Alba, Continued

For those who do not know, The Time Traveler’s Wife is my favorite book. This is not hyperbole. I first read it approximately nine years ago, and I’ve never really stopped reading it. We have at least four print copies in the house: two U.S. editions, a limited edition with a cover by the author, and a U.K. edition (purchased during a semester abroad in Spain; I lasted about two months without a copy, then went to London and bought a new one at Paddington Station. First agenda item, before museums or anything).

I have also followed Audrey Niffenegger’s other work: her novel Her Fearful Symmetryher artist’s books and graphic novels, and recently her exhibit at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, “Awake in the Dream World.” 

TTW_zolaFor a long time, The Time Traveler’s Wife was not available as an e-book*, but recently it has become available from Zola Books, which sells platform-agnostic DRM-free e-books that work on all devices. (That bears repeating: platform-agnostic DRM-free e-books that work on all devices. How marvelous.) So of course I bought the e-book. I probably would have anyway, but I was (am) especially excited because this version had a new author’s note, and – and – a snippet of the sequel. Tucked at the end, after the permissions, are 18 (Zola says 25, but I counted, it’s 18) beautiful, magical, perfect pages – “Alba, Continued.”

*Here is Audrey in an interview with UR Chicago on the subject of e-books:

“…E-book feels like a misnomer. There’s nothing booky about it. It’s like when Gutenberg invented the printing press….What he was doing was imitating, as best he could, the handwritten word. Every time you get a new technology, it tries to kind of impersonate the old technology until everybody calms down, and then it can go ahead and progress and be whatever it is going to be. That’s the stage I’m waiting for, because I’m getting kind of grumpy with this thing that is trying to impersonate a book.”

But back to “Alba, Continued.” This is very much like, if you happen to be a Narnia fan, someone casually opening the door to the wardrobe and inviting you to step on in. Or if you are a Harry Potter fan, receiving a letter from Hogwarts (never mind that you aren’t eleven years old anymore). Or if you are a Philip Pullman fan, and you come across a window into Lyra’s Oxford. If all three of those things happened to me simultaneously, I could not be more excited.

Part of the excitement comes from surprise; unlike Narnia, Hogwarts, and Lyra’s Oxford, Henry and Clare’s Chicago was never part of a series; I never expected there to be any more of it. For years after the publication of TTW, the author said she was done writing about Clare and Henry and Alba. In an interview with Dear Author, she said,

“I wasn’t planning to write a sequel so this is still new to me. Joe Regal of Zola Books asked me if I had any Time Traveler’s Wife material that hadn’t been published; he was looking for something to publish with the e-book of TTW as an extra. I had nothing that would have made any sense to a reader, just notes and revisions. So I promised to write something new.

It was a funny experience, writing about Alba. I have always made a point of not imagining the lives of Clare and Alba and the other characters beyond the scope of the book, but when I tried to think about them many things came flooding in, as though I knew them already. The imagination is a strange thing, it often works best when you don’t watch it too closely.”

And so the wardrobe, when you least expect it, opens.

Open Letter: Authors for Library E-Books

Naturally the subject of e-books in libraries arose during the week at NELLS. For those who are unfamiliar with the issue, Maureen Sullivan’s open letter to publishers (9/28/2012) is a good place to begin. In it, she explains how libraries support publishers by improving literacy, instilling a lifelong love of reading, and aiding discovery of new authors and genres. E-books in libraries will no more cannibalize e-book sales to consumers than print books in libraries have (i.e., they won’t; research shows that most people who borrow from the library also buy books).


The Authors for Library E-Books campaign (@Authors4LE on Twitter; #A4LE) is an effort to encourage authors to speak out on this issue. Libraries and authors are natural allies, and we all need to speak up to bring this change about. To this end, I contacted a few authors that I have met over the years – through publishing or through author events at bookstores and at the library. I’ve included a template of my letter here; if you know an author (or two, or five, or twelve) who supports libraries, feel free to tweak this and send it along. I personalized each one by mentioning a recent reading of theirs that I’d attended, a program they’d done at a library, or a new book of theirs coming out soon.

An Open Letter to Authors for Library E-Books

Dear [Author],

I hope you are having a good summer so far. I know you are a strong supporter of libraries, and I thought you might like to join ALA’s “Authors for Library E-Books” effort.

I’m sure you’re aware of the ongoing discourse between publishers and libraries on this topic. As it stands, each publisher has come up with a different solution: HarperCollins, for example, licenses e-books to libraries at a reasonable cost, but those licenses expire after 26 uses. Other publishers, such as Random House, charge libraries more than three times the consumer price for e-books and digital audiobooks.

Author and library advocate Cory Doctorow has made a short (four minutes) video about why he supports the Authors for Library E-Books campaign. He says, “Libraries have been so important to the careers of writers, and librarians are such fabulous advocates for authors….Libraries should be able to buy books and they should be able to buy them on fair terms.”

Join Cory Doctorow, Jodi Picoult, Ursula Le Guin, and many other authors who stand with libraries on this issue. You can sign onspeak out, and learn more at the A4LE site, or of course feel free to contact me with any questions or feedback.