eBook pioneer Jim Baen, RIP

Jim Baen, one of the first traditional book publishers to really embrace eBooks passed away Wednesday night. I enjoy science fiction and a Baen Books best-seller 1632 was the first eBook that I read as immersively as if it were a paper book – a credit to the content, much more than to the e-Reading experience.
Groundbreaking efforts by Jim Baen to market digital and paper forms of work in combination include the Baen Free Library, the Webscription program , Advance Reader Copies. While perhaps not well known outside Baen’s particular segment, his programs have paved the way for other publisher programs such as O’Reilly Rough Cuts.
And, most of all, he demonstrated that draconian DRM is not a sine qua non for effective monetization of digital works. Both selling and freely distributing unprotected content, Baen Books increased, rather than decreased, their revenue and profits. 1632’s author Eric Flint makes an impassioned case against DRM – and Jim Baen took a big risk and proved a good part of this case.
Yet, IMO there’s still a reasonable role for digital rights management in protection of eBooks and other digital content. Publishers will make different decisions about how openly to allow access to works, and Adobe is committed to offering the tools to support content protection and to working to increase the interoperability of DRM solutions. But we are also committed to supporting openly distributed, unencrypted content that can be deep-linked, mixed-in, and mashed-up. And I personally welcome publishers who, like Jim Baen, bravely experiment in a partnership of trust with their readers. Meantime I also want to soften the rought edges of DRM – when publishers deem it necessary at all – so it becomes more of a gentle reminder, a way to help “keep honest people honest”. Hackers will be able to crack any DRM, so in reality that’s the most that a rights holder can expect. iTunes DRM forexample, is a joke cryptographically. But as a user I have to intentionally decide to defeat it. If publishers and eBook sellers fairly price their wares I believe that most users will respect their licenses and that we can all increase our customer base and revenue.
Jim, I never had the pleasure of meeting you, but I thank you.