Scott Russell Sanders’ newest novel is Divine Animal, and he’s giving away the e-version — which is available now — and selling the print version at cost. That one comes out in March. “A wound may be inflicted in a heartbeat–from an explosion, accidents, or cruel act–but healing, if it comes at all, comes slowly,” says Sanders. “Divine Animal is a story of healing, traced through the lives of characters bound together by a secret trauma.”
But why is he giving it away when his books of fiction and nonfiction (13 in all, including A Conservationist Manifesto, A Private History of Awe, Hunting for Hope, and Staying Put) and children’s literature (three) have sold well? Because, he says:
During the four decades of my writing life the book as a physical artifact made of ink on paper has been gradually supplanted—some would say, doomed to extinction—by the book as a digital file readable on various electronic devices. While I love books printed on paper, and will continue reading them by preference as long as I live, before publishing Divine Animal in that traditional form, I wanted to experiment first with an e-book version that I would be able to give away.
Why give it away? The practical reason is that I earn my living by teaching, not by selling books. In writing Divine Animal, I did not set out to produce a commodity for sale; I set out to tell a story, to inhabit the lives of characters who had captured my imagination, to reflect on how things fall apart and how they might be mended. Of course it is perfectly honorable to earn one’s living by writing. But that was never my ambition, nor would it have been a realistic one, given my subjects and concerns and style. A deeper reason for giving away the e-book version is to make a small return to the cultural commons, that indispensable source for all creative work, including my own—the commons of language, literature, libraries, schools and colleges, the arts and sciences and all forms of knowledge, as well as countless conversations with fellow seekers and makers.
Header photo by Simmons B. Buntin.