What is an Ebook and How Can it Serve Your Business?

You know what an ebook is.

But maybe it’s been a while since you worked on one. Perhaps you recently read a competitors’ ebook and thought, ‘Well... that’s awesome. Why aren’t we doing that?’

That’s a very good question. Because ebooks are at the top of the content marketing food chain. They eat articles and social media posts for breakfast … when done right. 

Before we get onto what makes an ebook oh-so-downloadable, it’s time for a refresher. So you can meet reader’s expectations, start with clearly-defined goals and nail your ebook design. 

Want to skip the basics? Start here. Otherwise, let’s get this show on the road. Discover:

  1. What is an ebook?
  2. How long should an ebook be?
  3. What’s the difference between ebooks and white papers?
  4. Should you offer an ebook free of charge?
  5. What’s the purpose of an ebook?
  6. How to make an ebook?
  7. What are the best ebook examples?

What is an ebook?

“A book in digital form,” says the dictionary. Boring! Ebooks are so much more than that. 

In content marketing, they’re an opportunity to put all the expert knowledge in your brain on paper. To talk about a subject in delicious detail. To captivate through eye-catching visuals. To demonstrate your value so that readers think, I want what this business has to offer!

Practically speaking, they have unique characteristics:

  • They can be accessed on mobiles, tablets and desktops
  • They have multiple pages packed with visuals (graphs, quotes, statistics and more)
  • They have a table of contents with links
  • They have a clear narrative with chapters and a strong call-to-action
  • They have beautiful front and back covers

And an ebook isn’t

  • A brochure
  • An article with a front cover slapped on it
  • A 600-page document on the mating rituals of centipedes 

Know that ebook design is as important as the content. Consider your brand, its colours and your audience when thinking about design to captivate with eye-catching visuals. And when it comes to formatting an ebook, PDF is a firm favourite thanks to easy accessibility and readability. 

How long should an ebook be?

As long as you goddamn want it to be. I know we covered a lot of ‘rules’ about what an ebook should look like. But let's forget about them for a second. 

Because if I told you your ebook needs to be 5,000 words and six pages long, you might become obsessed with that number. To the point where you exclude juicy details or add in content you don’t need.

Of course, keep the function of an ebook in mind. Within content marketing, you’re creating an ebook to talk about a subject in more detail than an article. And to present your information in a more engaging, creative and flexible way. 

Also consider ebook design when contemplating the number of pages to include. You could dedicate entire pages to graphs and other fun visuals. So a 2,000-word ebook could be ten pages long! 

What’s the difference between ebooks and white papers?

If you were going to a party, white papers would be all suits and ties. Whereas ebooks would be dancing in flowy dresses and skinny jeans.

That’s because white papers tend to be formal written pieces, such as reports or essays. They combine authoritative language with relevant data points to present a problem then solve it. Their purpose is to educate the reader, not generate sales (at least not directly). 

While ebooks are filled with bold illustrations, quick takeaways, clear call-to-actions and branded designs. Marketers often create them to meet several goals, but they tend to be more lead gen-oriented than white papers.  

Both mediums do share some similarities, though.

For white papers and ebooks, PDF is usually the go-to format. And while the content might be vastly different, marketers regularly offer both for free as gated content (more on that below).

Should you offer an ebook free of charge? 

Ever seen an ebook with a price tag? In content marketing, it’s a rarity. There are a few reasons why. 

First, you’re meeting readers’ expectations. An ebook free download is what they’re used to, and they might be put off if they had to pay for it. 

Second, you’re making your knowledge accessible. You reach more people, expanding your impact and strengthening your image as an expert and authority in your industry.

Also, just because you’re offering an ebook free of charge doesn’t mean you can’t make some moolah off the back of it. 

Two words: gated content. What does that means? Readers need to complete a form to access your ebook. In exchange for content oozing in value, you get readers’ emails. 

Boom! You have the tool needed to communicate directly with your readers. So you can nurture them into customers through sizzling email newsletters and the like. 

What’s the purpose of an ebook?

As with any piece of content, you need a clear goal in mind to drive results and keep you on track. This is how you get an ebook to serve you, your business and your clients.

As ebooks are a distinct form of content, they come with unique goals:

1. Win email addresses and generate leads 

Offer your ebook in exchange for emails to communicate directly with prospects, nurturing them into customers. Where you advertise your ebook matters - think about where your prospects are most likely to see your offering based on their behaviours. 

2. Boost the quality of your leads

Ebooks focused on your ideal customer’s biggest challenges and how to solve them will generate more meaningful engagement. You can also filter leads using forms to create personalised audiences for razor-sharp targeted marketing. 

3. Increase credibility and authority

Demonstrate your expertise by talking about a subject in divine detail. Ebooks are the perfect platform for your voice, positioning you as a respected authority. This also helps you build trust and drive sales: 81% of consumers said that they need to be able to trust a brand to buy from them (Edelman, 2019).

4. Increase engagement and brand awareness

A well-marketed ebook will see more readers engaging with your content, and indirectly, your brand, helping build awareness. Include links to your blog and website to drive that awareness further.

5. Sharpen your competitive edge

Ebooks are a dynamite way to offer what your competitors aren’t. Especially if you’re an SME, it's likely your competitors won’t be producing a lot of ebooks due to smaller marketing budgets and time constraints. This is your chance to set the precedent for quality ebooks. 

You can choose multiple content marketing goals since ebooks can fulfill several purposes. That’s a big part of their beauty!

A golden rule

The best ebooks don’t try too hard to generate sales. They naturally produce leads because they’re packed with useful, valuable content. 

Focus on the value you can offer and the leads will follow. 8 Steps to a Professional Ebook will teach you how to deliver your value effectively. 

How to make an ebook?

Now you know your ebook basics, take a break. After a quick coffee feat. some choccie, it’s time to move onto the next step in nailing your future ebooks. 

Learn how to make an ebook in our following article. We cover:

  1. Understanding your ebook’s purpose
  2. Finalising your tone of voice and writing style
  3. Outlining your ebook
  4. Conducting research and interviews
  5. Writing your first draft
  6. Editing and proofing your first draft
  7. Perfecting your ebook design

And the best part? You get a free ebook template! We’re just generous like that, *wink*. 

What are the best ebook examples?

There are oodles of great ebooks out there to inspire your content and ebook design. Rather than have you trawl the interwebs to find them, we’ve put together a list of our faves.  

Discover exceptional ebook examples in our article, covering a range of topics and industries. 

Guess what?

You’re a bonafide ebook expert! By reading this article, you’ve learnt:

  1. What is an ebook?
  2. How long should an ebook be?
  3. What’s the difference between ebooks and white papers?
  4. Should you offer an ebook free of charge?
  5. What’s the purpose of an ebook?
  6. How to make an ebook?
  7. What are the best ebook examples?

Bookmark this guide so you can revisit it to your heart’s content. Then hop over to 8 Steps to a Professional Ebook to put theory into practice and get your free ebook template.

There’s more! Want expert and original copywriting tips direct to your inbox? Sign up here! 

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