To eBook or not to eBook
Tuesday, August 28th, 2012
One of the most common questions I get from association professionals is about eBooks – from “How” and “Which kind,” to “Do we really have to give Amazon 30 percent?”
eBooks are clearly a hot area and one that every association needs to be investing in to reach members and others. The question is not “should you.” The question is “how should you.” There are entire books, (and eBooks) devoted to the topic. But for associations, here are some important considerations.
- Understand your Market: If your publication can be marketed to wide audiences and you don’t have a relationship with them, consider Amazon. I would also suggest you distribute with Barnes & Noble, Apple and Google (80 percent of the market). If, instead, you have a limited potential audience for your publication, and you know where the market is and you can get to it, then you should sell the publication yourself. Be careful about trying to do both – the retailers don’t like it and will forbid you from selling the publication for less than they do. A key issue to know is how your readers want to read your eBooK – on their Laptop, Tablets, Reader or Phones.
- Be Careful of Conversions: The process of converting content into the popular eBook formats of .Mobi (Amazon) or ePub (most others) is very straightforward and can cost less than $200 a book. However, if your content has equations, symbols, unique fonts, charts, tables, images, or needs to output in multiple languages and even one error isn’t acceptable to you, then use a professional provider with a long record of quality conversions.
- Pricing: Mass marketing pricing – the sweet spot to drive sales – is between $2.99 and $9.99. But for most associations, there is much more value and expense in creating the publication, than those prices can support. For some ideas on pricing, see my post “Pricing of Digital Content” http://djmcknight.wordpress.com/2012/05/05/pricing-of-digital-content/. If you’re just getting started in eBook publishing, you may want to price your books low enough to give people a chance to try them, then raise prices if it’s clear there’s a market for it.
- eBooks Options:There are many different ways to create an eBook, starting with the most common – a PDF file. We don’t have enough space here to review all the options, but for this blog let’s identify the two main categories of eBooks based on your market.
- Mass market publications, or publications for readers using eReaders or Smart Phones: Consider .Mobi (Amazon) and ePub (Google, Apple and Barns & Noble) – but again – be careful of the conversion process.
- Defined market of readers using laptops or tablets (online or downloaded): PDF could still be your best option. For online access, there are some great content management systems that help provide more organization and functionality, and are easy to bundle and sell content in smaller units (by chapters, tracks, sessions, topics, etc). If you have a ton of content, and being able to break it down into smaller chucks has value, investigate XML. It is the future of eBook delivery.
Your decisions around eBooks shouldn’t be made in isolation, and I encourage associations to explore eBooks and understand the market better. The danger in doing nothing, or responding slowly, is that your competition isn’t. Readers will go where they can to find the content they want. Google has shown us that is the case already….can you afford to not take action?
David McKnight is the President of Digital Publishing Innovation, and the founder of Engage365. David uses his technology background to help develop solutions for digital collection and distribution that are easy to use and provide clear value for associations.