eBooks

eBooks (Electronic Books) are a great modern communication platform to create articles, publications, manuals, guidebooks – and more. What’s best (and defines modern) is that they are created for online use and can be created in a variety of ways, making them useful on a variety of online platforms.

Web browsers (like Explorer, Safari, Firefox, and Chrome), tablet computers (ipad, etc…), and handheld devices (cell phones – iphones, Blackberry, etc…) can all provide the visual platform for ebooks – not to mention the currently popular “e-readers” like the Nook® and many others.

Like most things, while most anyone with any computer know-how can create some kind of ebook, if created professionally – that is, by someone with good technical and creative know-how – can help you create some really cool ebooks that not only look dazzling but will be functional, easy and fun to use, and help you accomplish whatever goal your ebook(s) have.

For example; creating a professional design, adding relative and attractive artwork, clean and colorful layout, advertising, functionality OF that advertising (making sure the ads clicked work!), proper click throughs (links that direct to the right location), the correct type of ebook, and many other creative/technical aspects that will absolutely affect the success or failure of any ebook.

Important!

The common misconception of eBooks are that they are printed magazines or books, made into online pdfs. While that can be true for some (these can be created), they are not true eBooks.

Ebooks that are created as/for eBooks specifically have some unique criteria to render them effective in both design and functionality. For example;

Ebook text (per page)

Ebook text (per page) is less per page than printed material. To be truly “viewable” online, the text must be a certain size, and typically 4-6 point sizes larger than traditional print publications. Typical ebooks might contain about 300 words per page, as opposed to 500-600 words on a printed publication.

Single pages versus “spreads”

Creating an eBook is typically experienced page by page. You read a page, you turn a page, etc… So where the turn page buttons are, how the design is laid out, etc… are important factors. Creating “spreads” is a matter of design/layout that should be determined initially. The layout is far different than single page since components will line up differently (where images line up on the spread, where articles start/stop, etc…).

Print vs. Online

Simply, online requires a resolution (quality read in “dots per inch”) of only 72 DPI. Print, typically 300 DPI. So whether print or online, each image and all elements must be created individually at that specific resolution. Otherwise, online versions with too high a resolution will be a HUGE file size taking forever to download, as well as a printable piece (professional quality) having too low res of images will print really fuzzy/grainy… Typically, about 120DPI is recommended for eBooks, so if printed locally (laser printed) they actually come out rather nicely and also look and act well online.

Types of ebooks

Essentially, there are 6 primary (popular) types of ebooks: PDF, Website, Flash-based (although becoming obsolete), Custom Programmable, Application-based (App), and Device-Specific. Each of them unique and carry their own set of strengths and weaknesses. Most of them also have similarities. I think the strengths clearly outweigh the weaknesses.

Primary eBook Type 1. PDF

From my perspective, the best option. PDF (portable document format) is a computer programmable language that has been around for a very long time. It’s a relatively stable format that’s widely used and/or accepted on most all online accessible devices. They can be read/viewed online, and can also be distributed as a file to other devices (emailed, etc…). In addition, they are easy to print out – therefore making a great online/print combination. With this option you can create a really robust print-like, professional e-magazine – or a very simple, fluid, mostly text-based document as a matter of design, each having its own strengths. If you’re looking for a really cool design that looks like a news stand magazine – or a cool, simple well-designed piece that’s mostly stable, and easily read on most devices, this is a strong option.

Strengths:

  1. Easily read on most devices.
  2. Easily distributed (emailed, etc…).
  3. Easy to download.
  4. Can provide sharp, crisp graphics.
  5. Can have interactive abilities (hyperlinks, buttons, page turning, linked contents page to other pages, forms, and more…).
  6. Can be edited (minor corrections only) directly with easy-to-use Adobe Acrobat software.
  7. Allow you to use unlimited design. Fonts, colors, graphics, etc… Not limited as is on Web pages.
  8. Easy to print.
  9. Scaleable. Can be made into a variety of sizes, structures and designs. Single page, spreads, tall, wide, etc…
  10. Text can be “grabbed,” or copied with Adobe Acrobat software  to other programs easily AND/OR can be password protected (read-only) so you can potentially also NOT allow that function if you want that layer of security.

Weaknesses:

  1. While they can be edited with Adobe Acrobat software, moderate/major edits need to be done on the original software that created the pdf. Those costs would need to be estimated through that process.
  2. Larger files create larger file sizes, which can be slower to download. There are definitely ways to avoid this issue (see below), but for longer/larger pdfs, can create a download/bandwidth issue.

Some Average Costs:

The cost will typically depend upon the size of the eBook, how much graphical work is applied, and the amount of follow up or edits are required. Average costs are as follows (but can range as  appropriate):

  1. Design consultation (design cover, TOC, and inside page): $500-$1200+
  2. Production of ebook (delivered)
  • Up to 50 pages: $100 per page
  • 50 to 100 pages: $125 per page (larger projects require more technical time and/or elements)
  • Graphics: $50 per chart, $100 per stock image, custom illustrations quoted separately (larger, more detailed graphics)
  1. Additional edits (beyond 3 rounds of edits or post launch): $100 per hour
  2. Basic landing web page for ebook, if applicable (text provided by client): $500+

Collective (total project costs) will range widely anywhere from about $2500 to $10K. depending on how fancy the ebook is, number of graphics, length, the shape of the content (ready to roll, vs. needs a lot of work), as well as budget and project scope/strategy. Most ebooks tend to hover around the $5K-$7K mark.

Primary eBook Type 2. Website.

Simply put, this type of ebook will look, act, and feel like a true website. Remember essentially, websites can be created in an infinite array of designs, so creating an ebook type of website (html-based) is a matter of setting the “website” up to look, act, and feel like an ebook. You can create a design that mimics most any size or style publication, loaded with buttons, graphics, and other components that make it a true publication-type website. Click a page, or button to turn the page, and it proceeds to that specific page…

Strengths:

  1. Simple html website structure.
  2. Relatively easy to edit (text is easy to work with, graphics can be easy to work with. Subject to typical website changes/edits.
  3. Moderately flexible in design, similar to any website design process.
  4. Can be viewed easily on most all web browsers (computer or handheld/laptop devices).
  5. Size is only limited to practicality. In other words, as long or as large as you feel works well in design/concept.

Weaknesses:

  1. Limited to the constraints of any website, since effectively – it is a website.
  2. Graphically, can be limited whereas a print-type of publication has more design-ability features – web does have limitations.

Some Average Costs:

The cost will typically depend upon the size of the eBook, how much graphical work is applied, and the amount of follow up or edits are required. Average costs are as follows (but can range as  appropriate):

  1. Design consultation (design home page, turn page, design): $500-$1200+
  2. Production of ebook (delivered):
  • Per story or article (on its own single long page): $450
  • Per individual page (article on multi pages): $125 per web page
  • Graphics: $50 per chart, $100 per stock image, custom illustrations quoted separately (fancy extensive work)
  1. Hosting ebook: $350+/-
  2. -Additional edits (past 3 rounds or post launch): $50 – $150 per hour depending on the edit type.

Primary eBook Type 3. Flash-based

Since this type of ebook is becoming obsolete, I’ll keep it brief. Obsolete because they require Flash technology, which Adobe and the rest of the online community has been phasing out. Flash used to be THE prominent technology that allowed interactivity, motion, and other cool functions that now are replaced by Java, JQuery, HTML5, CSS, and many others… Unless there are really solid reasons to go this route (although I can’t imagine there being many) I’d suggest other formats.

 

Primary eBook Type 4. Custom Programmable

Much like the 6th option (Device Specific), this custom programmable option is program/software typically online but can also be available for download and is set up to help the do-it-yourselfer create a simple (but sometimes robust) eBook. It uses proprietary software to allow you tools very similar to Word that allow you to create your eBook. Basically, imagine logging into an online or device app that you plug in content, pick from templates for designs and create simple ebooks from it…

Commonly you will find navigation tools, page flipping, and other tools to help enhance your eBook creation. They can be very limiting in both design and functionality

Strengths: On the fairly easy side of things. You log in or create an account, bring in your content, use their templates, designs, etc… and ready to go very quickly and usually very affordably.

Weaknesses: It is limited to their design. You cannot create a custom design without serious know-how and/or skill and you can’t usually brand it on the high end. Basic stuff like colors, adding logos, etc… are all relatively standard. It can get to be a pain to work with. Remember, you take on the DIY, then you DIY! And technology, software and graphic design can get really sticky— fast. So make sure it’s worth your time and frustration! I have seen hundreds of projects coming through us that are the SOS variety (help us, we tried and it was terrible). It will take patience, know-how, and more patience…

Some Average Costs: Costs are really all over the place. They will cost you less initially than getting a custom design done. Anywhere from $20/month to hundreds of dollars, but again, depends on the vendor— there are new ones appearing every month. You need to also consider the cost of getting content ready, artwork and images, etc… you may think you have that stuff all on your end, but you’d be surprised how that pops up and you end up needing to purchase as well.

Primary eBook Type 5. Application Based (App)

Strengths: They’re modern, they’re cool, they’re part of the millions of apps and growing. So they get a lot of exposure and usage on many devices.

Weaknesses: They are VERY expensive to create. Very complex to create, and part of millions of other apps. Expect 10s or even 100s of thousands of dollars!

Some Average Costs: No average here. We have worked with companies that have 2 million dollar budgets for apps, and others with $50 – $100K+ budgets… They are all over the gamut…

Primary eBook Type 6. Device Specific

The device-specific (D.S.) eBook is solely for a particular brand or device. For example, the Amazon Kindle® eBook reader uses a proprietary format “AZW.” Most of these (D.S.) eReaders follow the same protocol and while they can be created, they are best done through those proprietary software programs and systems – rendering them available through those specific devices. Not the ideal custom created eBook, but an option if it were part of your strategy. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_e-book_formats for more information.

Strengths: Good on each device only

Weaknesses: Good on each device only! Not very customizable in layout or design, commonly very expensive and complex to get the right help in being able to create the ebook.

Some Average Costs: Information not available.

Recommendations 

When creating these ebooks, the following suggestions are recommended:

PDF Type Ebook

You first have to determine whether you want a robust, graphically enhanced publication, or a simpler text-based publication. These (and other) decisions will affect the audience experience as well as the time frame and cost associated with creating these. A good art director or creative manager will be able to consult with you to make the best determination.

  1. For a booklet with more graphic elements, keep shorter in length. 30-40 pages max.
  2. For longer books (more than 40 pages), minimize graphics, keep design simple. There may be more text but you need to decide what “kind” of ebook you are creating. Some prefer reading text with no distracting graphics – others prefer more graphics…
  3. Each page should contain about 300 words max depending on design, and whether you add graphics or not.
  4. Find samples of eBooks you like, it helps direct design in a favorable direction.
  5. Keep a balance of text and graphics to make it interesting!

Worksheet

  1. What type of ebook do you want to create?
  2. How long will it be?
  3. Graphical, or more text?
  4. Cost range? What do you expect to pay to create?
  5. Hosting. Where will it reside for download?
  6. What time frame to create or make available?
  7. Will you have advertising? How much/how many?
  8. Is it one book, chapter book, or how many articles?
  9. Will you have the text ready and edited, or need that created?
  10. Graphics available ready-to-use, or need creating?
  11. Will it have a cover? Cover image?
  12. Is it part of a series, or one-off?
  13. What is your strategy for creating this eBook? Why are you creating it?

Contact us to learn more about ebooks. We provide free initial creative development coaching and advice, and can help get you the perfect ebook. [email protected] or call 508-494-8182.

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