Despite the opportunities offered by digital publishing, it still doesn’t resonate with business owners in the same way that print does. That’s a shame, and I'm going to tell you why in this short guide to digital publishing.
What is digital publishing?
Very simply, digital publishing is all about producing electronic books – books you read via an app or a device such as a tablet or e-reader.
The most well-known digital publishing format is Amazon’s Kindle, which makes books available via its app and e-reader.
The alternatives to Kindle include Apple’s iBooks, Barnes & Noble’s NOOK and Ratuken’s Kobo, though they don’t get anywhere near Kindle in terms of reach, volume and ease of use.
NOOK only publishes content in the US now, so it's even more limited than the others. Apple’s iBooks is the most widely available as it's an app that’s included on all Apple’s iPhones, iPads and laptops.
For android users, there’s a range of apps that can be used to read non-Kindle digital books. Check out this article for more information.
But the king of digital publishing is Amazon's Kindle. It revolutionised digital publishing and dominates many (but not all) international markets.
What are the main benefits of digital publishing?
Every publishing format has it's plusses and minuses, but surprisingly, digital publishing has far more pros than cons because:
1: Digital books can grow your business even if they’re short
Digital books can be very short (you don’t have to fill pages in the same way as you do with a printed book), which makes them fast, inexpensive and easy to publish. All you need to do is take your book content and upload it in an acceptable format for whichever publishing platform you’re using (Kindle, Draft2Digital, etc).
2: Digital books are inexpensive to produce and publish
When you publish digitally, you don’t need to pay a designer to create the interior pages – so, no text design, no page layouts and no proofs – which is why a digital book is also so much cheaper to produce. You also only need a front cover (no spine or back cover) for a digital book. Amazon allows you to create a cover as part of their KDP system, so you don’t even need to pay a cover designer if you don’t want to. You could also create a cover for free using Canva. Or, if you want something a bit more professional and know you’re going to produce more than one book, it may be worth investing in BookBrush.
3: Digital books are fast to write and even faster to publish
It almost goes without saying that a short book that doesn’t require text design or page layout is going to be much faster to produce. But there, I said it anyway! The speed with which you can publish a digital book makes it enormously attractive. If you’ve got relevant and appropriate content, you could literally get a book out in a few hours if you put your mind to it. Even starting from scratch you could do it in a few weeks.
4: Digital books are an accessible format for all authors
A book that’s short, inexpensive and fast to produce makes becoming an author far more accessible to most business owners. The alternatives to digital publishing are print and audio, but both formats require a far greater investment of time and money than a digital book. They’re also far more technically complex and demanding, which means hiring help to get them to the point of publication.
5: Digital books offer a great learning opportunity
Digital publishing is an easy way to learn how publishing works. So, gaining the experience of producing a digital book will stand you in good stead when (and if) you decide to publish a book in print.
6: Digital books make it easy for you to extend your reach
If you want to publish more than one book or a linked series of books, digital is a fantastic option. You could easily create a series of short digital books in just a few weeks or months. Having several books to your name also helps with marketing as Amazon’s algorithm is boosted when an author has multiple titles to their name.
7: Digital books are easy to update and amend
A digital book is easy to update. That means you can add new offers, content and links whenever you want. This gives you an advantage over authors of printed books because it means you can respond to changes in your business and meet the needs of your readers much faster.
Formatting for digital publishing
Formatting your content for digital publishing is easy and free. Amazon accepts the widest range of document formats, including Word and EPUB.
- Check out Amazon’s acceptable formats here
All this proves that tech doesn’t need to stand in the way of you becoming an author. It really is remarkably fast and simple to publish a digital book.
Is Kindle the Best Option?
As well as the benefits offered by the KDP Select programme, Kindle offers access to a vast, book-buying market. The dedicated Kindle shop gives you access to a huge volume of traffic and automated promotional opportunities. With its easy-to-use software and billing capabilities, the advantages of publishing in Kindle format are difficult to ignore.
Kindle makes it easy for readers to access their content. Its Kindle e-reader is the market leader and its free app is accessible on all devices. So, in terms of its catalogue of books and accessibility, Kindle is the king of the digital publishing formats and can’t be ignored. But that doesn’t mean you have to publish exclusively in Kindle.
In fact, there’s no reason at all why you can’t publish on all platforms if you wish. And it’s worth experimenting to find the best option for you. But you can’t have it all. If you decide to publish to other formats (iBooks, Kobo) you can’t sign up to Amazon’s KDP Select programme too.
If you opt to join KDP Select, you’ll be bound to it for a minimum of 90 days. If you do nothing after that initial period, you’ll simply stay in the KDP Select programme. However, you can opt out of KDP Select after the 90 days is up (for more details go to https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/help/topic/G200798990).
While you’ll lose the benefits that come with being part of the KDP Select programme, you may find your sales positively impacted by making your book available via Smashwords or Draft2Digital.
What are the downsides of digital publishing?
The most obvious downside of digital publishing is that your book isn’t a physical, printed product. Of course, you can produce your book in a printed format if you want to (and assuming it’s long enough, printed books need to be a minimum of 40 pages to be accepted by most Print On Demand suppliers), and that may be something you want to do after you’ve published the digital version.
Printed books can give you options that a digital book can’t. For example, you can send a physical book to potential clients, journalists, podcast owners and speaking groups, making it a key part of your marketing activities. Having a printed book definitely gives you more kudos than a digital book, simply because it’s an object you can hold in your hands and show to others.
Let’s get digital
No matter how much you might want to produce a printed book, please don’t ignore the advantages offered by digital publishing. Many very successful business owners have built significant followings by publishing digital books. While digital publishing might not make your heart sing, it'll still enable you to reach new audiences, raise your profile, build a responsive email list and, above all, grow your business.