Baen Books is a science fiction and fantasy publishing company established in 1983 by long time science fiction publisher and editor Jim Baen. The company was ranked eighth in terms of total books published (in the SF genre) and was the fifth most popular SF publisher based on the number of bestseller list appearances, according to the Locus 2005 Book Summary. Notable authors published by Baen books include David Weber, Larry Niven, Mercedes Lackey, and Robert Heinlein.
Baen books also offers something else which sets them apart from their peers: free downloads of select published works by their stable of authors through The Baen Free Library. Baen author Eric Flint explains:
“Baen Books is now making available — for free — a number of its titles in electronic format. We’re calling it the Baen Free Library. Anyone who wishes can read these titles online — no conditions, no strings attached.”
The idea is that rather than adopt the restrictive digital rights management approach, authors could choose to allow the opening novel in a series to be read online for free, under the theory that a free copy would get people interested in the author and would not only increase sales of the physical book itself but also create return buyers for the other titles in the series. Additionally, as Flint points out, their approach is an effective way to generate word of mouth advertising:
“How many people who read a book they like which they obtained from a public library never mention it to anyone? As a rule, in my experience, people who frequently borrow books from libraries are bibliophiles. And bibliophiles, in my experience, usually can’t refrain from talking about books they like.”
The DCPL catalog contains many titles by these authors, so if one of the free ebooks available from Baen piques your interest in a series, it is likely you can get the rest of the books for free as well, from your local library.