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Thursday, June 15, 2006

Jim Baen, founder of Baen Books

Is in the hospital after suffering a stroke. People, please keep this man in your prayers. He is the inspiration behind the most vital and innovative publishing company currently in business.

Many of you may not read science fiction books, so you may feel that Baen Books is nothing of value to you. This is false. Baen Books has been at the forefront of the fight to make books easier to read, not by 'dumbing down' the works released, but by creating Webscriptions and the Free Library. In both endeavors, Jim Baen, and Baen Books have fought hard to make ebooks available in a wide range of ebook file formats - and has done so without resorting to the vile practice of Digital Rights Management (DRM) which - DRM - makes it difficult for a purchaser of ebooks to transfer those already purchased ebooks from desktop computer to laptop or PDA. Look at the three other major ebook companies, Fictionwise, Mobipocket and eReader and you'll notice that you must constantly re-register your ereader applications on each new device. And if you choose the wrong format, you could find that you simply cannot use your already purchased ebooks on that device. (Here I'm specifically thinking of Microsoft Reader - which requires Windows or Windows Mobile and an MS Passport account to 'activate' the reader and the ebooks. Switching to a Linux system? You'll have to re-purchase all your MS Reader ebooks in a new format. Same if you should suddenly decide to switch to the Palm PDA line from the Windows Mobile/Pocket PC variety.)

But Baen refused to put such restrictions on his ebook releases. Further, for older ebooks, he's changed them from requiring a modest purchase (ranging from $4 to $6) to being completely free. Those you can get at the Baen Free Library. And they're good books! I recommend you start with David Weber's classic "On Basilisk Station", a science fiction story much like the "Horatio Hornblower" series by E.M. Foster. "On Basilisk Station" introduces Honor Harrington who is fleshed out in the following books. And it's free for the downloading!

Other publishers start from the view that all ebook readers are thieves and implement ebook formats based upon that premise. Baen Books presumes his customers are honest. And they reward him by buying both hard-copy (sometimes called 'dead tree') and ebooks of each new title. Most other publishers cannot make the same claim.

So keep this man, this innovator, this giant among publishers in your prayers. We need more like him.

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4:35 PM  

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