Last night Jim Baen passed away.Â SF has lost a voice that will be hard to fill.Â David Drake has a fine obituary already posted.Â There are three things that I think are important about Jim Baen’s contribution to publishing, and to America.
The first is that Jim was the most profitable and forward thinking e-publisher in the business.Â His model, which did not include draconian anti-piracy encryption measures, opened the genre to many who otherwise might never have opened an SF novel.
The second is that he used his publishing house to find and promote new talent.Â The demise, so to speak, of the short story in the genre,Â restricted the normal way authors worked their way up.Â Jim personally waded through slush piles lookingÂ for new authors.Â Later, he would use his online podium, Baen’s Bar, to find other authors.Â And as David Drake says in his obituary he stood by them.
The final, and perhaps the most important thingÂ to me, is that Jim never forgot the serviceman.Â Once a lowly private on the Bavarian borderÂ Jim would later send tens of thousands of first run books to soldiers, seaman, airmen and Marines around the globe at no expense to them.Â Naturally there were some who decried this a publicity stunt.Â I know that it was not…Jim cared.Â He was honored when they thanked him.Â Letters from service members took place of pride on his website.
If we are measured by what we leave behind then Jim did well.Â He leftÂ a legacy of standing by friends when they were in need, of being a visionary when the establishment faltered, and of caring about our soldiers when it wasn’t “cool” to do so.
Farewell, Jim….and thank you.
To see the greatness of Jim Baen and his legacy read this post from Walt Boyes.
My daughter Andrea just got the results of her ACT. In this part of the world, ACT is more accepted than the SAT is for college entrance. I sincerely regret the fact that Jim had his stroke before I could tell him what her scores were.
Why would it be important to him?
Several years ago, Andrea and I had dinner with Jim, and one of the things she did was to thank him for unencrypted e-books, because, mostly by reading Baen science fiction and fantasy, she was able to raise her reading level from second grade to college in a matter of about four years. She’s very bright, but very dyslexic, you see. Jim, by providing electronic books, unencrypted, and Webscriptions’ Arnold Bailey, his main minion for ebooks, by providing a source for a text-to-speech program we could afford, made it possible for her to succeed in anything she wants to do. Reading well, thanks to Baen, has given her the confidence to succeed.
Jim was embarrassed and didn’t know what to say. I bet he still is.
She wasn’t the only person so touched.Â E-books allowed the late Jimmy G., completely crippled by arthritis, to enjoy reading during the last years of his life.Â How many of us can say that we changed people’s lives for the better in a tangible way?Â Jim could.