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The Almighty Buck

Free Books Online 172

gaijin99 writes: "Kinda old, but Baen Books is letting any of their authors put up their books, for free, online. They are putting them up at the Baen Library No strings attached, downloadable in many formats. Apparently it got started when author Eric Flint said that online piracy didn't matter to book sales. Challenged to prove this, he got Baen to build the 'Free Online Library.' His position is that it will improve the sale of his books. Only six authors right now, but it looks good."
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Free Books Online

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  • You might want to check out the math and science section of The Assayer [lightandmatter.com]. There's a lot of free (and some open-source) college-level math and science stuff there, but no K-12 stuff yet. (Well, I do know of at least one high school that's using my own physics book for their AP course.)

    Anyone else think this might be useful?
    Yes! All the people who wrote the books listed there!

    Unfortunately, I think K-12 may be the hardest place to start making free-information inroads into textbooks. The politics you have to go through in most states to get a K-12 book approved is just horrendous.
    The Assayer [theassayer.org] - free-information book reviews

  • In your dreams my brave little toaster! At best they can hope for is to generate willing buyers for their next novel, which of course will be delayed a bit before it gets on-line.
  • It isn't about where the ideas originated, but which countries became most associated with them. Fascism originated from Italy, not Germany, but if you switch to Italian in the middle of a list of totalitarian phrases, the point is totally lost.
  • I wasn't talking about a library. I was talking about a technology that could create paperback books from one digital copy of it. Using this machine, people could get physical books without any money going to the author. Eric Flint was talking about libraries and being places where people go to read books and talk about which ones were good, which helps sales. This new technology doesn't affect the library part, it affects the sales.
  • 1. These totalitarian phrases remain totalitarian no matter which language they are in - English, Russian, or Italian. Their totalitarian point is not lost even if they are in Swahili. One just needs to speak Swahili to understand their meaning.
    2. The Soviet Union, not Russia, is associated with communism. Russia has never been a communist country.
  • >> Second, if the Schools could get away with paying less for text books, they'd have more money for, yes you guessed it, more teachers or higher teacher salaries.

    If schools save money on textbooks, they wont spend that money on teachers - they'll cut budgets or spend it elsewhere instead.

    Schools permanently want more money; so do teachers. If the school gets more money, it would be foolish to assume the teachers will see any of it, let alone all of it.

  • > These totalitarian phrases remain totalitarian > no matter which language they are in

    True, and in this case all the totalitarian phrases were in English. The German phrase was not totalitarian (is everything all right?), but was used to show what the author thought of the other phrases by association.

    > The Soviet Union, not Russia, is associated
    > with communism

    But the language was Russian, which is why Russian-like phrases are effective in creating an association with totalitarian communism.
  • Jeeze, take a chill pill. And get some decaffeinated coffee (lay down my life?) and a sense of humour. It was a joke pal.


  • A fine opportunity for the good Mr Katz to put out his books free, and wait for his book sales to increase, assuming he believes the "napster/mp3's increase CD sales" line he's always spouting here.


  • Here are some more.
    • Generatingfunctionology [upenn.edu], by Prof. Herbert Wilf. A must read for the theoretically-minded computer science nerd! It described all (well, most) the ins and outs of using generating functions (formal power series) to enumerate various combinatorial objects.
    • A = B [upenn.edu], by Petkovsek, Wilf and Zeilberger. This book completely kills the problem of simplifying nasty summations involving (for example) binomial coefficients, which often arise in combinatorial analysis.
    • Algebraic Topology [cornell.edu], by Allen Hatcher. A beautiful, though technical, subject. It has no immediate interest for compsci nerds (though it does have an important application to the theory of distributed computability), but I include it as an example of other quality math books available online.
    The tide is turning...
  • True. Many of my friends collect hard covers, and the key word is collect. They buy the big fancy book partly just to have it sit on the shelf and look pretty.

    I on the other hand already have over a thousand books and don't need them to be bigger. I prefer small and portable over large and clunky.

    I do dislike how they sell the books, with the hardcovers being the ones the author makes money off of. I'd much rather buy the paperback that I find convenient and tip the author an extra buck or two.

    Many authors are offended if people wait for the paperbacks, but excuse me, it's not worth the extra $20 for a bigger, less useful book, just to make a little more money for them.

  • Publishers, as they stand today, sure.

    But Baen's webscription is run by the publisher. They supply the editors, match the authors with the cover artists, help market things, and take care of the financial side. That'll always be useful. The only difference is that they won't be absolutely required so they'll have to compete for the market.

    And even the paper pushers won't go out of business. It's just that instead of paying the paper tax to be able to read, I'll buy the book online and buy a poster to go on the walls. They'll adapt and survive. Some at any rate.

    It'll be quite a while before paper isn't the best for some things. (Even books, in many settings.)
  • What percent of the MP3's you actually listen to do you own a 'real' copy of?

    I could be facetious and say 'none', since my speakers stay off these days, but I do have a few mp3s, and they're mostly live/rare/unreleased, so no 'real' copies. I've bought cds for which I'd downloaded songs; mainly stuff I was going to get anyway and wiped for disk space once I had the albums.

    As for how the try-all-then-buy would work in my case, the answer is "very badly". Before I buy something readily available in full, for free, I'd have to be getting added value for money in terms of useability/nicer format/reward a deserving creator.

    Frex, I doubt I'll buy a Doonesbury collection while they keep the entire archive online (and the library has the cd version) no matter how much I enjoy Duke strips, and the only thing Baen's samples have ever done is convince me not to get X's latest, though I like how they post 3 chapters, not just one. Otoh, I ordered Harbaugh's character dictionary based on the quality of his site [zhongwen.com], but it took me 2 years, and was because I wanted to read entries at leisure and Mozilla was buggy on the frames.

    I appreciate people putting their whole works online, but I think that from a sales point, going beyond moderate samples (say, short stories/essays in full, shopping link for novels/collections) is detrimental. Few authors/artists are good enough to sustain my interest when it comes to turning freebies into own-copies, and given the choice between buying hardcopy of someone's useful textbook and spending that money on Feynman books, Tuva or Bust wins. I also think that most people are paying out of guilt or on principle.

    That said, given the choice between a more costly physical copy (of reasonable quality and price) and a cheap/er online copy from a favourite (and worthy) author (Pratchett or Hambly, say), I'll take the tactile (not to mention archival) version. And I'd be really happy if I could buy print-on-demand facsimiles of oop/obscure works.

  • Money can be exchanged for peanuts. :)

    I actually don't want liner notes, or cover art. I still want to support the artist, but CDs are such a pain. I immediately rip (to mp3) any that I do get and toss them into a box where I leave them.

    So I don't buy CDs, or rather, I do, but want to stop. That's why the idea of tipping the artist directly is so great. I can pay 1/4 of what I would have for the CD and the artist gets 4 times as much (easily). So if I spend the same ammount I can get four times as much music, and the RIAA doesn't get a dime.

  • Why waste the money buying a paper book that you don't want?

    Go to fairtunes.org and tip the author. If you want to tip the full cover price, I'm sure they'd love it, but if you want to tip maybe a 1/4 or so (because all you're paying for is the words) then that's fine too.

    If the author isn't listed, then tell some friends because I think they only tip once the ammount is over $50 or so.

    That's a much better way than buy paper you don't want, supporting a system that you don't need.
  • let me guess - you're under 25?
  • i lean more toward latex, but i would be happy to help! email me if you need it. we could goto sourceforge and startup a project... if you havent already: )

    use LaTeX? want an online reference manager that
  • I can't make up my mind if this is a very subtle troll, or a very obvious attempt to gain karma... Either way, it adds little to the discussion.

    thank you

  • FYI, there was an interesting article in the SFGate about the advent of online comics, and the bad state of the comic industry:

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi%3Ffile %3 D/technology/archive/2000/02/08/ape.dtl%26type%3Dt ech_column
  • Someone--no, not just someone--the head of a well-known publishing company and its authors--is clued?

    what a concept. This may revolutionize my book-buying tendencies. I wonder if BookPeople has a Baen publishing section (wise-ass reply, "look in sci-fi/fantasy")

    I'm impressed beyond words. This is great. After the gloom and doom of the MPAA and RIAA repeating their tired arguments from the betamax time-shifting trials 20 years later, it's wonderful to see that some people who are at the head of their corporations 'get it'.

    Now, if only they had a better webmaster...
  • Bruce Eckel [bruceeckel.com] does this with his "Thinking In Java" book, and possibly some of his other coding books too. Jason
  • i know, My point was that reading the first book in a serie for free would lead to buy the next books weither from webscription or in a bookstore. sort of the the thing drug dealers do. The first one is free, hehehehehe and then when you are hooked , THEN when you just have to have more you will have to pay. We at the Baen's Bar know this but we are already hooked, it might be to late for us but other's are still able to escape. Bowman
  • King is a money grubbing asshole.

    Baen is willing to show the consumer is books, and let them choose to pay if they think it's worth while.

    King wanted people to pay by the chapter, and not see the goods until after they paid. H's also a jerk, he wanted to charge paper prices for something that cost him less, so he'd make like ten times as much as before, without giving anything back to the customer. And then he cancelled the project, screwing the people who had paid.

    We'd laugh at someone selling MP3s for CD prices, why is it reasonable that King wanted to change paper prices for an ebook? Especially since King has his head up his anus and wants people to pay twice for another copy of the bits, despite just wanting to read it in a new place. That may be correct under a strict interpretation of copyright law, but it makes no sense if you understand how the electronic media works.

    But, to answer the other part of the question, yes, I am supporting Baen. (Webscriptions, not in paper.)
  • pokemon rulz, foolz!!!
  • Also, _On Basilisk Station_ is David Weber's highest volume book. As well as BAEN's. It has been made available for free since August of 1999, and is still one of the most sold books.
  • My point was that the author would not get any money. He distributes the book in electronic form for free (to get them hooked, as per your comment), then the user pays some other company to get it made into a paperback. The author who actually did the work gets nothing.
  • but he does get money from the next books that the person buys.
  • In the new c't William Gibson was interviewed. The article is not online, but i'm citing (and translating) the interesting parts:

    [about the copyright in the web]
    It's complicated but no serious threat for me. If i would be a pop musician i would have to think how to stick with the new reality. You see, the great thing about a printed book is, taht it is much easier to move and use than everything you can produce from a download. If i would put the whole text into the web, somebody could download it and print it out. But such a printout would be rather primitive. Somebody elso could download the text, and use much effort to create it with typography as a book as we have it here now. Thats not too complicated. But he would need the paper, the ink and just too much time. That would make no sense, if he could buy the ready book for a few bucks in the bookstore. So, why should i be afraid?

    [about opposite thought from others]
    Since the 16th century text is best delivered in a book. The easiest way to get something readable is to buy a book produced from wood and ink in a bookstore. To copy the text from a book is very easy, but if you clone a whole book, you have stolen a whole book, a media. Thats something pretty different and it's unlawfull since the 19th century. If someone just wants to read the text, he could have it for free. Thats fine with me, i don't care.

    [about his texts in the web]
    If i would learn, that an unauthorized chinese translation would be sold as printed books in china i would immediate try to stop that. But if the same translation would be available in the web, i won't do anything. I would think: Hey, thats cool, what a fine thing.

  • I know that I went and snagged copies of the
    Baen books bundles that had Flint books in them
    as soon as I heard about this....
  • In my opinion you should read Tolkien after you have read a number of other fantasy works so that you can appreciate the master at the time you read it. I read it after reading quite a large number of other fantasy books and found the difference between Tolkien and other authors to be extremely fascinating.

    Of course, there are those that are stupid enough to think that since they read Tolkien after reading some author that obviously ripped him off that Tokien is a copy cat. To those people I say:
    1. Engage brain.
    2. Check original publishing dates.
    3. Feel ashamed.

    But, my point was that it is tough to truly appreciate Tolkien if you don't read some other fantasy work first, and it is really tough to appreciate other fantasy work if you don't read it before Tolkien.

  • Most real musicians have gone underground.

    If you see a commercial for an album on TV before it comes out, especially during prime time, that is not a band of musicians.

    I especially love the bands that try to portray themselves as the poor repressed youth that aren't understood by anyone, yet are obviously paid for all the way by corporate rock. (Godsmack and A Perfect Circle come to mind.)

    Oh, I'm sorry, what was the subject again?

  • 1. No, Russian-like phrases are not any more effective in creating an association with totalitarian communism than phrases in any other language. It is not the language but the meaning that makes a phrase sound totalitarian.
    Anyway, to follow your arguments, English should be the best candidate for creating an association with oppression and colonialism. Why? Because Great Britain was once the mightiest colonial power which encouraged slave trade and ruthlessly suppressed any uprising against its rule.

    2.You placed the adjective "totalitarian" before the word "communism". Do you honestly believe that there are other flavors of communism which are not totalitarian?
  • I think it's a great idea. If you go there to read the book, and you like it, chances are you'll wanna go out and buy the actual book so you're not tied to the computer when reading it. If I saw a book online, I'm not gonna sit there and read the whole thing... I'll read maybe a chapter or two, then I'll go buy it if it's any good.
  • He can download the next book for free and pay some other company to print it up. He never has to pay the author anything because the books are available in electronic format.
  • I'm a native German speaker, so you don't have to translate it for me. But what is it supposed to mean in the context of

    Enforcement! Regulation! New regulations! Tighter regulations! All out for the campaign against piracy! No quarter! Build more prisons! Harsher sentences!

    Germany = Nazi-Germany?

    Or is it a quote?
  • Will these books be 'open source' in other words can I re-write the ending if I don't like it ? That would be cool. So many stories have happy endings these days. It would totally rock if we could rewrite them...

    BTW has anyone out there read 'lord of the rings' ? It totally rules, and 'the hobbit'.

    Gee I hope I don't come over as a stereotype linux geek :-). OOops I'm listening to the 'dead.

    Got to go, time to go and wash my beard. (I do this every month whether it needs it or not)...

  • But the simple fact is popular, established artists, like Metallica and Stephen King, don't need to generate word of mouth,

    Sorry, but I disagree with this whole-heartedly. Just because a writer or musician is popular (ie, lots of people are familiar with their name), doesn't mean they don't need word of mouth. I have very little interest in King or Metallica, even though I am very familiar with them. If I was ever going to buy a Stephen King book right now, I would need a friend telling me how good it was. Same goes for Metallica and lots of other artists: I'd never buy one of their CDs unless it was recommended to me via word of mouth.

    Yes, this is only a personal example, but I'm certain many people act the same way I do when it comes to buying CDs, books...even from "Popular" artists.

  • I'm sure if I read a online book or try out a software i appreciate ( but not necessarily use) I would be happy to make a small payment.
    not all of us live in the usa and the minimum funds transfer charges are rather high.
    many great sharewares are pirated for this reason. i hope gnu comes out with a sound micropayment system that can be deployed on these free books and other sites. why , even free s/w authors could be sent some cash to encourage them.
  • Apparently it got started when author Eric Flint said that online piracy didn't matter to book sales.

    He said as he was caught using Napster to download the latest Metallica single


  • I can only say for computer reading (not PDA books) that it is very difficult to sit there for hours on end and read the text on the screen. The text starts to blur (and from the little that I read on this site) I found it very difficult to read (there wasn't really any space between the lines and it just made it all jumble together).

    It is a wonderful idea, and I appauled the creator, but for now I will stick to Amazon and the library.
  • Did I miss the link to pay for the online book, or does it really not exist? Since when does paying for a story ("book" seems silly in these times) mean getting a physical copy. I pay for the words in the book, not the paper it was written on or the people who bound the book (I hate to destroy the industry of paper binders, but in the name of progress we may have to).

    I agree with most others that reading books online isn't as convenient as paper versions at the moment, but it will one day be. There is even the possibility of a book with paper (or very much paper like) pages that can change it's text. That may seem a bit far out now, but in 20 years it could very well be a reality.

    And I am willing to pay the same amount for the online book as I would pay for the physical version. Of course with such great advances as we have even now, I get to read the book first and decide how much I would like to pay for it.

    So I ask again, where is the link to pay for these books?

  • Can anyone tell me how to read these books on a palm. I have the .prc file, but I don't have anything to view it with.
  • The book reader on Pocket PC, called eBook, it's really cool. The main feature would be its ClearType technology that renders the pages of the book to reduce eye strain.

    More info here [microsoft.com].

    After a while you even forget that you are not reading on paper and best of all, whith the beautiful screen of the iPaq or the Cassiopea, you can read in the dark. And on top of that you could even play some background MP3.

    Try to do that with your Palm!!!

  • Egad, you've never heard of any of them? I'm surprised. They're all solid, I guess what you'd call midlist authors. Baen Publishing is one of the biggest privately held publishing companies in the country, specializing in science fiction and fantasy, owned and operated by Jim Baen. Checkout the sci-fi section of your local bookstore, a goodly percentage of the books will have Baen's little rocket logo on the spine.
  • Interesting point, but I think the same idea that I stated before applies. At some point, someone has to put down money so the publisher won't think this sort of thing is an utter failure.

    Even if this just serves to give lesser known authors exposure, the publishers won't be able to tell unless there is some kind of impact on their sales (hopefully positive). So if you like it, buy it and we can see more free books online.

    (Also, there are people like me who reread books several times over and will buy books they really like...)


  • by bcrowell ( 177657 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2001 @05:03PM (#518411) Homepage

    Another thing to do if you support this experiment with free (-as-in-beer) information is to write a review of one of these books on The Assayer [theassayer.org], which is a nonprofit site I run for user-submitted book reviews with an emphasis on free books. All reviews are copyleft licensed, and the site is noncommercial.

    All ten of the Baen books are now listed (so far without reviews) in the site's literature section [lightandmatter.com].

    One of the main arguments people have made against free books is that without a publisher, you have no filter in place to get rid of the junk. The Assayer aims to disprove that argument by providing a forum for people to discuss which free books are good and which are bad.


    By supporting Baen in this experiment, you'll also be helping encourage publishers to take the next step, which is to publish books that are free-as-in-speech, or at least partially free-as-in-speech, e.g. using OPL with the A&B options that prevent other print publishers from selling the same book in print. Until they take that step, there's always the possibility that publishers will make free-as-in-beer books not free again. This has happened with about 30 Macmillan computer science titles. You'll find them all listed on IPL [ipl.org] as if they were free, but when you click on the link, you get a message saying they're no longer available for free.

    You also have to realize that the publishing industry really doesn't know how this is going to play out. They'll try stuff and see if it works. They'll try antibooks [gnu.org]. They'll try lame stuff like putting books online, but only with every single page as a bitmap, so that it's completely impractical to read them. (iUniverse [iuniverse.com], Dorling Kindersley, and Electric Press [electricpress.com] do this.)

    The Assayer [theassayer.org] - free-information book reviews

  • Eric Flint's welcome page essay [baen.com] on the welcome page of the Baen Free Library is an excellent read. I have not read as well thought out an argument about the whole online "stealing" vs. "free-promotion" thing since it started. If only Metallica had read this article before allowing their managers to scare them into suing Napster at the behest of their arm-twisting label. Sigh. It does give some hope for the future...
  • ...told his publisher it wouldn't make any difference to sales if the paperback and hardcover were published simultaneously, because they were bought by two disjoint sets of readers.

    Though skeptical, they tried it, and surprise! it was so.

    Unfortunately, I forget who the publisher was, though I suspect Doubleday. He wrote about it in one of his many essays.

  • Try amazon.com Or, if you live in Canada (and don't mind clicking more than once to shop :) try chapters.ca Or go to a "physical" book store. The choice is yours...
  • Does he publish online his new works? Or his older ones (like On Basilisk Station) to generate interest in new ones, and hopefully new fans who will stick around for the series?

    As I stated in an earlier reply to another /.er,

    Publishing online some older works, to generate interest in newer ones, would be a good idea even for the most popular authors.

  • Reading on-line isn't a problem, it's a blessing. For us 4-eyed types at least. You download, format, and make the font BIG to avoid eye-strain. Try finding a large-type version of some of these books. I now have Robinson Crusoe, and read it for the first time in years, because for the first time in years, I could. Had to set Word to 16 font to do it, even with glasses. It was great! I spend 8 hrs a day staring at a screen with little bitty words on it, which is how I ended up in glasses in the first place, so doing it at home is no big change. I have a comfortable chair, a drink holder, and auto-scroll. My wife said that I didn't move for 3 hrs, except to breathe.
  • Apparently the person didnt mind paper enough to not buy book 4. Sorry but there still isnt any replacement in the electronic world for a book. Not even close.
  • Ok, you don't like current industry supported rock, natch. However, this says nothing about whether these people are real musicians or not. Another obvious example would be that I have seen few underground orchestras, and members of orchestras and are about as real as musicians get.

  • It would be very foolish for the music industry to assume that people downloading music for free will always automatically want to buy it if it turns out to be good.

    You are falling into the trap that assumes "most people are thieves." Eric Flint address this directly in the Introduction. [baen.com] He says, "most people would rather be honest than dishonest...One of the things about the online debate over e-piracy that particularly galled me was the blithe assumption by some of my opponents that the human race is a pack of slavering would-be thieves held (barely) in check by the fear of prison sentences. Oh, hogwash."

    I think the same arguement can be made for music listeners. I know that I have the desire to purchase CDs (getting the cover artwork, liner notes, etc) and I think most people feel the same way. After all, the percentage of slashdot trolls in the world is rather small.

  • On the other hand, orchestras rarely have the big-time corporate support that pop-rock bands get.

    And assuming that a member of an orchestra is as real as musicians get is kind of going overboard on generalizations. I've been in a few orchestras, and let me tell you, some of those people are nothing more than elitist scum. They know all the chords, they know all the notes, they play technically brilliant and know it. But they have absolutely no heart whatsoever. They don't pour their soul into their music. And to me, that is what makes a real musician.

    Of course, this is a touchy subject to me so I'll leave it at that.

  • But realistically, no one can say with a straight face that someone who downloaded a copy of a commercially available work would be likely to go out and purchase a copy.

    Been there, done that, got the CD (Me First and the Gimme Gimmes "Have a Ball" [pitchforkmedia.com]). However, let's assume that absolutely no one would be willing to pay for a commercially available work that they could easily get for free online. So suddenly Weber has thousands of people downloading and reading "On Basilisk Station", but not paying him any money. But there's a catch.

    There are something like 9 or 10 Honor Harrington novels that Weber's written. Only the first one is available for download. This means that those people who enjoyed "On Basilisk Station" and want more will wander to their local bookstore or amazon.com and start forking over cash. People who, if not for the freely available copy of "On Basilisk Station", might never have located his books in the first place.

    It's a win-win situation. Customers get a free book with no obligation. Authors get a means to expand their audience and (hopefully) sell more of their other books.

  • I regularly read long novels on my PDA, and serialized amateur fiction on-line. It's quite easy to download and convert HTML or text files to DOC format and load them into a PDA reader; freeware conversion software for Windows and Linux can be found on Palm Gear HQ [palmgear.com]. (For Linux, look for dtk).

    I like reading on a PDA; for some reason, it's easier on my eyes than staring at a CRT for hours, and it's half the size of paperback and goes everywhere. (Solves the problem of not being able to take your computer into the bathroom to read from). IMHO, PDAs have made e-books a reality.

    I discovered the Baen Free Library and their Web Subscription service (they offer a nice selection of their non-free books as downloadable e-books if you buy a subscription.. go there and check it out for the details) just before Christmas. It was really nice reading On Basilisk Station (one of their FREE offerings) again--my paperback copy was ragged and missing somewhere in the den.

  • So most of what I'm seeing here is complaints about screen radiation and how monitors don't fit well in bed. Granted they don't, and the ideal ebook reader doesn't really exist although some companies are trying. You can read ebooks on your Palm, PocketPC, Newton (for those of us who still use them), or "insert name of device here." Sure, a real book is nice. It sits nicely on the shelf and you can impress your friends with it. But with an ebook I could carry my entire library on a small book-sized reader. For me this would be just about perfect for all of the references that I use in my day to day job. Even better if I could scribble notes and diagrams in the "margins" just like I do with my real books. It's a new paradigm folks, give it a chance. And no one here seems to grasp what ebooks really mean. What they really mean is that anyone who has a decent story to tell, whether it's fiction or fact, can do so with an ebook. They can make it available to the public when print publishers wouldn't even give it a second look. Does this mean they're writting crap? I know a lot of you will think so, but answer this first: Is open source software crap because it's not published and distributed like commercial software? Ebooks give everyone a chance to be heard. Take a look at Free e-Press [free-epress.com]. They're trying to set up a place where authors can show their works. You get to down load the whole story and read it before you decide to pay for it, and you can pay what you think it's worth. They utilize Pay Pal and the payments go stright to the authors. Sure most everyone with books available there are no-name authors, but if you think the major publishing companies publish everything worth reading you're insane. They're business folks, motivated by what they think they can sell a lot of. I have to admit, I have an interest in Free e-Press [free-epress.com]. I have one short story there and when I finnish the novel I'm working on I'll make it available there as well. The medium is not perfect yet (and like most things might never be perfect for everyone), but it gives authors a chance to be read. Give it a chance, maybe you'll discover other works of art that can tickle your imaginations and color your dreams. Maybe your O'Reilly library will accompany you on your palm when you're making $100/hr as a consultant. =) It could happen!
  • I would say that you are not a science-fiction reader, then. Both David Drake and David Weber are well-known, prolific modern Sci-Fi authors. Eric Flint seems to be an up & coming new sci-fi author. I have seen the works of every one of the authors in the Baen Free Library and the Baen Webscriptions service as offerings from the Science Fiction Book Club over the last two years or so, so I don't think they are exactly obscure.

    Also, note that the Baen Free Library does not offer ALL the works by a given author, just a few that a given author is willing to give a way for free online. David Drake has many dozens of novels to his name, and David Weber has over a dozen.

  • Download the MobiPocket reader from the same site. The .PRC files are DOC-format files with extra vaguely-XML-looking formattting used by that reader. Alternatively, if you hate MobiPocket and prefer TealDoc or some other reader, download the HTML and run it through a conversion program to convert it to plain vanilla DOC. I'm happy with MobiPocket for the Baen books, and TealDoc for everything else, and since my PDA will run both, no problem. Isn't freedom of choice great?

  • I did read the story, and I did think, so don't be such an insulting prick. Drake and Weber may be good, but they won't be posting anything new. And I wasn't clear, but I realize some people buy cds after downloading mp3s. But I don't really see a lot of people going out and buying a copy of book that they downloaded and printed.
  • I'll read maybe a chapter or two, then I'll go buy it if it's any good.

    That's precisely how I came to part with $30 for The Cluetrain Manifesto. [cluetrain.com] Great book, by the way.

    All men are great
    before declaring war

  • It's definitely great that you do want to pay--that's kind of what Flint believed and caused him to start the Free Library in the first place, that most people do want to pay legitimately for content. I don't think they have a way to pay for the free books yet, though I think they're batting around the idea of setting up a PayPal account for those who do want to kick in for them.

    For now, it seems like the best way to pay and prove them right is to go out and buy a physical copy (either locally or via some online place like BooksaMillion [booksamillion.com]) of the same book. Then, if you don't want it cluttering your shelves, give it away to a friend or donate it to a library or something.

  • Will these books be 'open source' in other words can I re-write the ending if I don't like it ? That would be cool. So many stories have happy endings these days. It would totally rock if we could rewrite them...
    OK, I hereby nominate you for a '+1, funny.' But seriously, a lot of people think that the user's right to modify the content is the main point of open source, so they think open-source books are therefore a stupid idea. Actually, open-sourcing a novel (I don't think it's been done yet?) wouldn't mean you could modify the version the author distributed. It's like Linux. You don't get to modify the version of the kernel that Linus distributes unless he decided to let you.

    And when it comes to nonfiction, it can make a lot of sense to allow people to fork off their own versions.

    The Assayer [theassayer.org] - free-information book reviews

  • by Phexro ( 9814 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2001 @05:14PM (#518441)
    great idea. let's make the teachers do even more work. it's not enough that they have to handle 30 to 40 inattentive, disobedient, ritalin-addled children for six hours a day for less money than they could make working at mcdonalds. let's force them all to buy computers with their tiny income, and do more work when they get home.

    are you in human resources?
  • For christmas, on a whim, I suggested to my wife that a Rocket eBook would be cool (she'd said the previous day "I didn't get you many toys"). So I shortly found Baen. While it's true that sitting behind the computer all day is tough on the eyes, having a Rocket with you on the subway with a full novel or two is excellent. The device is even shaped like a folded back paperback (ambidextrous), with scroll buttons under the thumb so I can read it with one hand while holding onto the pole with the other. I haven't bought any books for the thing yet because I'm reading free stuff like Baen has to offer (and rocket-library.com has some good stuff, too). I mean, come on, Baen has James Hogan, how can ya beat that. I'm just confused by what is actually free right away, what you have to subscribe to, and what I can get in eBook format that I need to pay for.

    Only two downsides to the Rocket device are the slow bootup time (close to 10 seconds) and the extra weight. It's just a little too heavy to hold for a long time.

    I've already complained to Amazon that they only support the Microsoft reader, of course. There's even a bit in their FAQ where they say they don't support handhelds yet. Oh, joy.


  • Napster has been responsible for most of my recent CD purchases. Tired of getting burned by CDs with two good songs and 10 terrible ones, I'd drifted away from modern music, but then Napster came along, and I got to preview all the music for a download. I ended up buying CDs of groups I never would have listened to otherwise, or had only heard one or two songs by them on the radio.

    I'd chalked up the whole "Harry Potter" thing to the "Latest cool thingine" style craze that brought us Pokemon. Then I stumbled across the first three books in text form on Usenet. Yes, I read the first three for free, but I got addicted to books I NEVER would have read otherwise. I bought the fourth book, will be buying the rest of the series as it comes out (Unless it starts to suck) and will probably take my little sister to see the movie when it comes out.

    Bottom line is, having books and music available online has caused me to buy MORE instead of less.

    Heck, I even ended up buying the hard copy of an O'Reily book I already had in the Perl CD Bookshelf because I wanted a hard copy to mark up, dog ear and bookmark instead of having to fire up my browser every time I wanted to look up a code snippet.

    And now I've read the first chapter to Black on Black and look forward to perusing it on my Palm during my next flight.

    www.matthewmiller.net [matthewmiller.net]
  • by Danious ( 202113 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2001 @05:19PM (#518446) Homepage

    .....Bruce Eckel at http://www.bruceeckel.com . All his books are free on the net. I downloaded "Thinking in Java 2" and started printing it out at work a chapter at a time, 2-up, double-sided on A4 and storing it in a ring-binder. After about 3 chapters, I was sick of the inconvenience, so went out and brought the book (a very worthwhile investment, I might add).

    I suspect a LOT of people have done the same thing, and Bruce seems to be doing OK as a result. He makes some very good comments about it halfway down the page at http://www.bruceeckel.com/notes.html , worth reading.

    I really don't see e-books taking off until we get those high resolution, paperback-sized flexible e-paper things. The reason books have lasted so long in their present form factor is convenience, which e-books currently don't have.

  • Since when have musicians stopped making music??? Look! There's Brittney Spears, and Eminem and... Oh. I see your point.

  • I wrote a PostgreSQL book at http://www.postgresql.org/docs/awbook.html. [postgresql.org] The book is online, but I sold 2,155 print copies in the first month. Clearly having it online has helped book sales.
  • As I look up on my bookshelf, amongst no less than 30 O'Reilly books (geek bragging :) I have Using Samba [oreilly.com]. If you take a look at that link you will notice that there are two links off of it, one in HTML [oreilly.com] and the other in PDF [oreilly.com] format. This should not be a surprise to most /.ers. O'Reilly has been big on this for some time.

    Still, I began reading Using Samba online, and after reading much of it I grabbed the book because it was so useful, sure, I can load it into my palm pilot, but that is a pain in the ass. I suppose I could print it out too, but I prefer dead-tree form.

    The other advantage to this is of course that when I am working on a server I don't have the book with me on location, so I fire up a browser and read.

    I also purchased The Unix CD Bookshelf. [oreilly.com] I already have Unix Power Tools [oreilly.com] in dead-tree format, but being able to search the HTML version is very handy. Sure, I know where to get the warez version of this CD, and maybe the purchased edition comes with Unix in a Nutshell as a bonus, but I bought the set because it was valuable to me, and I support O'Reilly. Does having books online increase readership? I certanly think so, my friend who has both of the O'Reilly CD compilations that he got from Warez Ftp has not read them, well, he claims he read Building Internet firewalls, and TCP/IP Network Administration. But then again, he also claims that he read Running Linux in one day and grokked it all (yet he can't seem to use a bash prompt very well...)The truth is, he hardly got anything out of the online versions, I do, but I mainly use the online material for reference, not for general reading.

    There is no doubt in my mind that O'Reillys decision to place some of their books on the web for download (or in plain HTML on CD) has greatly increased my purchase of their books.
  • How horrible your life must have been without "libraries" or "record stores" in your town, so that you had to turn to the web before you could read a book before purchasing it or sample a CD before buying it.

    You're ignoring the fact that libraries and record stores are only filled with the products put out by the same companies which are fighting mp3s/ebooks. He had to turn to the web because he was sick of all the substandard material being produced by the major record companies and publishing houses.

    In addition I have been reading alot of literature lately, which for either popularity or political reasons isn't readily available in the states. I have to read it online or go to certain lengths to get it. Other examples might be people who are not near a library or one of the record stores which allow you to listen to music before you buy it. Some of us have to walk in the snow or ride a bus if we want to go somewhere. We're not all priveledged enough to have a car, or tastes and interests that are convieniently in the majority, like you apparently are.

  • These books are free as in "free beer" but not free as in unfettered. The GNU Free Documentation License [everything2.com] covers GNU manuals, but I don't see anything similar on the Baen site.
    Like Tetris? Like drugs? Ever try combining them? [pineight.com]
  • "If you had the equipment to burn the CDs and print the labels on them (if you were so concerned about appearing cool) you would be a damn fool to pay the money for the CD."

    And yet, though I have the equipment to burn CDs and print labels on them, though I make heavy use of Napster, I continue to purchase CDs. Lots of CDs. I'm a bit insulted at being called a fool.

    I want to give artists I enjoy money. The artist is alot more likely to create more music if I'm paying him. Purchasing a CD is a convient way to do this. (Sadly, musicians see very little of that money, but that's a different problem.) A CD also marks someone as a real fan.

    I have a fairly technical group of friends. They all have easy access to CD burners and high quality printing. They make heavy use of Napster. They uniformly purchase lots of CDs.

    Sure there are people who will happily leech this free content. But if these people don't feel ethically bound to pay up, why will they pay up if it isn't available for free legally? The risks of copyright infringement for an individual are negligable. Sure enough, some people have always built up libraries of copied tapes. You're not losing potential revenues if they weren't going to pay anyway.

  • Not only that but publishers would publish the book. Open you see. Follow this scenario

    Publisher x publishes "Expensive Science Book" by Prof Copyright for $180

    Publisher y publishes "Dear Science" by Prof Grabbinmoney for $180

    "Open Source Science" released

    Publisher z publishes "Open Source Science" by O.S.Community for $60

    Publisher x publishes "Open Source Science" by O.S.Community for $50

    Publisher y publishes "Open Source Science" by O.S.Community for $40

    Publisher z publishes "Open Source Science" by O.S.Community for $30 and includes the book on a CD

    Publisher x publishes "Open Source Science", "Free Mathematics" and "GNU Computer programming" as an omnibus edition for $60

    The price differential with the copyright books is now so big that people are flocking to use "open source science" so

    Publisher x publishes "Expensive Science Book" by Prof Copyright for $80

    Publisher y publishes "Dear Science" by Prof Grabbinmoney for $80

    See, competition leads to lower prices and more choice. And even though the original copyright books were not competing at first, in this example, the open source option caused a big enough price differential to drag their prices down as well (although admitedly, this wouldn't necessarily occur)


  • Eric Flint may be relatively new, but David Drake and David Weber are both old hands in the publishing game. Drake's been writing for something like at least 20 years, and probably best known for the Hammer's Slammers tank-mercenaries series of novels and stories. Weber's Honor Harrington books are also quite popular among military SF fans, and are also a homage to the Admiral Horatio Hornblower books of old.

    This is a method of publicity, yes--but then, Baen considers its entire Webscription program [themestream.com] itself to be little more a method of publicity, as low as the prices are that it charges--and there are those better-known authors who are incensed at having to sell their books so cheaply (and without DRM copy-protection to boot).

  • But realistically, no one can say with a straight face that someone who downloaded a copy of a commercially available work would be likely to go out and purchase a copy.
    A counterexample: I've had a few thousand dollars in sales of my book [lightandmatter.com], which is available as a free download. (A few more k$ and I'll have made back my investment in printing! :-)

    The Assayer [theassayer.org] - free-information book reviews

  • by JordanH ( 75307 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2001 @06:30PM (#518473) Homepage Journal
    • great idea. let's make the teachers do even more work.

    Yes, it is a great idea, but I guess you just don't have the imagination to see it.

    First, nobody was talking about making anybody do anything. I feel certain that there are a lot of teachers who are passionate about their subjects and would love to contribute to such a product.

    Second, if the Schools could get away with paying less for text books, they'd have more money for, yes you guessed it, more teachers or higher teacher salaries.

    • less money than they could make working at mcdonalds.

    While you might be able to find some odd case where a professional teacher makes less than someone in management at a McDonald's, by and large, the average teacher earns a great deal more than the average burger flipper. Heck, I'd take the low-end teaching job over the McDonald's managers job, which might, possibly be comparable in salary, any day of the week. Fast food restaurants work exempt employees long hours. The work is no fun and you have to ride heard on a bunch of inattentive, disobedient, ritalin-addled teenagers for 16 hours a day.


  • I'm working with a group at Rice University that is putting some of our textbook content online. It's only reached a useful state this summer, and online texts are currently being used as a supplement for two ELEC courses here.

    We've got our own DTD (although are trying to borrow from existing stuff like the Dublin Core elements when possible) to do page markup for educational content, and XSL+CSS stylesheets to turn that into XHTML+MathML that browsers (well, currently just Mozilla; soon IE too we hope) can read.

    Wish I could give you a URL, but all the good stuff is being restricted to on-campus access right now.

    There's also a couple universities working on a similar system, and a company doing the same sort of thing (although aimed more at corporate training). It's an idea whose time has come; it's just a question of who gets there first.
  • by prizog ( 42097 ) <novalis-slashdot@ n o v a l i s .org> on Tuesday January 09, 2001 @05:37PM (#518477) Homepage
    Legal: http://www.freesfonline.de/

    Mostly Illegal: http://www.lib.ru/lat/ (yes, it's in russian. Some of their stuff is in English, tho. Look for authors you know, modulo transliteration (Ray Bradbury -> Rej Bredberi))

    Also, Google turns up some great stuff, if you just put in the title of the book and the author: the search "Bullet In The Brain" Tobias Wolff turns up, in the first 20, http://www.wam.umd.edu/~shaner/stories/bullet.html
  • First up, a general comment: the best thing about this Slashdot article is not the free books at the other end (I'm not planning on reading any of them -- no time for it at the moment) but rather the remarkably clueful commentary about why giving away free e-books is a good idea. Read it. I doubt I'll read anything else more interesting than it today.

    But now, in direct response to the previous poster, advances in publishing technologies (like laser printers and CD burners) are not going to put authors and musicians out of business. They might put publishers out of business eventually, but that's just the nature of change. On the other hand, maybe publishers will just change what it is they do and become marketers rather than manufacturers.

    But authors and musicians, as the article on the site points out, are in no danger of being replaced by machines. If people want to read books and listen to music, then someone needs to be writing the books and composing and playing the music. If there are enough people willing to part with enough money to create a market for books and music, then the market will arise one way or another, with "copyright" or without.

    At the moment, all remuneration for copyrighted works is done retrospectively: the artist or author has already done all their work by the time you pay for a CD or book. If this scheme breaks down because of rampant "piracy", then it may eventually mutate into a scheme whereby artists and authors start with loss leaders, making some works available for free, then saying "there's more where that came from if enough people send me money".

    There's a technological hurdle to overcome here, of course. It can't work without extraordinary ease of communication and payment. We've basically got the former now, but not the latter. The payment technologies which do exist still haven't quite managed to be killer apps. Reading the author's book is pretty easy, but getting him a payment easily is another matter. When it becomes as easy as tossing a coin in a busker's hat, the economics of the information-based markets will change almost overnight.

    When such technology manages to break past the widespread-acceptance barrier, my prediction is that the giant faceless corporations of the entertainment industry will be badly undermined by the fact that new artists will get a much better deal in the free marketplace than by signing up with them. The publishers will find their supply of new talent cut off, and eventually have nothing new to sell. Their reduced dominance may persuade lawmakers to stop extending their copyrights retrospectively and making draconian "protective" laws. Then what will they do? They'll actually have to start providing a service to artists and audiences, or nobody will notice their passing.

  • Whoa! Look out, Amazon!

  • You know, it isn't pirating. Someone isn't scanning/typing books in and giving them to someone else... It's nothing like Napster because the books are voluntarily placed there by the creators of that piece of work. By the way, I thoroughly enjoy reading, especially some older Drangonlance books, etc..
  • Eh, or perhaps the downloadables serve as free publicity. Build up a big enough buzz about a book, and the number of people who buy hard copies will be greater than it would have been otherwise.

    You'd be better off to give away 10 million free copies and sell 1 million than to only sell 600,000.

  • The paper book still has a huge advantage in convenience and ease of use.

    Very true. However, electronic texts have one very distinct advantage, which has only been tangentially touched on:

    Ease of transport.

    I have a number of books on CD. (Most are reference books, although I have Project Gutenberg's archives on a pair of CDs, courtesy of Walnut Creek.) True, they're not as convenient as paper books, but they're terrific when I need to travel; much lighter and more compact than stacks of books.

    Or, for a more common example: I am a Perl programmer, and therefore lazy. Occasionally I need to refresh my memory on some syntax issue.* I could walk across the room, pick my copy of Programming Perl out of the bookcase, flip to the index, flip to the correct section, and read. However, it's much easier for me to grab my Perl CD Bookshelf, click, click, click, done. Same for Design Patterns.

    Other posters in this story have mentioned PDAs much more skillfully than I can, so I won't go there.

    * Amazingly, despite Perl's clean and elegant syntax, I still need to look up the meaning of simple expressions like "$[=$.".

  • A few weeks ago I heard on the news that a local city spent $11M last year replacing worn out high school textbooks and I thought, "boy, wouldn't opensource textbooks be a great idea?"

    In particular I thought that elementary or middle school math books might be a perfect candidate. Math concepts don't change wildly, and the structure seems pretty straightforward...concept, examples, problems... I even started working on an XML DTD to define this.

    Anyone else think this might be useful?

  • It's no different than Id releasing the first level of Doom for free, introduce people to your product. Baen has already been releasing the first 50 to 100 pages of their books on the net for a long time. This just takes it a bit further.
    Indeed. In this case, they're releasing the first couple books of a series for free--then you have to buy the rest, either by the normal method or by their Webscription. (Frankly, I hope more of these books come out by Webscription. Cheap, fast, and easy to put on my Palm [themestream.com]. :)
  • There are several readers available, many of which are freeware or open source. Http://www.palm-press.com/ [palm-press.com] has more info, as does
    http://www.peanutpress.com [peanutpress.com] and there's even a Slashdot article on it [slashdot.org]

    Don't forget:
    http://www.memoware.com/ [memoware.com]
    http://www.tomeraider.com/ [tomeraider.com]

    www.matthewmiller.net [matthewmiller.net]
  • Bottom line is, having books and music available online has caused me to buy MORE instead of less.

    Yes, but that's only because the existing technology/medium is not sufficient for your needs. Wanting to read a book at night without staring at the radiation from a CRT or handheld display and also the desire to keep a book in your bookshelf to impress the chicks; but those are the reasons you bought the book - not some moral obligation you felt to pay a usage fees.

    Books will continue to hold this advantage for a while. The same is not true for CDs, etc. If you had the equipment to burn the CDs and print the labels on them (if you were so concerned about appearing cool) you would be a damn fool to pay the money for the CD.

    It would be very foolish for the music industry to assume that people downloading music for free will always automatically want to buy it if it turns out to be good.

  • Netlibrary [netlibrary.com] has a bunch of free books on their site - 'though I think most of them are just from project gutenburg.

    Forget free though: Anyone interested in cognitive science can get access to all the MIT press books in cognitive science* at netlibrary (in encrypted downloadable and web form) for just $120 (students) or $240 (everyone else) by going to cognet.mit.edu. It also includes access to the MIT Encyclopedia of Cognitive Sciences, and The New Cognitive Neurosciences 2nd Ed, and everything else they say they offer (the "community" aspect is non existent though - it basically consists of announcements {talks, seminars}, and interesting links.

    *(includes hundreds of books in: neuroscience, psychology, philosophy, AI {genetic algorithms, computational intelligence, neural networks, etc}, linguistics, culture, evolutionary biology, and several other topics).
  • I'm surprised that no one has mentioned Project Gutenberg [promo.net]. They have thousands of books available to download in .txt or .zip format. Most of the literature is Classical, but there are many excellent titles. Definitely worth your time to check out if you are into the eBook/eText thing.

    Books are a great alternative to video games.

  • "Light and Matter [lightandmatter.com] Physics" High School/Community college level.

    "Handbook Of Applied Cryptography [uwaterloo.ca]"

    "Numerical Recipes in {c, fortran} [ulib.org]"

    "The Scientist & Engineer's Guide to Digital Signal Processing [analog.com]"

    "Using Z [ox.ac.uk]"

    "The Red Book [ii.uib.no]"

    etc. I'm sure there are a ton of others.
  • GNUArt [gnuart.org] is an organization which approach consists of GPL'ing Art under virtual forms.
    The difference with what's happening here is that if these books were GPL'ed, they'd not only be free of charge but they could also be reworked by anybody prior to being distributed once again for free. Well, you know the GPL, don't you ?
    Anyway, even if they only made these books free as in free beer, it is a good thing that these authors accepted to take whatever some might call a "risk".
  • but those are the reasons you bought the book - not some moral obligation you felt to pay a usage fees.

    I've purchased CDs from MP3.com for that very reason. I want to support the artists whose music I like. I've downloaded entire albums from mp3.com, yet I still paid for them. Now I'm sure there are a lot of kids out there that download stuff for free and never give it a second thought. But they usually don't have the tons of cash it takes to buy the CDs anyway, I know I never did. It's the post-college crowd that will be more likely to pay I think.

  • I expect to see a positive response to this story. Remember how everyone said it was so cool when King put some chapters of his book online? But how many of you actually paid?

    The next step is to put our money where our mouths are. If you read these books and think they're any good, go buy them.

    Prove to the publisher that this sort of experiment is good for them, and we'll see more of it. Don't just post to /. and say you like it.

    Just my $.02


  • I googled the three Drake titles, and got copyrights of 1997, 1998, and 1999 (not in that order).

    Most of his work doesn't push my buttons, and in fact I didn't even bother finishing his overhyped Lord of the Isles, but I heartily recommend his old novel Birds of Prey. SciFi meets ancient Rome, kind of thing. That one really ought to be made into a movie.

    If you like Birds of Prey, then try his Vettius and Friends, which is a collection of short stories set in ancient Rome (sans SciFi, with a couple of exceptions), including a wonderful man vs. shark story that purportedly predates Jaws.

  • Honestly I haven't heard a thing about any of these authors, and right now there's only 5 or 6 of them listed on this webpage, and only 2 or 3 books per author. Have these guys been rejected by major publishing companies and this is their way of getting their names out?

    Now if these guys are popular artists and people have heard of them I apologize. But I've worked in some libraries for quite a few years and I can't judge whether or not these guys actually have a popular following yet... maybe this is their way of grabbing 15 minutes of fame =)
  • But they usually don't have the tons of cash it takes to buy the CDs anyway,

    This comment illustrate what's the biggest fallacy on 'piracy'. Fact: most people have a limited budget to buy CD / software. Therefore, counting every 'pirated' product as a lost income for 'IP producers' is wrong; since if there was'nt any 'pirating' means available, most people would not have bought more. Therefore the theoretical loss is zero, nil, nada, zilch.


  • The point is that the Project Gutenburg books are those where the copyright has expired. The Baen free library contains books by their current authors primarily to provide readers who have read any other books by a particular author or in a particular series an opportunity to read the book for free and decide if they would be interested in buying more by that author or in that series.

  • Great idea. Imagine what could get done if just 1% of the currently employed teachers got together to work on a book. I've been unable to locate a quick figure but I imagine 1% would amount to a lot of teachers. This would reduce the costs for schools and it would mean that students could have all of their textbooks on computers. I'm sure it will be way too late for them to do anything before I get out of school (I'm currently a Junior in High School.)

    Schools spend all this money on these new Compaqs (although Compaqs do suck) and such great new "technology" but they fail to do anything that *really* helps the students. I'm sorry, but access to the Internet going at 1.6 kilobytes a second doesn't help me that much. It's more there for the teachers and their e-mail, etc. Unfortunately, "high technology" is just a buzzword in the education system. It's a shame they don't focus on more important things.

"Yeah, but you're taking the universe out of context."