I haven't previously focused on eBooks much because most MarketingSherpa subscribers are in the online periodical or news industry. However, eBooks are now becoming an important revenue stream for many of you just as printed books and special reports have been important to the traditional periodicals world in the past. I foresee three main profit areas:
a. eBooks are an untapped ancillary revenue source. For example many newsletters and Web sites can bundle old "evergreen" content into eBooks, or create new eBooks, for sale to their audience.
b. eBooks are a great tool to raise Web site and email newsletter subscription sales (i.e. "You'll get this special $45 eReport for FREE with your paid subscription!) The print newsletter world, in particular, has relied on this type of offer to raise subscription sales for 30 years now, so there's no reason why it wouldn't work online as well.
c. eBooks are a potential sponsorship sales tool. Sponsors may not be as excited about special "micro-sites" any more. However they might be interested in an advertorial supplement eBook that you email to your opt-ins, and make available for download on message boards, etc.
NewsRX.com publisher Charles Henderson was typical of many MarketingSherpa readers when he told us this January, "We're trying to hit every conceivable way to sell content." So, eBooks will probably join all the other income streams (ad sales, syndication/licensing, list rentals, affiliate income, classifieds, single article sales and subscription sales) to forge one mighty revenue river for many publishers moving forward.
That said, adding eBooks to your product line is more complicated than you'd think. Formatting and ease-of-use issues abound. And, as author Seth Godin learned, once you add security to the mix things get even more complicated. He says, "More than a million people downloaded Unleashing the Ideavirus, which was free and unencrypted.
"What I found from the encrypted version is that thousands of people, who WANTED it and were willing to pay for it, didn't or couldn't because it was just too hard. It's like locking the door to the bookstore and expecting people to pick the lock."
No one I've met has found a perfect solution yet. Perhaps because none exists. I'll keep you updated. In the meantime, here are my seven favorite sites for those of you who'd like to learn more about eBooks basics, technology and opportunities (note: there are many more sites than this!)
1. eBookWeb - General industry news site from the creators of now-defunct eBookNet.com. Somebody sponsor them please!
2. Planet eBook - Info and news site with a very useful glossary section for newbies. Worth a visit.
3. Open eBook Forum (OeBF)- trade organization of the e-publishing industry, representing (mostly very large) publishers, technology providers and industry stakeholders such as Adobe and Microsoft.
4. A WebBlog that tracks the future of eBooks on Pocket PCs, highly informative and fun to read.
5. eBookCompilers.com -- A buyers-guide site for publishers who want to know which eBook compilation program to use. I personally found this site invaluable.
6. Bersoft -- According to various techies I've chatted with, this inexpensive software is the basis for many other DRM and eBook security systems. Not a lot of bells and whistles, but if you have an in-house programmer to play with it, you're in luck! (BTW: Monique Harris, author of "Make Your Knowledge Sell" uses Bersoft.)
7. RoyaltyLock (aka iBookster) -- Based on Bersoft, this system also helps you create your eBook, processes the orders and manages your affiliate program. Sounds great, and if I could buy bits and pieces of this on an a la carte basis, I would. But it's hard for me to pay again for stuff I've already got -- such as credit card processing.
BTW: You can download Seth Godin's IdeaVirus book free and easily at: http://www.ideavirus.com