My very clever publisher, Algonquin Books, is trying something new: they're pricing seven of their backlist ebooks at only $1.99, for one week only, as a way of sharing the love we all have for some of these, shall we say, vintage titles. In February, they asked seven Algonquin authors to choose a book by another Algonquin author that they especially adore. An Author Crush, they called it.
So I was one of those seven authors, and I chose Richard Goodman's garden memoir French Dirt. This book came out in 1991, ten years before I published my first book. My editor suggested I read it to get a handle on how garden memoirs work. That's how we talked about my book: she would say, "Have you read this?" and I'd read it, and come back and say, "Okay, yeah, I see what you mean, but have you read that?" and she'd go read that, and then she'd say, "That's a good point, but now go read this." No wonder it took a couple of years to edit that book–we had a lifetime's worth of reading to do just to get through a conversation!
Anyway, I eventually got to know Richard and realized that he's an extraordinarily interesting person. Moving to France and planting a garden there–even though he had no experience with either France or gardens–made good material for a book, but he's a writer first, and really barely a gardener at all. Maybe that's what I love about this book. He was more concerned with writing an interesting work of literature than with saying anything in particular about gardening. (He's since gone on to write two books about New York, my other favorite subject, including a fine limited edition work illustrated with letterpress called The Bicycle Diaries: One New Yorker's Journey Through 9/11, and a lovely book on creative writing.)
Algonquin has been fiercely loyal to this book. Most publishers let their backlist (meaning their older titles) dwindle away and go out of print, but Algonquin has this crazy idea that if a book is worth publishing, it's worth keeping in print. They used to publish hardcovers and let another publisher do the paperback, but now they publish their own paperbacks, too. In Richard's case, another publisher did the paperback version, but when they were done with it, Algonquin re-issued the book in paperback, giving it not just a second, but a third life. That is crazy. Seriously, nobody does stuff like that.
And now–the $1.99 ebook edition! This is a very interesting and worthwhile experiment. The questions of how an ebook should be priced, and whether an older book should be priced lower than a new release (much as movies are) is a subject of hot debate in the publishing world and impossible to address here. All I know is that I would love to find out that these kind of special pricing deals can kick-start a great book from a few years back, and send a few bucks flowing into the bank account of some hard-working writer.
So! Whether you read ebooks on a tablet, a dedicated e-reader, or on your computer, you can get a lovely bit of armchair garden/travel writing in the form of French Dirt this week for $1.99. Go here to see all the books on the list, and click on any one of them to get a list of links to download to your device. And remember, if you read ebooks on anything other than an Amazon Kindle or a Barnes & Noble Nook, you can buy your ebooks directly from a real, brick and mortar independent bookstore. Go here to find out how.
A bit more techy advice–A couple people emailed me with this question, so here's the info if you need it: If you don't currently own an ereader or tablet but think you might be getting one, you can still buy the book this week and read it later. If you purchase it through Google eBookstore, it will remain in your Google account–you could read it on your computer now or read it later on any tablet or ereader that works with Google (which is all of them except the Kindle or Nook, I believe.) I believe you can do something similar on Amazon–you can buy the Kindle edition now and read it later on a Kindle or any computer, tablet, smartphone etc. running the Kindle app. The price is only good this week, but the book will stay in your account long after this week is over. Hope that helps.