AddMe - Search Engine Optimization Book Printing Forum: More on E-Books

Sunday, April 24, 2005

More on E-Books

E-books are the latest addition to an author/publisher's product offerings. There are some devoted e-book readers in the general population. Dan Poynter, a leading industry consultant, thinks they are the wave of the future. While they may be the future, today an e-book helps an author/publisher extend his product offering for a book. Consider a packaged goods product marketing analogy. If one goes to the grocery store, marketers are trying to compete for shelf space by offering a variety of products within the same product line. Hence, Campbell's has its regular soup, dry soups, microwaveable soups, individual serving soups, economy sized soups, etc. Campbell's dominates the soup aisle by offering so many types of soup that the shelves look red and white for as far as the eye can see.

Books are no different (although traditional book publishers won't agree). Author/publishers compete for shelf space in bricks & mortar bookstores and for web space on Amazon. Having a hardcover, trade paperback, e-book, audio book, and large print book provides the customer with a variety of options to consume the information and extends the books "shelf space" in the bookstore or on Amazon.

E-books have three distinct formats: Adobe Acrobat PDF, Microsoft .lit and HTML formats (readable on Mobibook readers and others). Continuing with the product extension concept, an author/publisher may opt for all three e-book formats to appeal to the broadest range of e-book readers. There are distinct differences in the readership among the three leading types of e-books, though. PDF books (and their specialized cousins, Acrobat e-book format) are the most popular. Microsoft is in second place, although a considerable distance behind and HTML books are a distant third. This may change, however, as Amazon has recently purchased Mobibook. Author/publishers are scrambling to convert their books into HTML to be read on Mobibook readers because they think that Amazon's marketing muscle will make this format more significant to readers.

E-books are constructed in two distinct parts, the text pages and the cover. As with traditional books, the cover of an e-book helps to sell the content inside. Unlike traditional books, however, most e-books are selected by the title first and the cover art second because most web sites list the titles but not the book covers for the buying public to see.

Constructing an e-book is divided into two distinct processes, converting the text pages into e-book format and converting the cover art. The text page conversion ranges from easy to hard depending on the format of e-book selected. If a printer owns a full version of Adobe Acrobat (including the distiller software), If a printer owns Distiller, converting the text is as easy as distilling the Word or page layout file into PDF. If the printer doesn't own distiller, then Adobe has a web site where one can upload a file and Adobe will distill the file. This service used to be free for up to 10 files, but may now cost a minimal amount. Microsoft .lit file conversion requires specialized software that few people own. A printer can opt to purchase the software or go to a service bureau to create the .lit file. HTML compilers for text are also available, but they are hard to learn and use. A printer can opt to go to a service bureau to have them create the HTML file for you.

Cover art is created in the same way as the text file for all three formats. The challenge is marrying the cover art to the text file to create a complete e-book. It is easier with Adobe Acrobat than the other two formats. With all three formats the trick is to keep the file size of the e-book small enough to download over the Internet. Cover art, unlike text files, is very large (images are always larger than text files). Combining the cover art to the text files and then optimizing the overall e-book file size requires skill.

E-book pricing is bi-modal; it is either very low or very high. Publishers have experimented with different price points to discover what price point sells best. At the low end of the price spectrum, e-books from $4.95 to $9.95 sell well. The ideal price within that range is $5.95 based on several studies. At the other end of the spectrum are the publications that offer specialized information available nowhere else. These publishers price their e-books from $69.95 to $125 with the ideal price at $79.95. The higher priced e-books require significantly more Internet (and sometimes direct mail) marketing to drive potential buyers to buy. At those prices, however, they have more profit margin to invest in such marketing. E-books priced like traditional books languish. Most readers understand that part of the price of a traditional book pays for the distribution (up to 70% of the retail price, in many cases). With e-books, however, the readers know the distribution costs are negligible and the readers are unwilling to pay nearly the same price as a traditional book.


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