June 2, 2013

Ebook Tips for Nonprofit News Organizations


If you are a nonprofit news organization, you may be thinking of potential methods to diversify the way your news content can be distributed to a variety of publics. One method to consider is the route of offering your content through ebooks.

The ebook industry is an area that all news organizations should be watching closely.

According to a recent BookStats 2013 Survey, Meredith Schwartz of Library Journal states that “Ebooks make up a fifth of the trade market, according to BookStats, and were one of the growth drivers, growing by nearly half (44 percent) to over $3 billion in net revenue and grew almost as much in number of titles sold (42.8 percent).”

A Pew Internet & American Life Project study by Lee Rainie and Maeve Duggan released in December 2012 found, “In the past year, the number of those who read e-books increased from 16% of all Americans ages 16 and older to 23%.”

The study also highlights that the increase coincides directly with the increase in ownership of ebook devices:

“As of November 2012, some 25% of Americans ages 16 and older own tablet computers such as iPads or Kindle Fires, up from 10% who owned tablets in late 2011. And in late 2012 19% of Americans ages 16 and older own e-book reading devices such as Kindles and Nooks, compared with 10% who owned such devices at the same time last year.”

These statistics show that the ebook industry is set to grow dramatically, as the market is still young. The technology for ebook devices will also become cheaper in the years ahead and more pervasive.

This poses a great opportunity for nonprofit and community news organizations to identify new ways of reaching their publics with an ebook experience.

As Taylor Miller Thomas stated in an article in Poynter about ebook publishing a few weeks ago, news organizations are using ebooks to feature reported stories but also to feature fiction and non-fiction, and educational content for use in the classroom (K-12 or higher education).

The sky is the limit to what you can do with your own ebook initiative.

I covered the topic of ebooks about a year ago for news ventures, but I have some more updated tips to share with you this week.

How To Get Started

There are many places offline and online that you can check out on how to get started with creating your own ebook. I suggest looking at the questions I had in my previous post on on-demand publishing. Those questions can help you create the right content strategy that will make the most sense for your ebook initiative.

Once you have those questions figured out, there are several how-to guides that you can check out on how to create an ebook. Here are some resources I highly recommend (some of these were mentioned in the previous post):

These resources can be a good start to knowing the basics.

It’s Not Just About the Content

When creating an ebook, content is important but the design and layout is also crucial. Emma Wright states in her blog that you should involve your design department or at least a designer in the process. Your ebook should look appealing, attractive and should be easy to use and navigate. This all takes time and patience.

She also mentions that the backend of coding the ebook and the metadata also need to be handled correctly as this can make a big impact on how your book is laid out, how the reader uses the interactive functions in the ebook, and how the ebook ends up being indexed online for future searches.

Furthermore, Wright also states in her blog that customers will have different expectations of an ebook than a printed book:

“For example, indexes and internal references should be hyperlinked, the text should be searchable and the font size changeable. I think it will increasingly become the case that, if an e-book contains errors that are then corrected, customers will expect their purchased copies to be updated automatically.”

It’s not just about the content it’s also about the overall ebook experience.

Think About the Future – Preservation

As you develop your ebook initiative, it’s important to realize that your ebook may have updates, edits, corrections or other iterations – perhaps in different volumes or issues as well. All of these versions of your ebook should be kept for the future – whether that is a year from now or decades from now. Preservation of your digital content is important.

As Amy Kirchoff states in a recent article, digital preservation is important for all kinds of digital content, including ebooks:

“Digital preservation (whether of e-journals, eBooks, or anything else) is the series of management policies and activities necessary to ensure the enduring usability, authenticity, discoverability, and accessibility of content over the very long term.”

A company called Portico, specializes in digital content preservation, including ebooks. According to Portico, digital preservation for your ebook can also be helpful if your publisher closes shop and you don’t have access to that issue anymore or a catastrophic event happens with your digital publisher and your ebook is no longer available. According to their website, they have over 29,000 ebooks preserved as of 2012.

Having your ebooks digitally preserved can also be helpful for the documentation of your overall news organization if you have annual reports to file to your board or to update key stakeholders investing in your organization about your overall content initiatives.

Final Note – It Takes Time and Patience

On a final note, publishing an ebook is not an overnight process. It does take time and patience. Every step entails careful thought and planning from the content strategy to the publisher you decide to work with. With careful steps, it can lead to a successful outcome – for your news organization and your readers.


Photo Credit: andyi via photopin | cc

  • http://bit.ly/PCebooks Caroline

    Thanks for the article! We’ve enjoyed using iBooks Author. It’s intuitive and has great built-in widgets to add interactive and multimedia elements to books. The downside is that you can only sell your book on iBookstore. Creativist, Atavist’s web-based app, allows you to create e-books for multiple e-readers at once. We’re experimenting with it this summer. E-books are really great, but we’re still seeing that we need to build a market for them for non-breaking news international journalism. Eager to get feedback if anyone’s read our books or other international news e-books! http://bit.ly/PCebooks

  • Amy Schmitz Weiss

    Thanks so much for sharing this information Caroline! It’s another platform and tool that can help when it comes to ebook production. Good luck with your project! Eager to hear about others’ experiences on this front too.