Short lived was the life of the ebook.
Though things could have been different. The end of the digital self-publishing era didn’t have to come to such a tragic demise. It could have been prevented. But people just couldn’t respect the developing medium. There was too much exploiting. There was too much noise. Too many haphazard pages. Too much launch fatigue.
In the end, the ebook was just too frail to survive.
Of course this melancholy funeral procession is simply a glimpse at a potential reality. But it’s one I hear many bloggers herald…
“Stop making ebooks!” or “Ebooks are so over.”
Seriously? Didn’t we just give birth to and cut the umbilical cord of the ebook?
Why ebooks aren’t dead; or why good content is immortal
If you think ebooks are dead you’re probably confusing content with medium. The medium of the ebook is important, but it’s not the most relevant element. Content is what makes an ebook great, just as it’s what makes a physical book great, or any other vehicle for information and transformation.
The “ebooks are dead” chant reminds me of the dot com bubble. Everyone jumped on the internet in the beginning, and just as many bloggers are jumping on ebooks now. Both the web and ebooks level the business and change-maker’s playing field. But they both still rely on solid ideas, business models and content that matters. Any medium can be ground breaking, but without the content and strategy to back it up, it’s a vacant house, an empty echo chamber.
Of course, there are some great things about the ebook as a medium:
- It increases accessibility and makes self publishing easier.
- It allows us to bypass gatekeepers and makes room for rising stars.
- Formatting can be more creative when released from the constraints of a typical book design.
- Embedding of other mediums, like video and audio, can be done more easily.
But it’s not short of limitations either.
- The web can easily become crowded with less than stellar ebooks since barrier to entry is so low.
- Formatting and design can be
slaughteredunderappreciated, creating some fairly atrocious results.
- Because ebooks are easy to create, many people without marketing experience underestimate what it takes to make an ebook successful.
- Just as design can be botched without proper assistance, so can grammar and flow without proper help from an experienced editor. There’s a reason why the creation of a book involves a team.
- (If you want more reasons why you shouldn’t write an ebook, they can be found here.)
With all of these drawbacks, will ebooks die anytime soon? I doubt it.
So, how do we avoid the noise?
I regularly get emails from people announcing their new ebooks (free or otherwise). A really popular tactic right now is the guest contributor ebook that’s a collection of different bloggers’/leaders’ thoughts on a particular subject. Each time I see one of these I think, “Here we go again.”
So the first part of standing out is to not do what everyone else is doing. But that doesn’t mean to not use the same medium as everyone else. Using your creativity in the wrong ways can keep you from succeeding.
Don’t follow the leader and do what worked yesterday. Be bold and don’t be afraid to take risks. Everyone is doing ebooks with text only… maybe you can include video. Everyone calls their ebook an ebook. Instead, call it a digital experience, a la Danielle LaPorte. Or create a new term or your own hybrid model (that’s the point, right?).
Innovators don’t have to compete on the same playing field. When you create your own game, you dominate it.
But don’t underestimate the power of creating great content that people want, even if you use the same medium and model as everyone else. Serving people is a strategy that I don’t see dying any time soon.
People also keep saying that print is dead, or that blogging is dead. Sure, it could happen, but will it any time soon? I doubt it.
As noise is increased and more mediocre ebooks are released, the market becomes more crowded. But this also creates greater opportunity for amazing content to rise to the top. And while others are screaming that ebooks are dead, we’ll go on releasing awesome digital guides that give people value and drive our blogs forward.
Seth Godin had a great post about how when people start saying a particular medium is dead, that is what marks the transition from the drive-by technorati who are always looking for the next new thing, and to the people who are focused on their message and creating great works.
If E-Books are dead, great, now we can focus on our important message while the medium the ‘e-book’ becomes transparent as a way to spread it.
Exactly. I’ll leave the hand waving and fist pumping to them and go on creating great content that my tribe needs.
The only media that I know to be officially dead is betamax.
I don’t even know what that is, so I guess that’s not a good sign. :)
Justin | Mazzastick says
Well I just finished my first digital experience and it was a lot of fun. I am officially a published author. Now I can check that off of my to do list.
When I saw your title I thought that possibly I was too late on creating my first book.
Congratulations Justin. That’s a huge accomplishment. I hope you do something awesome to celebrate.
Hmmmm, I’ve been thinking about this problem for some time now. Sometimes I think that the digital industry is so saturated that it’s not even worth trying to build influence. But the numbers aren’t what matters, it’s great content (and a great network) that is.
Yep. And you could say the same thing for the physical (dead tree) publishing world. It’s very saturated. But a saturated market should never deter you from creating something that matters. Especially if you feel called to do it.
Sean M Kelly says
Excellent Article. I will admit there are many rubbish ebooks out there that look like they’ve been put together in an hour. IF there are more of these than quality ebooks it does give ebooks a “bad name” and puts people off even looking at the good ones. So like you say we need to come up with a unique way of getting peoples attention on the quality ebooks and ignoring the “dross”
The Irish Inspirational Blogger!
Life is Good says
I don’t think ebooks are dead, but the market is so flooded that the person writing it must have some kind of credibility. Usually I won’t buy an ebook from an unknown author. If a person just throws up a slash page with big shiny text and the price of the book, I don’t give the ebook a chance.
If it is a person who writes a blog, and I have the opportunity to read their ideas, opinions, and see what kind of expertise they have, then I am much more likely to buy a ebook from them for additional information.
I see so many people do this and I cringe. I’m glad we’re on the same page.
Ebooks are alive and well. I’d love to see a post about self-publishing, too. Penelope Trunk recently created a lot of buzz by self-publishing a book of (basically) her blog posts, and offering it for one week only. She sold every copy.
Christian Ficara says
The main difference between the advent of the ebook and now is that consumers are less likely to buy one to sample the technology. It’s like every other medium, people experiment at first to see what the fuss is about but eventually become more discerning. Quality of content and exposure to the right people will still result in viable ebook ventures.
I like that we can explore new ways to take the ebook to another level by integrating more media and other features in that a traditional book (or traditional “ebook”) would never do.
Jon Henshaw says
Whoever is saying ebooks are dead is obviously an idiot trying to bring attention to themselves. Maybe they mean the poorly written, low quality books pimped through Clickbank. To get some perspective, all you need to do is Google ebook sales. This reeks of the same people in my own industry that suggest that the Web is dead, and it will all be mobile apps. Idiots…the entire lot of them.
Samantha Manning says
I have been in the process of writing a very simple e-book for months. Mine is intended to foster interest in my work and hopefully bring in like-minded people to me. Truly, good content is the key. Awesome post.
While I think that many ebooks, even the crappy ones, offer something of value, you’re right. There is more and more crap flooding the market, material written bass-ackward, and hard-to-follow content. It is time to get out there and offer something different to people. Thanks for the idea. It’s time to take e-books to a whole new level.
Having just written about this topic myself, I was intrigued by your article and have watched with some amazement the comments that have followed.
Seems to me the vast majority of folks suffer what psychologists call “cognitive dissonance”. Dissonant information, which contradicts the collective view, is uncomfortable and therefore people seek to avoid it. They may do this by shooting the messenger, lashing out by suggesting non-believers are “obviously an idiots”, or by conscripting new converts to their fold to justify their own position.
Intellectually honest people can plainly see history repeating itself in the hyper growth of blogging and ebooks. Examples are plentiful: 8-track tape, pagers, Myspace, buggy whips, dot com stocks, and most recently housing has all suffered the same fate. They crashed! History does indeed repeats itself, and unfortunately so does the collective denial of the masses that repeatedly say, “it’s different this time”.
The popularity of blogging and ebooks continues to grow (133 million blogs have been indexed by Technorati since 2002), which is great for some like, Brian Clark, Darren Rowse, Seth Godin, and others, who continue to profit greatly from the those jumping on the band wagon, but unless you are involved in helping others profit from this irrational exuberance with a “how to make money blogging” business/site, you have found it increasingly difficult to make $ from this form of media.
In the recent past enthusiasts rode high with posts quickly skyrocketing to the top of Google’s search results for any given topic, fueled by generous links from fellow bloggers, but now those entering this arena struggle against billions of competitors clogging field.
When you see people attempting to re-brand, spin, or call ebooks and blogs by another name, i.e. “digital marketing”, this is a sure sign that air has already began to leak from the bubble.
I like your point that we too often see the “next thing” as different. There does seem to be that tendency. I guess hindsight is always 20/20.
Blogging is definitely a viable medium, and leveraging the internet does have great implications. But I think great content, the desire to serve, passion and focus are what will get you ahead no matter what medium you’re using. The same principles worked a thousand years ago, and will continue to work a thousand years from now.
Jose Maria Gil says
The only thing that matters here is the quality of the content. If the content is crap it doesn’t matter if you share it through an ebook, a blog post, a tweet or a Facebook update, it is still crap. But if the content is good and adds value, ebooks are an awesome way and opportunity to spread our message. Ebooks are far from been dead. Crapy content is totally dead.
Naveen Kulkarni says
ebooks going to disappear ? No way ! In fact they are on thier peak of popularity ! Why not ? Kindle , iPad and other devices offer such a pleasant reading experience with ebook support ! I personally written and puplished an eBook on my blog and it is well received by audience !
Karl Staib - Party Biz Connect says
Too often we try to be something we are not. People think ebooks are easy so they give it a try. A friend of mine put out a terrible ebook and I tried to give him advice on how to improve it. He didn’t listen. He said, “If I try and fail, so be it. At least I tried.”
The problem with this theory is his trying put a black mark in his readers’ eyes. They want something high quality and they get junk they aren’t going to check out your next offer. I think people need to apply the 10,000 hour rule to their project. If they haven’t put the hours in to create something unique and useful then keep practicing. You’ll know when you are ready. You’ll feel it in your bones.
Barak Rosenbloom says
You had me a little nervous there for a minute–having just finished an ebook!
But that quickly went away when you started focusing on content, marketing, creating something great. Producing something well-designed and well-written and thoughtful and valuable takes time, energy, passion, commitment and focus and is well worth the effort.
I spent over a year with a few people developing ideas and content, and then partnered with two brilliant writers to get every word right. I could have tossed out an ebook a year ago, but it wouldn’t have been anything. Now, we have something we’re proud of, excited by, and from initial feedback is something people absolutely love.
Thanks for the affirmation, it came at just the right time!
Smart. Great Post Title.
Loran Hills says
You had me worried there for a minute! What about ebooks with beautiful photographs and journaling prompts?
Here are some thoughts that came to me after reading:
1) A medium can only die if an innovation betters it in every way measurable.
Mp3 players killed CDs which killed Cassettes which killed 8-track because each truly met all of its predecessor’s benefits. Yet, the most out-dated tech, radio, is still going strong because it’s unique.
2) If you browse Amazon, you get an idea of the size of the book market: enormous!
Over 347,000 books were published in 2011, up from 2010 (https://www.bowker.com/assets/downloads/products/isbn_output_2002-2011.pdf).
Even with numbers like that, it would be silly to think the book market is saturated. With that in mind, the ebook market is no where near it.
There could probably be 100x more ebooks and there would still be markets to fill.
3) Publishing *mediums* don’t get saturated, *markets* get saturated. We get caught up in our little circles of the Web, but as soon as you break out of that bubble, you come to realize that its true scope is nearly incomprehensible.
I’ve noticed that the most successful people I know are the one’s who connect the dots and have the quiet confidence to pioneer new markets. With that mentality, saturation is irrelevant.
Much thanks for your insights and inspiring those thoughts in me! :)
I am creating an ebook right now. A freebie. The more ebooks the better. The higher the bar. The more people rise to the challenge or don’t as the case may be. Readers will vote either way. And writers will learn what works and does not. Like you, I believe amazing content will always rise to the top. A great network helps but in the end it is all down to ideas, hard work, discipline, delivering value and nurturing a community.
Amir Shani says
Wow, you really made me pause and re look at my EBook – when opportunity knock asnwer the door. I’m bias but I think the content there is great and inspiring so I’ll keep promoting it.
Love this post! Thank you!
“Innovators don’t have to compete on the same playing field. When you create your own game, you dominate it.”
Working on an EBook right now for a clothing swap how-to through my first venture at http://www.coophx.com