical value, but a Tolkien would just rock my socks. As far as more current authors, Gabriel García Márquez or Ken Follet would be worth it to me, simply because of how much I love their work. I think the signature would be more of a commemoration of the occasion of meeting someone I highly respect rather than a status symbol or long-term investment, but then again, I am pretty sentimental.

    By the way, I just found your blog and I love it! My dad is serving overseas and we just started going through the same list last year as a way to stay connected. Very cool idea for a blog. 🙂

    Amanda

    Like

    April 22, 2013
    • Cool. Thanks for reading! And, yeah, I would LOVE a signed Fitzgerald book, but I can’t even imagine what that would cost.

      Like

      April 23, 2013
  26. I don’t particularly collect signed books, but it’s nice if you like the author and the book he signed for you. I have a few signed books by Neil Gaiman, Salman Rushdie, Orhan Pamuk, Khaled Hosseini, and Jhumpa Lahiri. I think they are nice to show your kids and grandkids in the future, even if they won’t be worth much…. sentimental value, I guess.

    Like

    April 22, 2013
  27. Signed books only matter to me when they’re signed by someone I personally know, and I don’t just mean someone I met at a random publicity signing. Allot of my friends write and have been published in small press anthologies or even had a few novels come out, and I honestly have to say, buying a copy of their book and having them write someone genuine to me in it means more to me than any signed, first edition, collectible peace of pop culture ever could.

    Like

    April 22, 2013
  28. Good point. I would love to have a signed book by someone I know. I guess that’s a little different.

    Like

    April 23, 2013
  29. madde889 #

    There are some authors who I really admire and, when the opportunity arose, I went to hear them do readings and brought books for them to sign. They’re cool but sometimes I think of them more of a lender insurance policy that’s anything else.
    In the case of collecting signed books, I wouldn’t. The only ones I can think of are first editions signed by Charles Bukowski because he didn’t just sign his name, he drew pictures. That would be cool to have because it’s a one-of-a-kind thing. 🙂

    Like

    April 23, 2013
  30. M #

    I had the chance to get a signed copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone but, as it had just come out, I had no idea who this JK Rowling person was. Oh for a time machine…

    Like

    April 23, 2013
  31. I bought a signed copy of Imajica by Clive Barker before he was really famous. I’ve also tried out other authors because they had signed the books. It’s nice to have that personal touch. They’re also more valuable years later!

    Like

    April 24, 2013
  32. I collect signed books 🙂 Is not my obsession. but if I have them I appreciate them a lot, as a treasure 🙂

    Like

    May 1, 2013
  33. i have never had a signed book to know but i’m not too bothered about it. Perhaps if I personally met the author and had them sign the book while I was there then it may hold some sentimental value to me but if you buy a signed copy of a book, i don’t see anything special. i just see it as the author having signed lots of copies all in one go and you just happen to be buying one – i don’t think it would have any personal gesture to it really

    Like

    May 30, 2013

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