eBooks tend to be shorter and more interactive than whitepapers. eBooks often include links to additional multimedia information and focus on the how-to aspect of a subject. Whitepapers are more static and less interactive than eBooks and focus more on thought-leadership content.
- They are simple to create and inexpensive to produce – You do not need a publisher or a printer! You just need some basic software and the time to write about your idea or innovative technique.
- They are engaging – Because they are not just PDFs or Word docs, you can actually get your reader to interact and take some type of action. Encourage them to click on links, fill out a survey, subscribe to your blog, watch a video or even buy something from you online.
- They are easy to distribute and spread like wildfire – Make the ebook free (do not collect money, do not collect email addresses) and add a Creative Commons license to the content so people can share the e-book easily. Create a landing page, add a call-to-action on your website, blog about it, put a link your email signature, email it to your friends/partners/vendors, post a video on YouTube, tell your fans and followers.
- They are easy to read and more eco-friendly – Although whitepapers can be read online, the vertical formatting makes them difficult to read. eBooks are easily to read digitally on-demand while whitepapers often need to be printed to be read easily.
- They are boring - Wikipedia defines a whitepaper as “an authoritative report or guide that often addresses issues and how to solve them. White papers are used to educate readers and help people make decisions.” Even the definition puts me to sleep.
- They are old school - They date back to the early 1900s. You might remember The Churchill White Paper of 1922 from your high school history class, but then you might not. Either way, we have not really changed the way we use them since then. They are still a form of semi self-promotion and propaganda. It is just that now they are found on the web and are used by businesses as a marketing or sales tool rather than promoting government policy.
- They are forced upon us – Most people do not want to read whitepapers, they just feel like they have to read them because they are “authoritative” and written by “industry leaders”; on the other hand, because their boss said so.
- They are not good link bait – Because you typically have to register (give your email address) to download the whitepaper, most people don’t promote or share whitepapers because they don’t want to force their fans and followers and friends to give their email address away and get hounded by sales reps.
The most important concepts to remember, whether you choose to create an eBook or a whitepaper, are to have fun with it, write for your audience and be sure you’re actually providing valuable information and awesome ideas.