Why I read Baen Books

Inspired by Brad Torgersen’s “Why publish with Baen?” and Larry Correia’s “Why I publish with Baen, too”, here’s a side of the story from one of their readers.

I first encountered Baen Books in junior high school (late 80s), and started paying attention to the publisher “because the stuff they’re putting out is REALLY good”.

In 2001, I was bored, and encountered the Baen Free Library, and specifically, John Ringo’s novel “A Hymn Before Battle“. I gave it a shot, reading on my PC during lunch hour – and went to Book People (in Austin) that evening to buy the paperback.

I proceeded to start devouring everything I could by Ringo (one of the few authors who I would buy their works in hardcover, because I didn’t want to wait for the paperback), and by exposure through the Free Library, read other Baen authors. In most cases, I read one of their works through the BFL, then went out and bought the rest of the series in hard copy.

I started buying other Baen hardcover titles solely for the CDs inside the back cover, full of ebook versions of various Baen titles that weren’t up at the Free Library yet. You can still download most of those at The Fifth Imperium – thanks to Toni and company for allowing those files to stay online!

The majority of my book purchases are now electronic, and Baen is a publisher that I can trust with $15 for an e-ARC of the latest title from a favorite author, knowing that it’s NOT going to suck – and that it’s DRM-free so I can convert and read it on any device I want. While there’s been one or two titles over the years that have been sub-par, mostly where a new fledgling author has taken over an established series from a major author’s outline, those have openly been acknowledged by the main author and promised better results in the future. I’ve never been outright unhappy with any title I’ve bought from Baen.

My wife unfortunately passed away in 2009. The first time I laughed and smiled after that was while reading a passage in one of Ringo’s “Legacy of the Aldenata” novels. I wrote up a quick blurb, explained why, and sent my thanks to Mr. Ringo. I never expected to hear back from him, but I did! It wasn’t much, but it was one of those little things that inspire loyalty in fans. Five years later, my last name was even used for a very minor character in one of his latest books! As I said, tiny little things, make a huge difference.

Through John Ringo I discovered Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter International and sequels. Bought the ebook, ordered a signed paperback and a few MHI patches, and was overjoyed to have direct communication with Larry a few times. Got at least three friends hooked on the series as well.

What struck me most was that I’ve *never* gotten a “I’m the big author, you’re just a reader” vibe from any of the Baen authors (or Toni, the publisher, who has directly commented on a couple of my Facebook posts talking about Baen) in communications. Larry comes across as an aw-shucks guy who likes his guns and just happened to get lucky with a story he wrote. MANY books later – he still has that same attitude, as do most of the Baen authors I’ve encountered.

Through Larry I’ve now discovered Brad Torgersen, and have become a fan of his work as well and look forward to his book coming out on Baen later this year.

As a kid in junior high (I’m 39 now) I never thought that I could have near-instantaneous communication with the authors and publisher of most of my favorite books. This post explains but a tiny few of the reasons why I’ve been a Baen fan for more than twenty-five years, and why I don’t plan on that stopping anytime soon.

Great customer service

Kudos to Amazon for having GREAT customer service related to their Kindle ebook reader. I bought one last November, and it has worked great. However, this particular unit just REFUSES to upgrade to version 2.5 of the Kindle firmware, no matter what I do (manual installs, etc).

I called up Amazon yesterday, and within five minutes they were doing the necessary stuff to get a replacement Kindle2 sent my way. The replacement unit will be here Wednesday.

Score at Goodwill Computerworks

Houston recently opened a Goodwill Computerworks location. I was very happy to see this because I missed my weekly Saturday browsing sessions at the Austin location.

Last week, I picked up a great load of books:

– Murphy’s Law
– The Elements of Programming Style (both editions)
– COBOL With Style
– FORTRAN With Style
– Programming Proverbs for FORTRAN
– Programming in VAX-11 C
– Software Tools
– The C Programming Language (first edition, two copies)
– UNIX System Administration Handbook (first edition, yellow cover)

Today, i went back to pick up a book about BCPL for $2, and while walking towards the cash register, looked down at the tub of PS/2 mice.

Sitting there on top of the pile like the king of the hill, was a Logitech Trackman Marble FX trackball!

I grabbed it, hurried to the register, paid the $8, and brought it home. “Hey honey! I have a surprise for you!” Amy turned around, and I handed it to her. “OOH! It’s so.. shiny…. I told you flowers were overrated!”

Only in a nerd household could a ten-year-old trackball be worth more in karma points than a dozen roses.

I’ve been busy!

Just finished a data migration project at work that took up a lot of weekend and evening hours, and this is the first weekend I’ve really had “to myself” in the past two and a half weeks.

I’ve been reading a lot, and even picked up MORE Mack Bolan books at my new favorite used book store here in Houston, Quarter Price Books. Check them out if you’re tired of Borders, Barnes & Noble, and Half Price Books and just want the fun of browsing through stacks and stacks of stuff that isn’t remainders and unsuccessful titles.

I Love Trashy Action/Adventure Novels

A recent discussion brought back to mind one of my favorite hobbies through the years – reading trashy “male testosterone action/adventure” novels like the Mack Bolan “The Executioner” book series.

I had a good collection of the first 25 books in the series back in the late 80s and early 90s, and would pick them up whenever I found them at flea markets and used book stores. When I lived in Austin from 1996 to 2004, I got my “fix” from a neat little used-paperbacks-only book store on Burnet Road called Book Exchange. I think I still have a lot of trade-in credit left on file there from when I cleaned out my garage one weekend…

Now that I’m in Houston I’ve been unable to find any neat little “hole in the wall” used book stores that carry tons of paperbacks and the “male adventure novels” I look for. Half Price Books is good for sci-fi and everything else. They carry plenty of romance novels (the Mack Bolan series is published by a division of Harlequin) but none of the actual Bolan series or spinoffs.

So far it looks like my only option is to rebuild my collection via eBay, but if anybody that sees this knows of good hole-in-the-wall used book stores in Houston, please let me know via email or comments – and if you’ve got a box of Mack Bolan books in the back of a closet, get in touch.

Why do out-of-print books have to be so expensive?

I finally found the title and author of a book about the development and adoption of the M16 rifle that I’d read in high school (thanks to the helpful staff at the Anadarko Public Library, who tracked down the book that was still on their shelves).

It’s The Great Rifle Controversy: Search for the Ultimate Infantry Weapon from World War II Through Vietnam and Beyond by Edward Clinton Ezell.

Unfortunately, I can’t find a used copy for any less than $120 (looking on Amazon and Abebooks). It will just have to go on my “pick it up one of these days” list, and I’ll continue to look for a cheaper copy.

Update: I did manage to pick up a copy of The Black Rifle: M16 Retrospective last week, written by Ezell and Stevens. If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m building an AR-15.