Prediction For 2012: The Death of The $37 eBook

by Paul Wolfe on January 3, 2012

Firstly, Happy New Year!

If you’ve been checking in on your favourite blogs over the New Year there have been a slew of two types of posts.  One is a ‘what are your goals’ type of post.  And the other is a ‘predictions for 2012’ type of post.

Subscribers to One Spoon will have read my first goals post a week or so back.  And the whole Goal Process is something that I’m spending a lot of time on learning about, and will be posting about it in greater detail as I think it’s an absolutely fundamental business activity that is not given its due importance.

So to keep in with the ‘in crowd’ I’m going with a prediction post. You can probably guess what my prediction is going to be – it’s telegraphed by the title of the post – but I think in 2012 the mid priced eBook (say $37 to $97) is going to give up the ghost and quietly expire.

I’ve written about pricing eBooks before – back in June I ran this post:

Pricing An eBook In The Kindle Age

That post is worth a read – because although trying to sell an eBook at $37 or up is getting harder and harder, the psychological selling principles of ‘bundling value’ in a product are sound.  It’s just much harder now with eBooks than it was even 6 months ago.


So Why Is The $37 Book Going The Way Of The Dodo?

One word: Kindle.

See, back in the day when you could create 50 page PDFs and sell lots of them for $37 or above, the people who were buying those eBooks weren’t buying books per so.  There were buying instant solutions to problems that they wanted solving now.

Sometimes the brevity of the book was even a plus point – which would you rather buy: a 50 page book focused on the specific problem you want solving; or the same information combined into a traditional 250 page book along with other topics?

But Kindle changed all that.

Because in 2011 the vast majority of people who read eBooks were introduced to the concept via Amazon’s Kindle.  And if you know anything about the Kindle platform, one of the Terms And Conditions is that the Kindle version of a book is the cheapest version of that book available.  Anywhere.

If Amazon find a cheaper version somewhere then they just discount the Kindle price further until it is the cheapest price.

And so all these people are used to getting eBooks for free, or for just a few dollars.  And not only will they balk at paying above $20 for ‘an eBook,’ they’ll scream bloody blue murder about it.

True Story – I was reading an article on eBook piracy behind the pay wall of the London Times the other day, and in the comments section one guy wrote something to the effect that publishers were bringing it upon themselves because they charge  ‘ludicrous prices’ for eBooks.  His argument was that an eBook should be almost free because there is no physical component, therefore no printing, no warehousing etc.

This brings us to the eBook Pricing Conundrum.

Book Pricing Is Based On An Archaic Pricing Model

eBooks – as the name implies – are just electronic versions of books.  Before Kindle came along they were different than the kind of book you bought in a bookshop – and therefore weren’t bound by the same archaic pricing model that governs book prices.

Because the price of books has been set by the major publishing companies for the last thirty or forty years.  And that price has never been determined by the value of the information in the actual book.

And combining the rapid acceptance of the Kindle device with Amazon’s insistence on low prices, and now in 2011 the price of eBooks is bound into that same pricing model.  So all these new users of eBooks have been conditioned to paying single figure prices for their Kindle eBooks, and it’s a hard sell to get them to pay $37, or $47, or more.

This is why I think the $37 (or above) eBook will just slip out of existence in 2012.

All Is Not Lost For Potential Product Creators Though

There’s an old cliché: when one day closes, another one opens.  Personally I think the ‘death’ of the $37 eBook can be leveraged into something that’s potentially good for both product creators and product consumers.

The economics of selling eBooks at $5 and below is tough – even though Amazon lets you keep 70% royalty above the  $2.99 price point, you need to sell 17 times as many copies at that price point to make the same revenue as a $37 book.

So instead of creating eBooks that won’t sell many copies at $37, what product creators need to do is to repurpose the core material of their eBook and turn it into some kind of course.

Do that right and suddenly you can be charging $97 and up for your course.  And not only will you get clients who are more than happy to pay $97 or more – but if they get the results that you are ‘selling’ they’ll be utterly delighted and figure that their price of admission was a bargain.

That kind of client buys more than one course from you (if you’re a subscriber, revisit the post on sequential selling).  And gives you great testimonials.

The New ‘Holy Grail’ For Product Creators In 2012 – Teaching Clients Via Online Courses

So although I’ve written a truckload about eBooks here on One Spoon – and I’ll continue to write about them too! (see below) – if you’re serious about generating revenue with your own products, then my advice is to ignore eBooks and think more ambitiously and turn your eBooks into detailed courses.

This may require you to learn about teaching, and what works best.  Again this is an opportunity, not a major problem.  Most of your competitors will be too lazy to spend any time doing this – if you learn how to teach effectively  (and there are many ways of doing this) you’ll arm yourself with knowledge that will become a distinct advantage in the market place.

The spread of mobile devices and broadband access is just opening up bigger markets for ‘distance learning.’  You can use content marketing to attract clients – and then convert them to paying clients for your Courses.

There’s a really interesting brand of content marketing that works hand in glove with this model – Brian Clark of Copyblogger called it Tutorial Marketing back in 2007:

The Return Of Tutorial Marketing

This is all nothing new by the way – there have been Internet Courses as far back as I remember.  And probably beyond that.

But Internet Courses are getting more sophisticated now – and you do have to put some work in learning how to teach effectively.  But it can be very lucrative – it’s certainly the way I’m heading with my Bass Guitar website.  I won’t really be creating any eBooks anymore – it will be multimedia courses all the way.

Where Does This Leave The eBook?

Although Courses are the way forward IMO, there are still several uses for eBooks.  And the creation of valuable and detailed eBooks should still be considered as a business strategy.

eBooks can be used in these ways:

  • Given away free for lead generation purposes
  • Sold on Kindle to build a list of ‘buyers.’  (Highly targeted lead generation).
  • Build awareness of your brand/expertise
  • Used as assignment selling.  (if you’re not familiar with the term, go read the hyperlinked post over at Marcus Sheridan’s ‘The Sales Lion’ website.)

So eBooks are still an important business asset to create – but they won’t generate the kind of revenues they used to back in the PK day (pre-Kindle).  In fact I STILL have to complete the last 5 modules of my course on writing eBooks….and I’ll get back to that soon.  So if you’re a subscriber, watch out for an announcement of that soon.

Summary

The day of the $37 is fading and 2012 will be the year these eBooks pass out of the mainstream.  Unless you can educate your clients as to the value of the information you are selling – it’s not worth even going there.

But there is a silver lining – if you convert your eBook to a Course then you are adding a higher perception of value to your information.  There’s also a higher likelihood of your clients actually getting the results you are promoting from a well-structured course than an eBook – that’s a win-win for you and for them.

eBooks are still a valuable business asset though – but they won’t generate the kind of revenues that they used to.

Your Shout

So what are your thoughts on eBooks in 2012?  Or if you have an outlandish predication you’d like to share, I’d love to see that.  Fire away in the comments below.

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{ 55 comments }

Robert January 3, 2012 at 9:55 pm

Hey Paul,

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I definitely agree with this, but I believe that we have a good six months or more before the power of kindle ebooks really kicks in – I think when Amazon perfect the Kindle fire and release it in the UK that will change things (for the UK market at least). Well done for spotting the trend early – I know you’ve picked up on the potential of the kindle market for a long time.

However, MAJOR advantage for $37 ebooks is that most of them have a sales page and some even have sales videos. How can Kindle ebooks compete with that? Obviously there is not much better social proof than dozens of 4 and 5 star reviews, but good sales copy will always be effective.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to disagree with you here. Just saying what I think. I like the idea of turning an ebook into a course, and its never a bad thing when things represent their real value rather than the creator’s perceived value, which, depending on their intentions, is often much higher than the real value.

Robert

Paul Wolfe January 3, 2012 at 10:03 pm

Hey robert

thanks for dropping by – hope you had a good christmas and new year.

Firstly – please please please disagree with me if you don’t agree with me. I LOVE to be challenged as it makes me think and maybe reassess my thinking on a topic. (I’m writing this for others too, not just for you). There is too much ass kissing on the old interwebz and people just agreeing – I’m very big on healthy debate!

Regarding a ‘sales’ page – when you upload your book to Kindle (or Create Space) yo do have some control on what content goes on the product page. That includes video too btw…just because no-one’s doing it doesn;’t mean it can’t be done. (Anyone reading that who publishes on Kindle just got a big, juicy free New Years Tip!)

I’ll write more in the year about teaching and breaking things down into modules, but I’m absolutely sold on the idea of eBooks becoming courses. And if you look around the IM space you’ll see this trend happening – e.g. Amy Porterfield’s recent course on Facebook. I think Lewis Howe’s LinkedIN book has been repurposed into a video based course too.

So it’s definitely happening. And it’s more lucrative than selling $5 ebooks IMO.
Catch you around.

Paul

Angela Artemis/Poweredbyintuition January 3, 2012 at 10:10 pm

Paul,
I think you’re absolutely right. I’ve been grappling with what to do about the PDF to my print book in order to sell it for more on my site than it would sell for on Kindle. My solution was to create a course around it.
I’m using Kindle books to get targeted traffic and brand awareness.

Paul Wolfe January 3, 2012 at 10:13 pm

Hey Angela

That sounds like a great strategy.

Question for you: do you include anything in your Kindle books to help push people to your course/website? If so, what do you use and how effective is it for you?

Paul

Angela Artemis/Poweredbyintuition January 4, 2012 at 3:41 am

Hi Paul,
Yes, I do. I put my URL in my Kindle book in a couple places and listed my products in the back to entice readers over to my site. On my newest book which should be out by Feb. I placed several offers of FREE STUFF through out the book to push people to visit and sign up to my news letter.

Paul Wolfe January 4, 2012 at 8:27 am

Angela

Thanks for the answer – what kind of results do you get from that? Do you have any tracking mechanism in place to measure it?

Paul

Angela Artemis/Poweredbyintuition January 4, 2012 at 8:03 pm

Paul,
I wish I could say I was that organized! I’m not sure of the results. I don’t a specific list I direct them to sign-up. Perhaps I should have made it more specific and done it that way. You’ve got me thinking…..for the next time though. Do you have any ideas?

James Hussey January 3, 2012 at 10:16 pm

I think you may be onto something. I’ve written and published 3 ebooks and working on my 4th. The first was a lead-gen product, given away free, the second part of a marketing plan to get the word out for my premium book, Duct Tape SEO, which sells at $47 regularly.

But I’ve noticed a few ebooks I’ve had my eye on, some selling for $97, dropping in price. One that was selling for $27 is now $19, and I couldn’t really understand it until my book sales skyrocketed and then tapered off to a trickle.

I’ll attribute the decent launch to the size of my network, it was a profitable launch – but over time, I’ve seen sales dwindle until I re-priced it for Christmas sales (at $29.50). Couldn’t quite understand it but Kindle’s presence does make sense.

For me, I tend to buy ebooks rather than “courses,” since the latter simply seems too heavy and intimidating. I don’t want a “course,” I just want a solution to a problem and a focused ebook sounds more my size.

But I wouldn’t know how well a course vs. ebook does, haven’t split-tested that – something to think about. I know launching on Kindle is something to consider, but the price point is pretty paltry. Even a $10 ebook…I’d buy one: but how many do you need to sell for a profit?

Just thinking out loud here. I’m not 100% sold on the idea the death of the ebook is here, but until I launch a “course” I really can’t say one way or another. :D

Paul Wolfe January 3, 2012 at 10:24 pm

James

You raise some interesting points.

Kindle I think has some uses – but its more a targetted lead gen kind of thing where you earn a bit of revenue (and maybe status and brand awareness) rather than a big profit.

For me the main advantage of a course as opposed to an ebook is that because the price point is higher the buyer is going to be wayyyyy more motivated to actually implement the material. Then, if you do your job right, you have a good chance of not only getting a highly satisfied client (testimonials, kudos etc) but also you have a great chance of turning them into a repeat buyer. In terms of the long term strategy of building a business that’s a BIG step forward.

And that psychology also works against you with eBooks – whether priced at $47 or $7 – the ‘incentive’ to actually use the information is so much less. Someone who buys your stuff and never consumes it isn’t likely to come back. I’m playing for the long term and working on lifetime value….can’t remember the name of the guy, but there was the guy who said if you can get 1000 True Fans then you can build a pretty cool lifestyle/business based on that fan base.

If you ever do that split test, I’d be interested!

Thanks for dropping by. (Been meaning to check your ebook out for a while- Brankica speaks highly of it!)

Paul

Ruth - The Freelance Writing Blog January 3, 2012 at 11:08 pm

As much as I would LOVE to disagree with you (in the spirit of healthy debate and because I prefer writing to video)…I agree completely. And I think your points in this post really dovetailed nicely with your recent piece about the mounting importance of video.

I only started blogging a few months ago, and my intention was definitely to launch a mid-priced eBook. No longer. I’m rather going to ramp up my free giveaway so that it is more substantial, more eBook-like, more focussed on actionable content marketing strategy, but my later offering will be an educational video-based series of some sort.

I certainly see this new trend as an opportunity, as long as I can familiarize myself with video and grow my comfort level. As a writer, eBook-writing feels like a much more natural medium.

Paul Wolfe January 4, 2012 at 8:03 am

Ruth

Here’s the thing: I LOVE writing wayyyyyyy more than I enjoy doing just about anything else. One of my goals this year is to clear space in my schedule to start writing fiction again – Kindle gives the opportunity to publish (even though it’s more about doing something I love than making money from it. That would just be a nice bonus!).

Here’s another thing: most people who make video pay little or no attention to the STRUCTURE of what they create. The people who are best placed to create video with structure are….writers. Structure is something that good writers should have a good handle of. So creating video isn’t such a big step for you.

Here’s a possible opportunity for you – as video goes even more mainstream there will be people who will pay to have video scripts developed. That sound like an opportunity for freelance writers???

I know what you mean about getting comfortable with video…and I recommend that you start working on it now. I had to do it by necessity – create enough videos (whether live action or slideshow presentation) and you’ll get comfortable. In some ways I wish it weren’t so and that we could carry on writing – much more comfortable for me. But that’s not the way things are going.

Paul

Erin Feldman January 3, 2012 at 11:49 pm

It’s funny, but I’ve been starting with an idea for a course and thinking about how it could be turned into a book at a later date. Perhaps I’m ahead of the curve?

Paul Wolfe January 4, 2012 at 8:19 am

Erin

Most people I’ve seen do it, do it the other way around! That doesn’t mean you can’t do it YOUR way…and one possibility is that once you’ve created a course and taught it to several hundred students you create a book version (wither self published or with a publisher) and use it as a ‘lead generator’ to get more people to come find the higher priced course. That make sense?

Paul

Erin Feldman January 4, 2012 at 2:48 pm

Hello Paul,

I know. I’m an odd person. I do something similar with music. I know covers of songs and rarely know the actual band that plays them. For instance, I apparently like Radiohead and didn’t know it. I just knew their music because some string quartets play covers of their songs.

Your idea makes perfect sense. I’m actually developing materials that I could use during seminars or speaking engagements with businesses and/or business owners. I’m focusing on corporate communications and helping people to use the written word more effectively and, I hope, more creatively. My idea for the materials is to have individual components that could be turned into some sort of manual – accompanied by a higher price for the full manual, of course.

Erin

Adrienne January 3, 2012 at 11:50 pm

Oh darn it Paul, you just went and blew my first idea right out of the water. We all know eBooks are a lot easier to produce then full blown courses. Plus I would much rather take that first product and ease into this whole process but when is anything ever easy right?

Not sure how comfortable I really am with the whole teaching direction. On my post yesterday I was actually asking my readers what type of course they would purchase from me and they gave me some good ideas. Just how to package that would be the next step.

I’m certainly not going to dispute this point since I seriously have no idea but I can definitely see why this would be headed in that direction. Come on, it’s the digital age so what can we expect!

Thanks for the heads up Paul, nothing like being forewarned.

I’ll catch up with you later this week.

Happy New Year!

~Adrienne

Paul Wolfe January 4, 2012 at 8:08 am

Hey Adrienne

Sorry about that!

You can sell create an eBook – it’s just a much harder ‘sell’ to generate decent income from it. Resistance to paying $37 or more will grow directly in proportion to how many people are using Kindles or Kindle apps.

BUT.

Creating an eBook is a good way to lay out your thoughts – and THEN you convert it to another format. (The easiest one is audio). As I’ve deliberately made the decision to create multimedia courses I’ve found myself writing in ‘modules.’ A module tends to be somewhere from 8 to 12 pages long – and I create a PDF that can be downloaded by the students, and then create a ‘web page’ version and add video in. (Love to tell you I was being original – but I just copied things I’ve seen Copyblogger and Pat Flynn doing!!!)

We can talk about it when we Skype.

I hope 2012 is gonna be good for everyone – I’ve heard so many people say they hated 2011! I KNOW it’s gonna be good for you. And it will definitely be good for me….I’ve never been more focused.

Paul

Susan Oakes January 4, 2012 at 2:06 am

Hi Paul,

I agree with you as I have been observing this trend as well. I think there is perhaps another alternative which can have advantages for both the creator and customer. And that is the concept of DIY products which has step by step instructions with rationale etc. If you think of time as a factor for people this may be a solution. Of course you would need to include teaching elements in it but the focus is getting a person to get the results they desire in a way they understand and will not take months to learn.

Paul Wolfe January 4, 2012 at 8:23 am

Susan

Time is definitely a factor for people….and that was one of the benefits of short, tightly focused eBooks. I’ve mentioned in a couple of comments that a detailed step by step course really encourages clients to ‘consume’ the information. Then if they get the desired result they are far more likely to become lifetime – or repeat – buyers. In the long term that’s the desired result. On my bass guitar site the percentage of people who’ve taken one of my courses – and then gone on to buy other stuff is staggering. I have a ‘buyer list’ of around 500 – if I release something new I get more sales from this list than my main ‘freebie list of subscribers’ – which stands at 8000.

Creating a course is better for you – and better for the clients too!

Paul

Neal - Sax Station January 4, 2012 at 2:33 am

Hey Paul,
Thanks for writing about this. A friend of mine, Bret Semmler, just released a book on kindle that I was checking out. Appears to be an interesting market place, didn’t realize it was fast becoming so widespread.

Do you think you’ll write more ebooks designed with the kindle in mind this year and using an appropriate strategy? One apparent problem, related to music anyway, was that the screen is a bit hard to read as you play.

Paul Wolfe January 4, 2012 at 8:27 am

Neal

Kindle is freaking huge. Amazon are already selling more Kindles than paperback and hardback books combined. Considering the Kindle was launched in waht…20009?…that is incredible. And the ability to self publish to Kindle with a 24-48 hour lead time is REVOLUTIONARY. (Honestly the potential this gives is incredible).

On the music side of things I have NO PLANS to publish anything for Kindle. The reason being that (1) students can’t print the music. And (2) it’s only usable if they are using an iPad or something of that size. I’ve read music from an iPad – but you can only display one page at a time so its effectiveness is limited.

One thing that I WILL be doing though is creating a book that is connected to each of my courses. And I’ll publish that on Amazon via Create Space – so it’s a physical book – and I’ll use that book to generate awareness of the higher priced courses.

Paul

Adarsh Thampy January 4, 2012 at 3:24 am

Great post Paul.

I was wondering the same about an ebook I was about to launch along with my sister. It’s in the diet and weight loss industry.

Do you think this applies to all niches including weight loss?

Paul Wolfe January 4, 2012 at 8:12 am

Adarsh

It really depends on what price point you’re aiming at. eBooks AREN’T going away – they’re just getting less expensive by a large factor when compared to even two years ago.

And it all depends on the degree of engagement you have with your audience. If you have a devoted audience of thousands of followers…then you’ll probably sell a good few copies at $37 or more. If you have NO audience….then the selling of an eBOok at this price point becomes an uphill struggle.

Repurposing to a course in some way though….that is probably what more of your competitors are doing, and allows your clients to ‘justify’ the higher price.

I’m not over familiar with that niche….so have a look around and see what’s going on for a clearer idea.

Paul

Adarsh Thampy January 4, 2012 at 9:18 am

From what I have seen in my niche, almost everyone are doing the ebook thing. I really don’t see any courses for weight loss.

The price point I am aiming at is 47$ and that seems to be the standard price for most weight loss ebooks (I could find a few on the 37$ mark though).

Currently the launch will be fresh with no followers at all. I am also planning to make a premium product which will probably be in the 197$ range once I build a buyer list of at least 100 people.

Paul Wolfe January 4, 2012 at 9:46 am

Adarsh

If it were me here’s the part of what you wrote I’d focus on:
“…almost everyone are doing the ebook thing. I really don’t see any courses for weight loss.”

Bang. Right there you hit what I consider an important point.

From what I know the weight loss market is fiercely competitive – so to get a hold you’ve got to do something different. If no-one else is doing a course….almost be definition you set yourself up as different.

Other advantages: by creating a course you can increase the price point. Maybe go to $97. Which would look more enticing to a prospect: a detailed course at say $97 or an eBook at $47? Plus if you can add things like downloadable ‘mobile friendly’ videos and MP3s you are really creating content in different and enticing forms. Plus if you’re selling at $97 and giving a 50% affiliate commission, you WILL recruit more affiliates to drive sales.

Of course you could go the ebook route – but then you really have to work hard at differentiating yourself from the competition.

Just my thoughts.

Paul

Adarsh Thampy January 4, 2012 at 11:15 am

I was thinking along the same lines Paul. You just reinforced the thoughts on my mind. I’ll have to see how I can come up with a unique USP. One thing is already there that the author is a registered Doctor of Naturopathy.

Thanks for your suggestions.

Trisha Cupra January 4, 2012 at 3:30 am

I find this very interesting.

As an Aussie, I assume that most Australians still aren’t all that familiar with the term ‘eBook’. But, at a church conference, I was talking to my church’s choir leader and she was telling me that it’s no longer good enough for her to print out the choir’s music and put them into plastic sleeves – these days everyone has an iPad so they all want the music in PDF format.

And that wouldn’t be so surprising, if it wasn’t for the fact that my church is extremely small, the choir has less than 20 members, and practically everyone in it is a Romanian migrant or only a first generation Australian (like myself – a child of a migrant).

Not to mention that everyone in my little church seems to have an iPhone and/or an iPad and/or an iPod Touch.

So, I’m not talking about geeks like me, by any stretch. Even my husband – a complete luddite – loves my iPad (more than he’ll admit) and even my boys, who are too young to even read, can use it.

So, since iPads and iPhones allow you to read both Kindle books and iBooks, and PDFs, that’s really made me wake up to realise that eBooks are probably much more mainstream than I thought, even here down under.

Kindles have only just started being available, though.

I’m actually happy that you’ve said that eBooks will be replaced by Courses (or eCourses). I’m happy because I’ve always intended to add an autoresponder series of messages to any eBook I ever create, and I encourage my clients who have written eBooks to do that same.

It’s all about ‘consumption’ more than anything. It’s all about encouraging the customers to actually use the information, by prompting them, reminding them that they need to use the information, and providing practical exercises for them to do.

You know how easy it is to buy an eBook – or even a ‘course’ which is just a shipload of materials dumped on you in one go – it’s overwhelming, you put off reading it, you keep telling yourself that you’ll get around to it “one day”… Or you do read it and then never put it into practice. It’s too easy to let it slip.

And if you’re not using the information you already bought, what motivation do you have to buy the next eBook/infoproduct that the author creates? Zero.

But if you have a ‘course’ that gets delivered in small bites into the customer’s email inbox, there’s a much better chance that the information will be put into practical use, and get real results. And then you have a raving fan who can’t wait for your next course to come out.

Paul Wolfe January 4, 2012 at 8:16 am

Trish

It’s all about the consumption.

If you can work out how to teach something in a logical step by step fashion then not only can you charge a higher price than an eBook, BUT your clients will achieve the desired result from the course and the chances of them being a ‘lifetime buyer’ are much higher.

I wrote above somewhere in the comments that someone who’s paid say $97 or $157 is far more ‘invested’ in consuming a course than someone who paid $5 for an eBook. And if there’s no consumption…there’s little chance of making them a lifetime buyer. We’re on the same page on this…for me it’s a done deal. Those folk who LEARN how to teach and present information in a logical and sequential step-by-step fashion and provide checklists, troubleshooting, yada yada yada are going to get a boost to their businesses over the coming years.

Another prediction: this ‘online teaching’ is a boom area that’s going to explode in the next few years.

Happy new Year….hope things are good with you.

Paul

And

Cheryl Pickett January 4, 2012 at 5:43 pm

HI Paul,
Definitely add me to the list of “agree”. Ebooks aren’t going away, it’s just how “we” use them is changing. And by “we” I pretty much mean online marketers. Until recently as you noted, most consumers didn’t even know what they were.

Another point that makes a great case for courses is what they are compared to. In the case of books, you have the archaic systems you mention. With courses, you have university, trade schools, adult continuing education, private schools. A part from public school up to high school, few people expect courses/classes to be free. How exciting is that when you think about it?

Also, someone above mentioned an uncetainty about “teaching”. While there are certain strategies and skills an even natural ability involved to an extent, you don’t have to think about it in the traditional student/classroom format. Anyone who shares a message/ provides useful information, is teaching. I believe the necessary components can be learned as needed by most people who set out to do so. Don’t let definitions or preconceived ideas of what a teacher should be stop you.

Ryan Hanley@Content Marketing January 4, 2012 at 11:21 pm

I’ve been working on an eBook for a couple months now…

But the more I read the more I want to create a course. I think the material I’ve created has a great personality but I’m afraid in a strictly eBook format that material will get lost in the ocean of eBooks.

I’m going to have to marinate on this a little.

Great article Paul. Thanks!

Ryan H.

Paul Wolfe January 5, 2012 at 8:54 am

Ryan

The comments are actually wayyyyyy more interesting than the post. Read what Trisha read about ‘consumption’ above – that’s why a Course might be better. Not only do your clients more motivated to go through your material, but there’s more chance of them becoming repeat clients if you do your job properly. That creates a Win Win for you and your clients.

Paul

Paul Wolfe January 5, 2012 at 8:35 am

Cheryl

If you drop down the comments list I posted a link to a couple of articles by Sean D’Souza in my response to Perry. You should go read them – these articles were written two years and more ago and are as applicable now (if not more so) as two years ago.

The ‘teaching’ thing can be learned. The mistakes that most people ‘teaching’ make is that they don’t consider the level of their typical students and they don’t ASK their students what they want, and how they want it. I’ll see if I can work out some posts on this….it will be relevant to Dave as well. If you can master online teaching then you can really build leverage into your teaching business.

paul

PS – next week works for me on Skype??? What about you???

Perry January 5, 2012 at 5:17 am

Interesting discussion Paul. I agree the days of expensive e-books are mostly gone. I’ve got a hard drive filled with crappy e-books I spent way too much on, which is the second reason many people won’t so easily pay big bucks for one. Not all the e-books are bad, just enough to hold me back from buying more.

If you have a particularly rabid fan base, I think they will still sell. It’s going to get harder and harder though. Matt Furey comes to mind. So does Sean D’Souza. I’m sure there are plenty of others. Breaking into a market as an unknown will be more difficult.

I bought my wife a Kindle Fire for Christmas. (She wanted it.) I’m getting her old Kindle which is a newer version than my Kindle.

I’m certainly sold on the Kindle. I buy 10 books on the Kindle for every hardcover now. I almost never buy a paperback except at a used bookstore. Even my 86-year old mother-in-law has a Kindle. She loves it.

I like regular PDF e-books for certain applications. If I want to print it out and take notes right on the pages, I prefer a PDF. You can take notes on a Kindle, but it’s not the same. At least for me it isn’t.

Hmmm.

Step 1. Sell a Kindle book.
Step 2. Kindle book buyer visits your website based on said Kindle book.
Step 3. Offer them the PDF version as a bonus if they buy your course.

Just thinking.

The idea of creating a course out of an e-book isn’t new, of course. It is certainly an idea whose time has come. At the present time, there don’t seem to be any other good alternatives.

As usual, you make me think. And that’s a good thing.

Paul Wolfe January 5, 2012 at 8:32 am

Perry

You need a Gravatar dude – even if it’s only a tomato! (Funnily enough I’m working with a guy here in the UK who is crazy about gardening….if he can get over his technological hurdles he has a chance of being the ‘Gary Vaynerchuk’ of gardening!).

I agree with you that there have been many eBooks priced at $37 or more that weren’t worth the price that we all paid. (I’ve got a bunch too – though I learned to start asking for refunds if I was sold crappy and out of date information).

For the record I’m a big fan of Kindle – I think the whole platform is freaking genius. The self publishing section is definitely ground breaking, and potentially revolutionary.

But for infopreneurs, or info product producers, or whatever label we wanna use, it’s harder to sell eBooks in that price point because of Kindle. Interestingly I found an article by Sean – dated around 2008 – that dealt with this same issue but from a viewpoint of physical books versus workshops. The thrust of his article was that presenting the material in a 3 Ring Binder and teaching it a workshop took the price up to the 2K range!

http://www.psychotactics.com/self-publishing-vs-publishing

Here’s another of Sean’s articles that I’m sure you’ve read that is even more relevant now than it was 2 years ago due to the price of Kindle eBooks:

http://www.psychotactics.com/blog/why-publishers-are-stupid-about-book-pricing/

You hit the nail on the head with the one drawback of Kindle – the lack of printability. But with every disadvantage there is an opportunity…for example if you publish some kind of business book to Kindle you could create Checklists/Worksheets etc and direct the Kindle readers to your website to get them…and get them to opt in to get them. You’d know these guys had bought your book on Kindle….that would be a great targetted sub list!

Hope things are well….drop me an email soon! And Happy New Year!

Paul

Ben @ Quick Blog Tips January 5, 2012 at 9:08 am

Hi Paul – Happy New Year. :) Interesting post. I’m planning to write four eBooks this year, so it’s good to know this before I actually get started!

From a purely practical point of view, how would you recommend putting together an online course? This is likely to spawn another blog post – perhaps you already have one on this topic?

I’ve seen “courses” that are actually a set of PDFs – one for each stage in the course. I’ve also seen fully online courses where you simply click through each page. Do you know of any tools for doing this? I’m a web developer so I could just build something – but why reinvent the wheel if it’s already available?

If it’s just a case of building an online slide show, check out S5. I don’t know if there’s anything else that will do something similar – I discovered S5 several years ago and have never actually used it – but it looks good, so it might be an option for building an online course.

Would love to hear your thoughts. Thanks for the great post. :)

Paul Wolfe January 5, 2012 at 9:17 am

Hey Ben

Happy New Year too, and thanks for dropping by.

There are a bazillion ways to build a course…one of the advantages of doing it is that you can hit different modalities of learning. As you’re probably aware not everyone learns best by reading.

So you can add audio. And/or a powerpoint/keynote style video.

I’m currently taking Copyblogger’s ‘Teaching Sells’ course. How they do it is very professional – and they’re planning on releasing software to help with the whole process. I think early Feburary is the current scheduled release date.But there are loads of ways of doing it.

I’ve built courses using nothing more than Wordpress and the password protect feature of Wordpress. And then using Youtube and the ‘unlisted’ video feature to add video elements. Very basic. Very simple. But it works. (However I’m looking for something more elegant now!).

Paul

Trisha Cupra January 5, 2012 at 9:59 am

It really isn’t that hard to turn an eBook into a Course. An eBook’s purpose is to educate – to teach something new to the reader. All you need to do is create a workbook with exercises which help the reader to put the learning into actual real-life practice.

The next step is to separate the eBook chapters (and corresponding workbook exercises) into an autoresponder series, using AWeber or Mailchimp, and have the ‘lessons’ sent out at timed intervals.

There are countless options when it comes to formats and delivery.

Depending on the subject and the price of the course (and whether it’s one upfront payment or more like a recurring membership), you can offer…

* An in-depth PDF eBook and PDF Workbook, with in-depth autoreponder messages (which can echo the PDF very closely, if not exactly)

* An in-depth PDF eBook and PDF Workbook, with short autoresponder messages that are more like reminders with ‘golden nuggets’ and quick tips

* A PDF summary and in-depth autoreponder messages with exercises

* No PDFs at all, just in-depth autoreponder messages

* Online lessons using private/protected pages in WordPress or a similar setup, with autoresponder messages linking to each lesson – and this would be the best way to also deliver video and/or audio components

Personally, I would have everything where possible – the PDF ebook, PDF Workbook, the Online Lessons, video/audio, extra downloads (e.g. bonuses, tip sheets, extra exercises, etc), and a weekly in-depth autoresponder message plus one or two extra short tip/reminder messages in between lessons. Or, one in-depth lesson message, then a few days later the exercise/s, and perhaps a short tip/reminder every so often.

The possibilities are endless. And you can start with just an autoresponder series, and then grow from there.

Paul Wolfe January 6, 2012 at 8:12 am

Hey trish

Yep – the possibilities are indeed endless! And you DON’T need expensive or complex software to start with. I started out with password protected Wordpress pages….but after a while it gets clunky and irritating.

So start out simply….and then as you get subscribers and success think about upgrading to some kind of custom solution.

Paul

John@Guitar Lessons Online January 5, 2012 at 1:42 pm

Hey Paul,

I completely agree, there is no physical component, printing, or warehousing so the idea of charging $37 for an ebook does seem a little foolish. However, turning their ebook into a learning course is a great solution for product creators. With the popularity of e-readers growing, I believe 2012 is going to be a challenging year for product creators.

Paul Wolfe January 6, 2012 at 8:25 am

John

Here’s where I believe that the ‘pricing model’ that started with the major publishers – and that Amazon has continued – is wrong. Books are priced as basic commodities – when personally I believe the pricing should reflect the value of the information inside.

So it’s not the ‘physical component’ or the ‘warehousing’ or ‘shipping’ aspects that should determine the price – but what’s contained within the book itself.

However with the advent of Kindle – which I think is great btw – that ‘s no longer an option. So the best way to generate revenue based on the value of your information is to repurpose it into audio/video and create a mini course with it. As discussed above with Trish and others….this actually has a beneficial effect on your business (greater revenues) and a beneficial effect for your clients (they are more invested to actually use the information and learn/grow). So it’s a win-win in my book.

2012 IMO won’t be any more challenging than other years…successful product creators will simply adapt to the market place.

Paul

Cheryl Pickett January 5, 2012 at 2:32 pm

I’ve heard about using the pw protected WP option, haven’t tried it, good to know you’ve found it useful. I wasn’t able to jump in to Teaching Sells this time around, but it looked really great. Love the folks over at Copyblogger. Looking forward to seeing what they offer for membership sites when it goes public.

I also came across this recently and may try it soon. It was created by one of Pam Slim’s (Escape from Cubicle Nation) students. Looks like a possibility for those just starting out with a limited budget http://www.digitaldeliveryapp.com/ I’ll report back if/when I do try it if you’d like.

Paul Wolfe January 6, 2012 at 8:26 am

Hey Cheryl

Yep you can build entire membership sites on the Wordpress Pass Protect system!!! I am living and breathing proof! And it is a way that you can get started.

however it gets clunky and irritating pretty soon.

I’ll keep you posted about the Copyblogger ‘membership’ software – should be out towards the end of January.

Paul

Alexis January 7, 2012 at 8:56 pm

I’ve been eyeing a $27 ebook but based in your (probably 100% right prediction) I may hold off for a while ;)

I mostly agree with your idea about classes. My caveat is that when I’ve tried to work through these sorts of programs myself I tend to loose interest and stop participating (reading, watching videos, etc.) halfway through. This could be a reflection of my own personal shortcomings but I suspect it’s a fairly common issue.

Ana @ Increase Web Traffic January 8, 2012 at 2:52 pm

I think you hit the nail in the head when you said “There were buying instant solutions to problems that they wanted solving now”, Paul.

With that in mind, I think readers will still pay $37 for an ebook if that’s the only way my advice on the topic is available.

Personally, I am more likely to pay for a quick PDF vs a “course” that’s potentially fluffed up to take a couple of hours for me to get the same information I could in a couple of minutes from an ebook.

Paul Wolfe January 8, 2012 at 3:00 pm

Hey Ana, your ears must have been burning. I was literally just writing about you as I got notification of your comment! ( In a nice way…I called you the ‘Queen of Traffic!’)

Personally I would probably prefer to pay for a quick PDF vs a Course as well – but we have to consider the fact that now that Kindle has taken eBooks to the masses that we are not typical users. And the ‘typical users’ will take extra educating to get them to pay $37 for an eBook when they can get ebooks on Kindle for a $1.

Especially as the number of titles on Kindle grows – especially the number of non fiction titles.

So looking at this from the viewpoint of being product creators I think that if we want our products to reach the widest audience possible we have to either go the ‘low cost’ Kindle route, or create a higher priced course version of the information. (Or somehow have a basic version on Kindle which leads to the higher priced course).

I’m pretty sure that sales of eBooks in the $37 WILL diminish for most product creators in 2012 onwards.

Paul

Ana @ Free SEO Report January 8, 2012 at 3:19 pm

LOL, Paul – look forward to the post!

And yes, your argument makes a lot of sens. I am currently writing an ebook, so we’ll see how I do.

Paul Wolfe January 8, 2012 at 3:25 pm

Ahh….it was a private email. You’ll see it later today!

Dee January 8, 2012 at 5:17 pm

Hi Paul
I found you by way of Adrienne’s blog. Glad I came.
I think pricing is to some extent dictated by the economy.
I have also noticed an increase in low cost WSO’s available from some big names in Internet Marketing.
I may be old fashioned, but I prefer PDFs that I can read at leisure. I do have some Kindle books too.
I think you may be right about the price range and I think Kindle will get even better, but I think ebooks will be around for a long time yet.
Dee

Paul Wolfe January 9, 2012 at 8:53 am

Hey Dee

Thanks for stopping by.

Personally I prefer PDFs most of the time as well…but from a ‘product creator’s’ standpoint it IS harder to charge $37 and up for eBooks than it was a couple of years ago. And as Kindle gets bigger and better – something I agree with you btw – it will be even harder. There’s a big hole out there at the moment in the ‘online teaching’ space because most people create a simple slideshow and narrate that and call it ‘video training.’

There’s SOOOO much more you can do with video….that’s the challenge. If you can rise to that challenge then you’ll improve your revenues, your teaching will be more effective, and most importantly, your client’s experience of your course will be extremely positive. That’s a win all round….I’ve been away from the Warrior Forum for a while so I’ve not seen the low cost WSO effect…that’s something your comment has given me a nudge to check out.

So thanks for that. See you over at Adrienne’s place!

Paul

Roger Reed January 9, 2012 at 3:37 am

Hey Paul! This is my first comment on your blog via AdrienneSmith.net promotion. Adrienne is awesome and I see that she keeps good company. Thanks for the VERY insightful article on e-books. I was thinking of creating a product in the future. I believe online courses are they way to go as well. It seems to be more thought put into it by the presenter at the same time. Hope your Sunday was awesome and you be blessed sir!

Paul Wolfe January 9, 2012 at 8:49 am

Hi Roger

Thanks for stopping by.

I highly recommend that you create your product sooner rather than later…the process of creating one will teach you a bunch of stuff that you’ve not even thought of. (And normally…the first product ISN’T a big hit, but it’s part of the learning chain so that you can get to the products that WILL BE hits sooner rather than later).

Creating your own product really differentiates you from your competition – as many people find the thought of creating a product overwhelming. So not only is a good way to generate revenue…but it also differentiates your brand. And depending on your topic….I DO think a Mini Course is better than an eBook to get started. (Though there are more moving parts…so again, the feeling of overwhelm needs to be conquered.)

Paul

Charles January 11, 2012 at 5:25 pm

I like the silver lining. A course would be more attractive and would most likely to get clients to pay more. Thought ebook is loosing its price value, it is true that it still has its uses. A course would take clients deeper and have better understanding on the topic compared on what they acquire on an ebook. Thank you for the advice.

Steve@Affiliate Marketing Tips January 12, 2012 at 11:29 pm

Paul,

Your thoughts on the impending demise of the ebook are well taken. You make some great points.

The best thing I like about this article is that you not only state the problem clearly for those of us that have/are producing ebooks, but you come up with a great potential solution with retooling and gearing for a “course” rather than a simple ebook. In some ways it is just semantics and delivery if you deliver enough on the topics in in your ebook.

Solid points and great food for thought. I will have to give thought to working on a course in the future.

Thanks for a great post that achieved something important…. it made me think.

Paul Wolfe January 13, 2012 at 3:04 pm

Steve

Thinking is always important!

You should read this/consider this in conjunction with the Podcast that Derek halpern posted yesterday, an interview with Ramit from ICanMakeYouRich.com. (Think that’s the right blog). But it’s a very intriguing podcast – and you’ll definitely enjoy it and get some value out of it!

Paul

Doug Gene@ Outdoor Gear Reviews January 20, 2012 at 12:38 am

This was a great post. Yes, it is ridiculous t have to pay 37 dollars for an Ebook, though a lot of re configuring is going to have to ensue. Thanks for sharing!

Jennifer Bourn January 22, 2012 at 6:14 pm

AMEN! It’s time for a change! When you can buy an awesome real, actual book for $14.95 … why should I pay $37, $47, or even $57 for a book I have to download and print myself. AND while we’re on this topic, too many marketers are using ebooks as upsell tools and – I don’t know about you, but I am sick of buying and downloading an ebook only to find that half of it is filler and the author’s history about why you should listen to them. Seriously. Didn’t I just read all that on the sales page?

Now, I don’t think information should always be free – and I am well aware of the time, energy, resources, and money that goes into creating content of real value … but they way it is delivered is definitely going to change.

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