layout: post title: Baen’s Webscriptions turns ten - MobileRead Forums categories:

In late 90s Jim Baen created a website for Baen Books. That was common enough. But then he did something unusual - he added “Baen’s Bar”, where real live authors and editors chatted with the Readers. Just that helped quite a lot to improve sales. But then Jim talked some authors into posting snippets of “work in progress” to the Bar to let people “bug check” and build up the buzz before the finished book came out. Soon enough people got hungry for more and proposed him to put up the complete books… for money. Thus the Webscriptions were born.

According to Baen’s FAQ the service was to begin on September 9th, 1999 but was delayed two days.

In the beginning only the complete bundle of books for a particular month were offered for $10 (in multiple formats and no DRM!). Later (at the readers’ urging!) the bundle price was raised to $15 and the option of buying separate books was added. Afterward came Baen’s Free Library and E-ARCs.

David Drake remembers:


[…]the traditional model of electronic publishing required that the works be encrypted. Jim thought that just made it hard for people to read books, the worst mistake a publisher could make. His e-texts were clear and in a variety of common formats.

While e-publishing has been a costly waste of effort for others, Baen Books quickly began earning more from electronic sales than it did from Canada. By the time of Jim’s death, the figure had risen to ten times that.Many publishers only now discover that Jim knew ten years ago: DRM sells less than no DRM, free books help sell more books, and if you treat people as customers instead of as thieves, they pay back with loyalty and free promotion. I’m sure Baen’s example will be one of the factors which will finally kill the Tower of eBabel and DRM in ebooks.

Baen Books

Baen’s Bar


Baen Free Library

Baen CDs


I was around in the beginning. DRM-free IS the way to go, and Baen proved it. Wish other publishers were paying attention.