This piece first appeared on Web Analytics World, where I contribute regular articles on content and comms. I’m sharing it here because I think ebooks represent a big opportunity for organisations as a medium for developing and sharing deeper industry knowledge and insights for colleagues, customers and peers. That doesn’t mean to say they should be the vehicle for over-long, dry content. The point here is that ereaders are becoming pervasive so organisations should consider using them more. I’m also delighted that I got to interview David D’Souza about how he published his crowdsourced HR book Humane, Resourced. David provides lots of insights into the process of ebook publishing.
The book industry is currently going through a similar change to the one that hit music and video. New business models are emerging that could change the game for the reader, author, publisher and book vendor.
Recently, Scribd and Oyster announced that they were launching subscription services for ebooks. A Spotify or Netflix for readers, if you like.
Ebooks have been around for a few years now – the Kindle is six years old – and recent research suggests that sales of ebooks are flat. So, new models could be just the pick me up the industry needs.
The new subscription services serve as a timely reminder of how far ereading has come. And from a publishing perspective, the low barriers to entry have made it possible for anyone – or any organisation – to publish their own books at little cost.
If subscription services take off, we could see a renewed interest in, and appetite for, reading. Surely this is something organisations could capitalize on themselves?
Rather than attempting to go viral in your marketing, why not consider creating a book? It may sound counter intuitive as shorter seems to equate to more popular in our digital world (think Vine), but if your colleagues, clients and potential customers have smartphones or tablets then they can read your book.
A book sounds and feels more authoritative but it does not need to be 300 pages long and be authored by one person. It could even include contributions from your customers. It is interesting to see that Sainsbury’s, for example, is experimenting with shorter, and cheaper, ebook formats.
To lift the lid on the process of creating a book, I interviewed David D’Souza, who has just published the book Humane, Resourced, a collection of more than 50 blog posts related to HR and organizational development that have been edited in to a book and is available on Amazon.
Could you explain the project idea and why you wanted it to be an ebook.
The project was an experiment to collate a collection of blogs about HR and business into an actual book. There is so much good blogging material but social media is a curious beast and some of the best work will never be seen as it was published at the wrong time, didn’t get shared by the right people. I wanted to create a platform for people to share the work they were most proud of and in a more traditional or permanent way. I’m a firm believer that if you give people ‘white space’ they will fill it, I wanted to test that theory out. So I sent out a tweet asking for contributors and soon I was receiving offers to write chapters. I’ve ended up with over 50 authors contributing and the CEO of the CIPD (HR’s professional body) writing the foreword.
I wanted it to be an eBook for a number of reasons:
- It was a project that I could easily manage from the comfort of my home and would be low cost
- A book collated by social media where the aim was to create a traditional bound book would have felt odd. I’m not saying it isn’t a nice idea, it just didn’t feel like the idea I had
- I’d get to learn about new technology
- I knew some people would like to link to videos or include pictures and (curiously), clicking through to a link from a piece of paper can be challenging.
Which platform did you use and why? What were the tech considerations i.e. Android over ios?
I decided to go with Pressbooks for a number of reasons. It was free at the time (they have since introduced charging, but it isn’t prohibitive), it is based on the WordPress platform – so for those people already blogging it would be familiar if they uploaded their own work – and it seemed simple to use. It also allowed me to export the work in a number of formats, giving me flexibility over what I did next. I could have used a number of platforms to publish directly, but part of the attraction of Pressbooks was the collaborative nature. I could email individual authors passwords and they could then upload their own chapters. This kept the project as ‘low touch’ as possible for me. I did the odd bits of editing on my Android phone, but by and large most work was done on my PC.
How did you find the process of creating an ebook?
It was a wonderful learning experience. I learnt about new technologies, I learnt more about publishing models and taxation, ISBN numbers and it was a fascinating study in collaboration. I learnt what people will do for free when they are passionate about something. There were things I just hadn’t understood fully coming into the project – that you can’t simply publish a book on Amazon as ‘free’, you have to allocate a price. It makes sense when you think about their business model, but it was just something I hadn’t fully thought through. It has been a relatively time consuming experience but hugely rewarding. The process mainly involved me stumbling onto solutions to problems through Google, but that is the amazing thing about the technology we are surrounded with. If I had attempted to do this 15 years ago – self publish a book and coordinate 50 authors from around the globe – it would have been an extended exercise in futility. I was able to complete the whole project in four months.
How much did it cost to produce?
One of the wonderful things about this approach is the cost. I have paid £15 to remove a watermark from the pages and that is the only cost. Due to the collaborative nature of the project people have offered their services for free as copywriters and a hugely talented artist/designer called Simon Heath produced the cover for free. The main costs have been time and my wife’s patience.
Are you able to track numbers of readers? How?
We are selling the book, initially, on Kindle, so Amazon will be tracking sales and hopefully writing us the occasional cheque for royalties that will be split between charities chosen by the authors.
Do you have any top tips for others who might want to create an ebook . . .
If I wasn’t using such a collaborative approach with multiple authors I would have simply done things directly through Amazon. They really do take you step by step through the process. Publishing a book now only takes about 15 minutes longer than publishing a blog – Amazon even handle tax declarations through their website. The challenge comes with the next step – publicity – and utilising the technology available there to get your message out. I’m lucky, I have 50 people with the same ambition.