I bought my first e-book

It is not the first e-book I have read (no by a long way), but it is the first I have bought. It is (of course) DRM free. It is also a book (actually two books ) I would never have bought if the previous books in the series had not been free downloads.

I felt inclined to browse through military SF when I saw it in bookshops, but the Byzantine setting of David Drake’s Belisarius series was intriguing, and the fact that the first three books free download from the Baen Free Library meant I had nothing to lose having a look.

I was hooked. David Drake draws a convincing (I am really not qualified to comment on how accurate it really is!) picture of the declining Eastern Roman Empire at the time of Justinian, as well as the Persian Empire, Ethiopia and India, somewhat tainted by some wishful thinking: I am not altogether convinced by the strong, independent, educated women in the context of those societies. The general Belisarius is also a historical figure on which a number of other works of fiction have been based, both historical and SF (Bel Riose in Asimov’s Foundation and Empire was based on Belisarius).

On the other hand the battles are utterly convincing (once you have accepted gunpowder, steam, and two artificial intelligences sent back from the far future), as are the politics. Some of the relationships seem to be a little too good to be true, but it all works very well.

It was surprisingly readable on screen, despite the fact that I use a laptop rather than an e-book reader. The only problem is that I am not inclined to read from a laptop in bed. Now that I have adjusted to the idea, I am likely to do more of my reading on screen. Its not perfect, but it is convenient, cheap and gives instant access to a vast range of books.

I think Baen’s business model works. I did download several books for free before buying. On the other hand, not one of those was a book I would have bought (I have not seen them in shops, they have not come up as Amazon recommendations, etc.), so they did not lose anything, but they did gain one sale (so far).