Tuesday, July 04, 2006

The Baen Free Library

A few days ago, I wrote about the death of science fiction editor Jim Baen.

This may be an appropriate time to mention the Baen Free Library, started when author Eric Flint decided to put his money where his mouth was and offer one of his books as a free, unencrypted, unprotected download:

There was a school of thought, which seemed to be picking up steam, that the way to handle the problem was with handcuffs and brass knucks. Enforcement! Regulation! New regulations! Tighter regulations! All out for the campaign against piracy! No quarter! Build more prisons! Harsher sentences!

Alles in ordnung!

I, ah, disagreed. Rather vociferously and belligerently, in fact. And I can be a vociferous and belligerent fellow.

Flint, like Baen, didn't do this because he is a tree-hugging hippy. Their political philosophies are almost polar opposites: Flint has been described as a socialist, Baen as a conservative, but both agreed on the importance of individual liberty and the profit motive. Flint wrote:

And it is that word of mouth, percolating through the reading public down a million little channels, which is what really puts the food on an author's table. Don't let anyone ever tell you otherwise.

Think about it. How many people lend a book to a friend with the words: "You ought a read this! It's really terrible!"
And, just as important — perhaps most important of all — free books are the way an audience is built in the first place.

Even if you're not a fan of science fiction and fantasy, check out Flint's updates on the progress of the free library.

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