Ebooks: are They Right for You?

By: Paul Docherty

If you've been looking, you'll have noticed that the use of ebooks has exploded over the last five years. Just look at Ebay to see how many are being peddled as the answer to all of our prayers and the key to health, wealth and happiness. So why have ebooks taken off as a concept? Why are the marketeers, self-help gurus and even the snake oil merchants using them and how do you know if they're right for your writing project?

It has to do with the ease of publication and distribution. If you have a message to get out, ebooks can be a fast and cost-effective method of communicating with your public. Traditional paper-based publications are relatively expensive to produce. Distribution costs can be enormous for large quantities and finding retail outlets can be very difficult. Ebooks have revolutionised this. They have very low production costs and the concept of ebooks means that publishing can literally be achieved at your own desk. The proliferation of pdf as an accepted 'standard' format is making this even easier. There are a great many cheap, or even free, tools out there for taking your word processor or publishing application file and making a portable pdf file, ready to read, sell and distribute.

If you are using online marketing and selling your ebook via the internet, you will undoubtedly be delivering the ebook file via e-mail, for free. Contrast this with the cost of warehousing bulk print runs, packing and shipping costs for traditional printed books and you can easily see where there are significant savings to be made.

Ebooks can be stored economically. Since you are storing only electronic files, and not large pallets of heavy printed matter, cheap electronic storage media can be used either in the form of secure server storage or even just CD or DVD for the most basic of archiving methods. Sophisticated content management and document management systems do exist and can be implemented cost effectively. These are generally only of real benefit when the configuration or version control of the document is vital or when you are trying to store large quantities of ebooks.

It's not all roses though. Ebooks do have drawbacks that need to be borne in mind before you decide if they're suitable for your book. Size matters, for example. Few people will actually be prepared to sit at a computer screen and read a 400 page fiction novel. Some people just dislike reading on screen altogether. This makes ebooks much more suited to smaller, informational or reference documents where the reader may just want to dip in and out of the book.

Think about prestige value. Will you readers want to have a copy of your book on their shelf or will they be satisfied with just an electronic version? Printed books with nice covers that readers can hold and use over and over again do have a greater prestige value and can therefore command a greater sale value in general terms. If you're looking to be an author, will you get the same rush out of e-mailing an ebook as you might from walking into a book store and seeing your book on the shelf?

One of the greatest and as yet, not fully appreciated, drawbacks is longevity and future preservation. Sure ebooks are popular just now and the hardware and software is readily available to view them but what will happen in the future? What new technology will be around to replace what we currently have? Will someone be able to read your ebook 5, 10 or even 50 years from now? The pdf file is popular just now but for how long and what if you've used a less common ebook application?

Ebooks may be right for you, but make sure you've considered some of the disadvantages as well as the advantages before you decide to go down the ebook route. Why not consider dual format publications? Try using the ebook as your print file and produce some limited quantities in hard copy as well electronic. Whatever you decide ebooks can still offer you a method to get your writing out there where before it may never have been possible.

Ebooks
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 

» More on Ebooks