Friday, February 22, 2013

Baen Books: End of a dream or Start of a new era?

It was one of those classic facepalm moments last week when I read in Dark Matter fanzine that English author Terry Deary had called for the closure of libraries. I thought it was a glaring example of someone who could not accept that sometimes giving something away for free can actually make more money for you than watching every farthing. I immediately thought of Baen Books, the SF & F publishing house that was famous (or infamous depending on your viewpoint) for giving away books in their Baen Free Library. It has always been a showpiece of the mindset that free distribution of prequels is the best way of authors attracting new sales. One of the originators of the free library concept, Eric Flint, proved with hard figures that this had improved sales!

Imagine my dismay when I found that it had been gutted!

The Free library still exists but they have ... 
... had to remove some titles. Others are undergoing alteration and will be brought back into the Library over the next few months. The Second Editions with new material will be available for sale at all venues; the original editions will be restored to the Free Library. We are trying to keep as many titles here as possible. We will also be adding new titles soon, including ones by Larry Correia, and Sharon Lee & Steve Miller.

Has Baen Books jumped the shark by trading many of the things that made them unique for the ability to sell their books on Amazon? Amanda S. Green jumps to their defence and paints it as a win for Baen authors and has many valid points.

Personally I think that we need to remember that Baen Books is a commercial enterprise and not a charitable organisation. We, as readers, have no rights to the free ebooks they made available to us however they, in turn, need to realise that they are in danger of  losing the gains that it brought them.

The operative question here is, will the gain be worth the loss? Is the increased exposure that Amazon listing will give them worth the loss of the sales boost that Eric Flint espoused? Just what is the Amazon market share of the ebook market and will they keep it?

No comments:

Post a Comment