But a glitch spoiled the transcontinental debut. The broadband Internet connection allowed videoconferencing but not the mechanical operation of the pen. Still, Atwood is optimistic. She created Unotchit, the company that makes LongPen, to eliminate the strain of book tours, which can be exhausting, expensive and in some cases physically impossible. Atwood, 66, says that after more than 30 years of touring, she had to look ahead: "As I enter the golden years, let's face it, I will be incapable of doing that."
The technology will probably be fully functional soon. But will book buyers warm to the experience? Some who gathered for last week's demonstration at a Manhattan book store remained unconvinced. "When you go to a reading, it's exciting," said architect Anne Lewison, who thought the remote link lacked the same energy. That kind of buzz may be harder to create than the invention itself.