How Ebooks Are Transforming Marketing

Ebooks are transforming marketingThe word “eBook” means different things to different people. For publishers, eBook is just the electronic version of printed books. Amazon has popularized this term recently with their Kindle eBook reader.

However, as Anne Handley and C.C. Chapman said in their book Content Rules: marketers have “usurped the term for their own use” (p. 172).

And thank God they did.

Ebooks have become the new version of the White Paper. As Jonathan Kranz said in his book The eBook eBook: “A successful ebook is more collegial, reader-friendly and visually interesting than the traditional white paper.”

I think ebooks are frankly more exciting than white papers. David Meerman Scott was one of the first marketers to popularize the ebook for marketing purposes with the release of the free ebook version of The New Rules of PR in January of 2006 (a prelude to his book The New Rules of Marketing and PR).

In an interview with White Paper Source, he said that he made a strategic decision not to “gate” the ebook. In other words, he did not require people to give up their name, email address and other demographic information before downloading the ebook.

“I wasn’t trying to collect names; the goal was to spread my ideas.” (David Meerman Scott on eBooks and White Papers,

Since then hundreds of marketers and high tech companies have used eBooks as channels for their thought leadership content.

Characteristics of ebooks:

  • They are usually in landscape format as opposed to portrait format.
  • They are usually graphics heavy, with an emphasis on colorful graphics to illustrate a point or to break up the monotony of text heavy documents.
  • They are typically broken up into bit-sized chunks of information, such as one concept per page, as if you were writing bullet points instead of paragraphs or chapters.
  • Magazine-style presentation, with lots call-outs, quote boxes, and sidebars.
  • Writing style is very conversational, very web 2.0, and sometimes reads like an extended blog post.
  • Most of them are available without requiring registration first, although many still require registration.

Examples of cool ebooks:

Ebooks plus Microsites

If you thought ebooks were exciting, Brian Clark from Copyblogger created a new type of ebook: the ebook plus microsite.

Clark made his Authority Rules free report as an ungated PDF and microsite. You could download the PDF on to your computer and print it out to read at the time of your choosing, or you could read it on the web.

For the microsite, Clark assigned each chapter it’s own web page, allowing each page to be indexed by Google and increasing the possibility that each discrete topic could be individually found by people interested in that topic.

Clark called this approach the “authority website.” Clark said:

“Think about it: you build authority websites by creating exceptional content that gets you noticed, promotes social media sharing, and attracts links that builds your authority with Google.” (Clark, Aug. 2009,The Strategy Behind the Authority Rules Website,

Following closely on his heals, and inspired by Clark, Joe Pulizzi of Junta 42 and the Content Marketing Institute released the Content Marketing Playbook, again, available as a downloadable PDF and a microsite with a different web page per chapter.

Characteristics of ebooks plus microsites:

  • Available as PDF for download and microsite
  • Enables easy sharing via social media channels
  • Increases the quantity of valuable content that Google can index, increasing the chances that your content will be found by prospective customers who are searching for answers to the questions you can provide them.
  • Similar to ebooks, written in a more conversational, blog-like style.

I wrote en eBook (in Spanish) that I gated, requiring people to sign up for my newsletter before downloading. So far I’ve had almost 1,000 downloads and generated dozens of leads, including people who have reached out to me via email asking about my services.

What do you think of eBooks? Tell us about your experience marketing with an ebook, or about your plans to use an ebook for marketing purposes, in the comments section below.

About the author: Fernando Labastida, the current blog editor for the Austin AMA, has been involved in sales and marketing for almost 20 years. He has carried a bag as an account executive for start-up and established software companies, and he has led marketing efforts in the U.S. and Latin America. He specializes in content marketing and copywriting, is a marketing evangelist for the firm Leading Results.