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Webscriptions is a web services company that has sold e-books without DRM since 1999. It is closely associated (but apparently legally distinct from) Jim Baen's Baen Books. Purchasers can download the same e-book in five different formats, even long after the initial purchase. The range is heavy on science fiction and fantasy.

Currently, listed genre publishers are:
Baen Books
Del Rey
Meisha Merlin
SRM Publisher[2]
Subterranean Press
Tor Books


Webscription services

Webscriptions is owned and operated by Webwrights, a company which also runs Baen Books' website and the Baen's conference website Baen's Bar. Initially, the e-books offered were solely titles published by Baen Books, but in recent years webwrights, Inc. has picked up titles from other publishers and publishing houses as the Electronic marketing strategy adopted by Jim Baen and his company proved its worth and hardcopy sales increased considerably. Other publishers had to take note. At the same time, the e-business income raised revenues for publishers, and indirectly increased Baen Books's market share, particularly by increasing the number of hardcover books sold per release. Part of that growth, is due to the Baen Free Library which was launched nearly hand in hand with Baen's new e-books. The Baen Free Library is just that—about 100 titles that can be downloaded at no charge from Webscriptions in the same unprotected formats, allowing the customer to sample the wares, or read it as if found in the local public lending library.

The Tennessee company that operates webscriptions, Webwrights, is a separate business entity that also does internet services consulting for fees. One of the services it provides is it manages and operates the popular internet forum Baen's Bar. In the strictest sense, Webscriptions really refers to the Baen Books decision to bundle parts of 4–5 books per month as e-ARC releases purchased as a subscription.[3] "Webscriptions.net" is the Baen Books entry point into the Webwrights operated e-publisher "Webscriptions" (dot net).[4]

The success of the site through the "Baen's filter or front-end" has also been described by New York Times. The project has been called 'innovative' by Wired[5] and New York Times and met with generally positive reception from many authors (examples: Charles Stross,[6] David Drake[7] ) and general public.[8] Baen currently is following the Webscriptions with another experiment in online publishing - an online subscription based sci-fi magazine, Jim Baen's Universe, which non-subscribers can purchase single copies through Webscriptions. This follows the experimental [e-zine] that is now paying Pro-rates, The Grantville Gazettes, and Eric Flint, Baen's Bulldog on DRM matters, is editor-in-chief of both entities. Additionally, through an arrangement set up with Jim Baen, all the Baen titles at webscriptions are free to the disabled,[9] though this does not hold for other publishers contracted with Bailey's webwrights.

Webscriptions is different from most other online e-book selling ventures in that books are sold individually as well as in the Baen Webscriptions bundled and serialized packets of four or five books together. Webscriptions keeps the Baen bundles available on line, though the subscription price is slightly better—an incentive perhaps from the publisher to commit, but one which Baen barflies argued should be priced higher—an interesting demand from customers to say the least—Jim Baen eventually complied.

Each month, four to six as of yet unpublished works are made available for purchase as a group. The books are released incrementally. Three months before their official release date, only the first half of the books are available for download. Two months before their official release, the first three quarters of the books are available. The complete books are available for download a month before they are released in paper form.

Note that while the books are only partially available ('Advanced Readers Copy'), the only download format is HTML, however once the books are complete, they can be downloaded in multiple e-book formats including Rocketbook, RTF, Mobipocket, Microsoft Reader, and HTML. None of the e-books has any Digital Rights Management parts. This has caused some concerns among certain publishers and authors. Tor Books began making books available via Webscriptions in March 2006, but pulled it within days because of pressure from the owning group, Holtzbrinck because of concerns regarding the lack of DRM, over Tor Books' protests.[10] There have been rumors[11] that this will be reversed however. as of 19 May 2009 (2009 -05-19) Tor has 16 books available including three ARCs. The ARC copies are priced higher than Baen versions.

Digital Object Identifiers (DOI)

Under copyright law, an author sells not the whole rights to a work, but the specific rights of a work to the initial publisher. Specifically, in the fiction marketplace, the author retains "Second and subsequent reprint rights" (unless of course other rights are constrained by the purchase contract— most publishers will also at least buy an option on paperback rights when publishing a hardcover, for example), meaning she can license those to another publisher in a separate original work. Original works over the years have been construed to mean in other formats and bindings. An e-published work is bound about as differently as one can imagine. This is why copyrights, at least in Baen printed works that first appeared as e-books such as Grantville Gazette I, a copyright credit line says "Electronic edition by Webwrights".

Webscription and DOIs

Early webscripton copyrighted works used the DOI system, but according to Arnold Baily, a change in the item registration process made the use of the system cost prohibitive, for essentially one DOI had to be paid for each of the five common formats desired by Baen's, plus the serialized e-ARC partial (serialized) monthly packages (now in their ninth year). Consequently, Webscriptions abandoned DOI's for Skew codes, which appear in much the same format and have a same originator prefix as their early valid DOI's, but use the prefix: "SKU:". On Baen's website, later Identification codes still carry the "DOI:" prefix, but are adaptations of the ISBN of the work. As noted, Baen's electronic works are provided by Webscriptions, managed and maintained by Webwrights, and hence neither companies seemingly DOI codes will or can be identified by the DOI registraton database. Moreover, same formated versoions on either service would have to have the same DOI, which is also not true, though it may have been true at one time.


  1. "http://www.grantvillegazette.com/". http://www.grantvillegazette.com/. 
  2. "http://www.webscription.net/m-5-srm-publisher.aspx". http://www.webscription.net/m-5-srm-publisher.aspx. 
  3. "Baen webscriptions FAQ page". http://www.baen.com/ws_faq.htm. Retrieved 2007-12-06. 
  4. Rick Boatright. "baen relationship stuff". http://ftp.seomastering.com/w/index.php?title=User_talk:Fabartus&diff=175865947&oldid=175745779. Retrieved 2007-12-06. ""webscriptions is Arnold Bailey's company. He has a contract with Baen to provide web services to Baen, to provide the production process for webscriptions, to take the money for webscriptions and pays baen their cut of the take. Arnold keeps a percentage, which I know, but don't think I'm authorized to share, off the top of the webscriptions sales. In exchange for that, he runs the bar, runs and develops Baen's other web sites, and runs the free library stuff."" 
  5. M.J. Rose (2001-03-13). "Authors to Protest Amazon". Wired Magazine. http://www.wired.com/news/culture/0,1284,42350,00.html. 
  6. Charles Stross (2006-02-28). "Ebook news". http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-old/2006/02/. 
  7. David Drake (2006-03-08). "Dear People". http://david-drake.com/newsarchive/news32.html.  http://david-drake.com/newsarchive/news32.html
  8. "http://www.alexa.com/data/details/main?q=&url=www.baen.com/library". http://www.alexa.com/data/details/main?q=&url=www.baen.com/library. 
  9. http://www.risfc.org/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=511[dead link]
  10. http://words.grendel.at/archives/2006/04/05/idiocy_wins.html
  11. Charles Stross (2007-12-04). "36". http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2007/12/why_i_dont_like_amazons_kindle.html#comment-12347.  http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2007/12/why_i_dont_like_amazons_kindle.html#comment-12347

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