One of the biggest advantages that digital books bring to the table has to do with the immediate connection you can forge with your target audience.
Let’s say it’s a decade ago and you’re in charge of a brand that will be publishing a new book relevant to your industry. After you sit down and write the book itself, you really only have one real option in terms of distribution: you need to partner with a book publisher to get that content out into the world. If nobody is interested you can always self-publish, but that also means your reach will be far limited (and the number of physical copies that exist will probably be a fraction of what they could have been, too).
Flash forward to today, and digital books have turned nearly everything we know about the book publishing world on its head. Yes, it’s absolutely true that recent studies have confirmed that eBook sales are on the decline over the last few years – both in terms of units sold and dollar sales.
But it’s equally true that those who are seeing the most success in this realm are those who have cut out the middleman and who have taken their content directly to readers. Rather than relying on a traditional publishing house to show interest in your digital book, there are a variety of programs (like Kindle Direct Publishing, for one example) that let you take your content directly to the readers in the most efficient way possible.
Therefore, creating digital books represents an enormous opportunity just waiting to be taken advantage of by savvy brands who know what they’re doing… provided that you keep a few key things in mind, of course.
Creating the Perfect Digital Book: Breaking Things Down
By far, the most important thing for you to understand about creating digital books is that while the process is very similar to a certain extent, there are also a number of distinct differences (read: advantages) that you’re definitely going to want to take advantage of.
Ask any book lover which format they prefer, and the chances are high that they’ll say digital books every single time. This is because the experience you get when reading a physical copy of a book is just far different (and in a lot of cases, preferred) to the digital equivalent.
A big part of the problem here is that far too many eBook publishers focus on one thing and one thing only when creating their titles: readable content.
Are the physical book and the eBook equivalent identical in terms of the pages themselves? Yes… but really, the only thing the latter has over the former is convenience. You can take countless eBooks with you on a smartphone or tablet while you’re on the go, which you can’t do with physical books.
That’s it. It’s also a large part of the reason why people still prefer that physical experience.
Therefore, if you really want to make the best impression possible with your content, you need to play to the strengths that make the digital book format unique. Meaning that you need to lean directly into those things that you can only get from this particular medium.
Case in point: supplementary content. If you’re reading a physical book and it makes reference to some video on the Internet, for example, that extension of the experience exists only in the reader’s mind. You either have to hope they saw it and are familiar with it, or that they’re willing to go look it up themselves.
With an eBook, on the other hand, there’s nothing stopping you from including a link to that video within the text itself. You could even have it play right there on the page so as not to interrupt the reading experience, but to add to it and enhance it (just make sure you get rights cleared for all third party content, of course).
Is this an over-simplified example? Sure – but it’s also a great illustration of something the eBook format can accomplish that a physical copy will never be able to.
You could fill your pages with all sorts of multimedia content – from music to sound effects and more. You could give users to have it all play at the tap of a finger, or take control of the experience and have it play automatically. You could even use a tool like Visme (which I founded to help people better communicate with one another) to create social media graphics that are animated – again enhancing the experience in a way that only the digital world can provide.
In that way, think of it less like you’re creating a straight “digital book” and more about designing a genuine multimedia experience. Is it a book? Is it a website? Is it a video? Is it an interactive blog? It’s all of the above, at the exact same time, and that is an excellent set of tools for any brand to have when it comes to deepening the relationship you’re building with people all over the world.
If you’re working on a non-fiction book or some type of marketing collateral, you could even use a site like Respona to research additional content to include alongside everything you’ve written. You could find related articles our sources for your own information that enhance the picture you’re trying to paint. You could include the hyperlinks or (again, with permission) include the entire articles themselves so that people can both get a surface level understanding into the topic and can also dive much deeper if they really want to.
Note that that particular approach also represents a great opportunity when it comes to marketing your book. Say there is an article from a particular thought leader in your industry that you want to link to in your digital book. There’s nothing stopping you from reaching out to that person to see if they will spread the word to their own audience. Suddenly, a big chunk of the core group of people who are paying attention to this person are now paying attention to you, too.
The Future is Here, and It is Digital
In the end, it’s critical that you stop thinking of digital books as just a literal 1:1 translation of their physical counterparts. Yes, the words are likely still going to be identical and the “story” you’re telling will remain the same in both formats. But stopping there only limits the quality of the experience you’re able to create, and taps into but a fraction of the full potential that this 21st century medium has to offer.
Instead, you need to look at the physical copy of the book for what it really is: a starting point. Once you’ve made sure that the content has translated, build upon it using digital tools in a way that only the digital format will allow. Go above and beyond to give people an experience that literally cannot exist in a physical book and, make no mistake about it, it’s one that they won’t soon forget.
About the Author
Payman Taei is the founder of Visme, an easy-to-use online tool to create engaging presentations, infographics, and other forms of visual content. He is also the founder of HindSite Interactive, an award-winning Maryland digital agency specializing in website design, user experience and web app development.