Friday, November 24, 2006
For my first post here on the F&SF Lovers Blog (thank you so much for the invitation, SQT!), I’d like to share with you one of the greatest finds of my SF&F reading life – http://www.bane.com/. Jim Baen was way ahead of his time. Or perhaps I should say he was the only one of his peers who was with the times. Until his untimely death of a massive stroke earlier this year, he was the publisher and founding partner of Baen Books. He was always actively involved in seeking out and developing new authors – including many of those I see listed to the right of this column. Probably 80% of my favorite authors are published by Baen, at least in part. His vision of how a publishing house should operate, aided and abetted by some fantastic literary minds (Eric Flint, David Weber, David Drake to name a few) was, and still is, the biggest reason. At the suggestion of Flint, in 2000 he created in the Baen Free Library, where readers can get free electronic copies of many of the Baen authors’ books. Thanks to this resource I was able to try reading many new authors, even when money was tight. I fell in love with many of their works. Another of Baen’s innovative notions was that of embracing unrestricted eBooks. As long as I do not sell it, I am free to reproduce and share any Baen book I buy with my friends. Jim Baen’s opinion was that people would rather buy than steal. He and his authors argued that sharing an eBook was no more damaging – and possibly even beneficial – to the author and publisher than me loaning you a paperback. And the numbers proved them correct over and over again. As well as the free library, their website includes the ability to buy individual books and download them as many times as you like. You can purchase bundles of five or more books (called Webscriptions) for the price of two or three, or purchase advanced copies of books still in the editing phase. Many of the authors are frequently online in the forums, known collectively as Baen’s Bar, to discuss current and upcoming works with their readers. You can even order dead tree copies of your favorites (to share with those poor sods who don’t use computers). In short, Baen.com is, in my opinion, as close to paradise as an SF&F book lover is ever going to find.