Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Baen Books Free Online Library

Baen Books has been putting up free ebooks of a selection of titles from their catalog for the last several years. The philosophy underpinning their motivation is ably explained by Eric Flint, one of their authors and the one who proposed the idea and who then received the scepter of First Librarian for his trouble. Flint's contention is that the usual result of free access to a writer's work, whether by lending between friends, promotional copies or libraries, is always more demand for the product--in this case, the writer's stories. Please go read his essay. It is impassioned and well reasoned and says exactly what I've been thinking but unable to articulate so well. This theory applies to other intellectual property as well.

I found the Baen Free Library in the course of exploring the online resources with potential to substitute for loss of library access during our current crisis here in Southern Oregon. It is one of the few places providing free electronic formatted publications whose copyrights have not reverted to the public domain. In other words whose publication originated after 1923.

I was especially excited at the discovery because so many of the Baen authors are on my husband's fav list and I was pleased to be able to email him the link in the middle of the night so it would greet him over his morning coffee after I was asleep. I didn't bother to bookmark it myself because I had, over the last three days, collected so many fiction titles available for free, I knew I was set for months if not a year or two. I mean think of it: all the titles of Mark Twain, Jane Austen, Henry James, Tolstoy, Chekhov, Proust, James Joyce, the three Bronte sisters, Nathaniel Hawthorn, Louisa May Alcott....

I was unprepared for one aspect of my husband's enthusiasm: his hope that he would finally be able to convince me to try one of these author's he has grown to love over the last couple of decades. Then when I was grousing this evening that I needed to come up with something to write my post about today or I was going to break my streak of daily posts now ten days long, he suggested I write about the Baen Free Library. I had to go into my email account to get the link out of the email I had sent him. I was a bit desultory about it at first. Until I came across Flint's essay. By the time I had finished reading it, I knew I would be posting about it.

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