Cryoburn-coverUpdate: I’ve been informed that one Vorkosigan novel, Memory, is not included on the CD, probably because it was not included in any omnibus. I’ve updated the article accordingly.

Baen has published another book with a promotional CDROM pack-in, and (as with all the others) the CDROM is available for free download from the Fifth Imperium Baen CD repository. In either case, the contents are free to share and upload, but cannot be sold. The book is Cryoburn, the latest Miles Vorkosigan novel, and is worthy of mention for a couple of major reasons.

One reason is that it includes (in multiple DRM-free formats) all but one volume, start to latest, of a smashing good 14-book series, based around the adventures of one of military SF’s most unusual heroes (though the first two books chronologically actually cover his parents).

How unusual? Well, as Bujold wrote in her essay “Space Opera, Miles, and Me” (DOC file):

Pick a heroic attribute, and Miles will be the opposite–tall, lantern-jawed, strong, handsome? Nope. Try short, fragile-boned, and odd-looking. A grandly tragic orphan, a loner, free of the cloying obligations of family? Nope–Miles has a plethora of living relatives to show up and annoy him. Goes through women like tissue paper? Nope–Miles’s old girlfriends tend to hang around, still alive, stubbornly being themselves. Unselfconsciously heroic? Not Miles. He’s a post-modern hero, and can’t help being conscious of just about everything.

And to call them “military SF” is actually too constricting; they start as military SF but then proceed to span a remarkable number of genres. The books are clever, witty, thrilling, and often hilarious, and make for some of my favorite comfort reading.

But the main reason I find this CDROM noteworthy is that it represents an interesting journey for their author, Lois McMaster Bujold. Almost ten years ago, in a New York Times article about the Baen Free Library and the salutary effect it had on Baen, Bujold got a specific mention:

It is worth noting, though, that only eight of Baen’s dozens of authors have offered texts to date. ”My agent is concerned about the effect posting complete works for free might have on future rights sales,” said Lois McMaster Bujold, one of Baen’s most popular authors, whose work is not available on the Free Library.

But apparently her agent became less concerned over the years, or maybe she got a new one; she dipped a toe into the Baen Free Library with a Vorkosigan novella, “The Mountains of Mourning,” in 2002, and later added the novel The Warrior’s Apprentice in 2009. And now almost her entire Vorkosigan series (only one novel, Memory, is missing) is free to share and share alike on the Internet. It’s really quite noteworthy (and laudable) for an author (or her agent) to change her position so completely like that, even over the course of ten years.

Many of the Baen CDs contain an author’s other body of work, as well as books —for instance, the 1634: The Eastern Front promotional CD included most or all of Eric Flint’s other body of work with Baen to that date, as author or editor. However, Bujold doesn’t have other books than her 14-book Vorkosigan series (most of her fantasy books are with other publishers, and The Spirit Ring which is with Baen isn’t there). But it does have a number of Bujold’s essays, travel memoirs, interviews, and speeches, which will be interesting reading for any fan.


  1. The CD is, indeed, missing Memory (which is, indeed, a pivotal book in the sequence) – I suspect a packaging oversight, since, per the author’s introduction to one, Memory didn’t neatly fit into the repackaged omnibus editions of the rest of the series Baen put out a few years ago. Not a huge problem – if you’ve gotten that far into the series, you probably know whether or not it’s enough your taste to spend the $6 on – but something to be aware of.

  2. Ok, so you cannot buy Cryoburn e-book from Amazon, but you can get it for free from Baen site. ???.
    I don’t get it. I’m happy to read Cryoburn for free, but I don’t understand rationale behind this move.
    Pure altruism or something else ?

  3. @~B, thanks for the link, it was very informative, but it was written ten years ago, so argument:

    “Even if reading off a screen is not today as competitive as reading paper … ”

    does not hold anymore.

    Baen used ebooks to advertise pbooks. I don’t buy pbooks anymore, so they lost me as a customer. On the other hand, I would gladly pay for ebook, but Baen does not want to sell it to me, they want me to give it to me for free.

    I think that treating ebooks as “second class citizens” does not hold anymore.

  4. “I would gladly pay for ebook, but Baen does not want to sell it to me, they want me to give it to me for free.”

    Baen will happily sell you ebooks from the Webscription site. They offer many formats (including Mobipocket which is what the Kindle uses and ePub which most other devices use) all DRM free.

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