Baen Books, an independent e-book retailer and publisher specializing in science fiction and fantasy, will make its e-book list available through Amazon’s Kindle store beginning sometime after mid-December 2012. While this is the first time Baen e-books, which did not use digital rights management software, have been offered through a third-party retail site, the company promises that its e-books sold through Amazon will continue to be free of DRM.
Baen Books publisher Toni Weisskopf said that while Amazon is the first retailer to offer Baen e-books, she intended to pursue other e-book retail sites as well. Founded in 1984 by the late S&S science fiction editor Jim Baen, Baen Books is a pioneering e-book retailer that sold its titles via its own Web site and aggressively advocated against DRM. “We’re very consumer oriented and we want everyone to be able to find us,” Weisskopf explained, "and DRM is like an obstacle course for the consumer.”
Asked why the switch to distributing via other retailers, Weisskopf said, “We started out trying to help establish the format, but now e-books are mainstream. When we first started negotiating with other retailers they all wanted to add DRM but not now. All our books will continue to be sold without DRM.”
Baen publishes about six to nine print titles each month in the sci-fi and fantasy categories, including original works and reprints. All of its e-book releases have print editions and Baen also distributes a small number of indie e-book publishers. The house has staff of about 10 and “a legion of freelancers.” Weisskopf said the house is “comfortably” profitable.
Baen had five New York Times print bestsellers in 2012, among them two hardcovers, Captain Vorpatrill’s Alliance by Lois McMoster Bujold and A Rising Thunder by David Weber. Baen also had 10 e-book bestsellers, among them The Shadow of Freedom by David Weber and Dragonship by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller.
Besides its longrunning policy of no DRM, Baen is best known for their pricing (often as low as $5), bundling e-books together for a single price point and for its library of free e-books, which started as a physical CD bound into its print titles that provided backlist titles from the author or series free of charge. Weisskopf said free e-books are a serious part of their marketing strategy—“people will buy a book if they can get a series backlist for free. It really helps encourage sales and its great for people who can’t afford books.”
Weisskopf said Baen also posts free e-books online—originally about 60 titles from Baen and other publishers—at its site but because of restrictions in its new deal with Amazon, most of the e-books have been removed. But she says the free library will return. “Going into a deal with third party retailers makes it difficult to keep the free library but we will grow it again. It will probably be about 20 titles, mostly Baen e-books, but it’s worth it."