What is an Ebook & Why Should You Publish One?

What is an ebook?

Ebook stands for electronic book, which is a text and image-based publication in digital form, produced on, published by, and readable on computers or other digital devices, such as eReaders (electronic readers). There are a number of eReaders that are available, but currently the most popular devices include the Amazon Kindle™, Barnes & Noble Nook™, and Apple iPad™.

As the functionality and popularity of eReading devices grows, so too does the market for this new publishing platform. When eReaders first came out, many of what I call the “die-hard” readers of print believed it was, perhaps, much-ado about nothing. It seemed that a cold, unyielding, tablet-type device could never take the place of the warmth and comfort of a “good, old-fashioned print-and-bound book.” Well, in some cases, this remains true. But, and I say this again, BUT—these new devices bring with them something entirely new. In my opinion, they are not meant to complete against the printed book, they are meant to act as a companion to the print edition—and depending on the type of book, they can increase an author’s ability to distribute information, especially if the content is interactive. In addition, ebooks can offer readers immediacy (instant buying and receiving of content) and the ability to interact with the content in amazing new ways.

Certain digital ebooks actually allow readers to interact with the story, making the characters in the book appear to move as part of the story. These books are distributed as apps, and we believe that they will create a whole new market for interactive storytelling (sort of like the choose your own adventure and pop up book of the future). For example, check out this Alice in Wonderland app for the iPad:

But even without this incredible interactivity, the normal reading experience has changed forever. For a self-publishing author, the reasons for publishing an ebook are steadily growing, and it’s not about whether you are competing against print. The truth is that you should have both, and the numbers speak for themselves.

Statistics for eBook Sales

Statistics for eBook Sales

  • According to The Association of American Publishers, ebook sales grew 164.8 percent in December 2010 vs. the previous year, selling $441.3 million vs. $169.5 million in 2009. Ebook sales represented 8.32 percent of the trade book market in 2010 vs. 3.20 percent in 2009.
  • According to tech business today, as of the close of December 2010, Barnes & Noble reported that ebooks were outselling printed books on their website. They claimed to sell 1 million ebooks on Christmas day alone.
  • According to Forrester Research, ebook sales in the US will nearly triple to 2.8 billion in 2015 from 1 billion last year.
  • Amazon states in a press release that ebooks are outselling print books at a rate of 2 to 1. According to TheBookseller.com, “Kindle ebooks have overtaken paperback sales at Amazon.com, as the Internet retailer revealed [that] sales topped $10 billion for the first time in its latest trading quarter.” Amazon noted that since the beginning of 2011, for every 100 paperbacks sold, the company has sold 115 Kindle books. The Kindle reader itself was the bestselling product of both the fourth quarter and full year on its UK site.
  • Authors have reported that books with lackluster print sales have had much greater success when re-published as an ebook. (See one author’s report on his ebook sales success).
  • According to Publisher’s Weekly, “Simon & Schuster reported a 150% jump in e-book sales for this holiday [December 2010] over the same period last year. Random House reported an impressive 300% leap, and Kensington said its e-book sales for this holiday season climbed a whopping 400% over 2009.”

Why Publish an eBook

Some Notable Reasons to Publish an eBook

1. Free or very inexpensively priced ebooks and instructional material are a great way to publicize your work, business, or website.

2. Costs are low when compared to print versions, both in terms of development and production. You can price your book at a lower amount, make a higher royalty, and often times see greater sales numbers.

3. Sales of eReaders are growing fast. eReaders are also becoming more and more sophisticated, functional, but also easy-to-use. The cost of devices is steadily decreasing, and the technology is growling. E-ink displays offer a reading experience comparable to the printed page, and the technology to make Color E-ink displays is already available. The ease of buying ebooks is growing as well. Costs are low for the consumer. Retailers make it even easier with one-click buying options and instant downloads.

4. With an ebook, especially if it is priced low, readers are more likely to take a chance on an unknown author. (If your book looks professional, it’s more difficult for readers to distinguish a book that was produced by a mainstream traditional publisher from one produced by a self-published author. This gives authors a new advantage in the marketplace. In fact, not all traditionally published books are well formatted. With the help of a professional, an author might actually be able to create a better looking ebook than some earlier converted works from major publishing houses.)

5. You can still have the best of both worlds, print and ebook, and the two will normally be linked together, offering readers a choice—and increasing your exposure.

6. Digital books can link readers directly to external web page links (on certain devices). Certain applications even make books interactive. Readers can also look up words directly within the file, or have books read to them using text to speech functionality.

7. It is typically cheaper to have a book professionally formatted as an ebook than a print version. Pre-production costs are significantly lower.

8. Content can be protected with DRM (if desired). (See What is DRM for eBooks for more information.)

9. It takes far less time to get a book to market than it used to, both in print-on-demand and for electronic books. With just a few clicks, your book can be available for sale.

10. Authors retain total control of their work. This includes the appearance, the artwork, the rights, and the royalties. Traditional publishers might offer 15-25% royalties, but with electronic publishing, authors can receive up to 70%.

Final Thoughts

A few other things to consider

The top three retailers all have interfaces that allow authors to publish their work themselves. Amazon has the KDP; B&N has launched their PubIt interface, which now makes it easy for authors to get their work on Barnes and Noble, a market that was previously closed to self-published authors; and MAC users can access the iBookstore via an iTunes account.

What we hope to show with these tips and statistics is that there is a clear and growing trend toward ebook sales. Devices are getting better and better, more flexible and convenient, and cheaper, and as a result, readers are beginning to choose ebook versions over print books. This does not mean that print books will lose the majority of the market share (although they could—it is anyone’s guess), but it does mean that it’s a format that can no longer be ignored by any author who is choosing to self-publish and who wants to compete in the online marketplace. Authors must now take a serious look at both print and the ebook market.


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