What is an eBook?

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If you type “what is an eBook?” in the Google search bar, you’ll get a result that tells you it’s “an electronic version of a printed book that can be read on a computer or handheld device designed specifically for this purpose”. You might be thinking, “well duh, why on earth is she writing about this?”

Well, last week I wrote about how it’s a pet peeve of mine when accounting terms are used incorrectly in marketing, and I realized that the use of the word “eBook” sometimes drives me crazy too. This is because the term eBook means something very different in the marketing world, and I think it’s important for consumers to know the difference.

What is an eBook includes information on how to know when you are getting value for your money and the difference between a marketing eBook and an eBook you read for pleasure.

Evolution of the eBook

So, on the one hand, you have eBooks that are digital versions of a published print book. I remember when eBooks first started gaining popularity around the time Amazon came out with the Kindle (about 11 years ago). I thought it would never fly! Ha, was I wrong! I thought my husband was crazy for wanting to get one.

As a lover of paper books, I just couldn’t see myself ever enjoying reading a book on an electronic device and not being able to smell those musty pages. Then I became interested in self-publishing. By then (about two years ago) Kindle had an app I could use to read books on my tablet. I think I did pretty well holding out for so long.

I first started reading eBooks to support fellow self-published authors, but then I realized I seem to read faster when I’m reading an eBook. It somehow seems easier to skim pages and speed read. And you can get a lot of eBooks for only 99 cents.

Why do eBooks cost less?

My mom asked me why I priced my latest eBook so much lower than the print version when the content is exactly the same. It’s a valid question and I never really thought too much about it before then. I just assumed eBooks cost less to encourage people to save a few trees. That’s why I price mine lower, but as I started researching eBook pricing, I noticed a lot of big publishers price the eBook the same and sometimes higher than the print version, and I wasn’t able to discover why. I think in creative industries pricing is sometimes just a crap shoot. Hardly much of an explanation.

What is an eBook discusses eBooks on Amazon as well as marketing eBooks known as bait-piece, free downloads, and lead magnets.

The marketing eBook

In the marketing world, an eBook is sometimes referred to as a freebie, a lead magnet, or a bait piece. It’s generally less than 100 pages (usually 15-20) and designed to provide free information that a target group of customers wants badly enough to give up their email address for. My friend Sarah wrote a blog post describing this type of eBook in more detail so I won’t go into it too much here. It’s essentially a way for companies to grow their email list by offering free tips, strategies, and how-to’s.

Buyer beware

The reason I wanted to discuss the different types of eBooks isn’t because I think one is better than the other. On the contrary. They both have their merits and I have learned a ton from free downloads that are bait-piece eBooks. I’ve even written a few. But, like with any industry, unfortunately there are some bad apples out there.   

I have found some eBooks on Amazon that really should be free eBooks on the author’s website, but instead, they are selling them on Amazon, trying to make a quick buck. So, here are some things you can watch for when buying eBooks to make sure you know exactly what you are getting.

Check the page count

I once bought an eBook that was a compilation of several “business resources” that ended up being website addresses. Had I taken a look at the page count and noticed it was only 20 pages, I probably wouldn’t have paid for it.

Read the description carefully

Thinking about the same eBook I purchased about business resources, if I had read the book description carefully, I would have realized it was purely a list of resources, nothing more. I was expecting commentary on those resources and tips about how to use them. None of this was listed in the description, so I’m not sure why I expected it, but because I did, I was very disappointed with my purchase.

Read the reviews

At the time I purchased this eBook, it didn’t have any reviews. That in itself could have been a red flag. If an eBook does have reviews, it’s always a good idea to check them out and see what others have to say about it.

These are just two types of eBooks. There are also the types of eBooks that are PDFs you can buy directly from the author. This is common in the blogging and coaching industries. Whether or not the eBook is valuable is going to depend on how much it costs and how relevant the information is to you. As with any creative industry, it’s all very subjective.

I hope this discussion will help you find valuable eBooks, whether they are the kind you buy on Amazon, a free download, or something in between. I’d love to know in the comments what your favourite eBook is.