Saturday, July 01, 2006

RIP Jim Baen

Three days ago, science fiction publisher and editor Jim Baen passed away after a stroke.

In its heyday, science fiction editors like John W. Campbell, Gardner Dozois and Hugo Gernsback were almost as well-known to readers as the authors. Jim Baen will surely be counted as one of those illustrious few.

In his obituary for Jim Baen, David Drake, one of Baen's most popular authors, talks about Baen Book's wildly successful experiment with a permissive publishing strategy for electronic-books:

This is a fair description of Jim's life in SF: he was always his own man, always a maverick, and very often brilliantly successful because he didn't listen to what other people thought.

For example, the traditional model of electronic publishing required that the works be encrypted. Jim thought that just made it hard for people to read books, the worst mistake a publisher could make. His e-texts were clear and in a variety of common formats.

While e-publishing has been a costly waste of effort for others, Baen Books quickly began earning more from electronic sales than it did from Canada. By the time of Jim's death, the figure had risen to ten times that.

On a personal note, I never knew Jim Baen, but his anthologies were part of the reading staples in my teens and early twenties. It's been a long time since I've read them -- perhaps it is time to pull them out of storage and read them again.

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