Baen Books was one of the pioneers in adopting ebooks. Ever since 1999 they have been selling DRM-free ebooks, in multiple formats, in their own ebookstore. They had their own store so they could go DRM-free, and (like I have written before) it was the only way to provide a decent user experience. This was before the Kindle Store launched, of course.
One of Baen's other endeavours was to bundle CDs into the first edition hardbacks. These CDs were chock full of free Baen ebooks from a variety of authors and included a wide variety of formats.
Those free CDs bring me to today's news. Since Baen was using them to promote paper book sales, they were fine with the CDs being passed around online as ZIP files, ISO images, or what have you. They even winked at one site, Fifth Imperium, hosting copies of the CDs which could be browsed and downloaded.
But not anymore. Joe Buckley, the webmaster at Fifth Imperium, announced last night that he would not be hosting the CDs anymore due to a request from Baen. For the near future he will be hosting the CD images (ISO files and ZIP files), but the CDs themselves will not be available to browse from your computer. Here's how he put it:
Baen is now on the verge of launching a new ebook distribution deal with an 'unnamed third-party'.
This third-party regularly crawls the web looking for ebooks it markets and, if found, matches their price to the new-found lower price.
Finding it free tends to knock the wind out of the ebook's sales (so to speak).
Obviously the name which everyone is careful not to mention is Amazon, and it is equally obvious that Baen is finally going to venture beyond their own fiefdom.
That's great. They're going where the customers are.
image by RachelH