While researching for my previous post (“To e-book or not to e-book?”), I came across a brilliant letter/essay by science fiction and fantasy author Eric Flint. The letter was written in 2000, and serves as an introduction to the Baen Free Library. That’s right, free. A conversation between Flint and Baen Books publisher Jim Baen led to an experiment: offering a few titles in electronic format for free. Flint argues convincingly that offering free e-books is a good business practice: that if readers like a free book, they are more likely to buy it and/or buy other books from the same author. He must be right, because nine years later, the Baen Free Library now includes backlist titles from 43 authors, with more books and authors added every few months. And these aren’t just new or obscure authors, either. They include Flint, Jeffrey Carver, Andre Norton, Mercedes Lackey, Jerry Pournelle, Larry Niven, Lois McMaster Bujold, Fred Saberhagen, David Drake…
Flint goes further in his letter, explaining in clear and well-reasoned arguments why authors and publishers should stop worrying about (obsessing about?) piracy and lost sales. His letter is just as applicable now as it was in 2000 — perhaps more so. I highly recommend it.
The Baen Free Library is available in the following formats: HTML and RTF for reading on your computer, Microsoft Reader for PCs and Pocket PC devices, Mobipocket Reader for Windows CE, Palm, and Psion devices, and Rocket eBook for Rocket eBook devices. If you want to download any of Baen’s free e-books, one hint: Follow this link to the Authors index, then open the author you want in a new tab. For some reason, clicking the author’s name without opening in a new tab doesn’t open the page at all, at least not in Firefox.