What Is an Ebook?
The Definitive Guide from AWAI

What is an Ebook? - Traditional Book Next to e-Reader

Want to learn more about writing an ebook? Check out our article How to Write an Ebook and be ready to publish in 10 simple steps. It's a straightforward and painless process that takes you step-by-step from idea to publication.

An ebook, (short for electronic book) is a digital document that’s formatted to be read on an electronic device such as a computer, tablet, or smartphone. It’s one of the cheapest and easiest ways to publish a written document.

Has This Ever Happened to You?

You have a “Eureka!” thought you want to share with the world, but aren’t sure how to do it. Social media isn’t going to cut it—your idea is bigger than that and you need more space to convey it.

The solution is to write an ebook.

Not a book, but an ebook.

What is an ebook?

An ebook, (short for electronic book) is a digital document that’s formatted to be read on an electronic device such as a computer, tablet, or smartphone. It’s one of the cheapest and easiest ways to publish a written document.

Of course, that’s just the “textbook” definition …

An ebook is so much more than that.

It’s a calling card for the author, showing their expertise in the subject matter.

It’s a tool that can attract clients for your business, whatever field you’re in.

It’s a way to earn passive income while you’re sleeping, eating dinner, playing with your kids or grandkids, traveling … doing whatever you like to do.

And that’s just for starters.

Ebooks 101: Basic Facts About the Format

An ebook is technically a computer file containing a representation of a book. But generally, most people think of it as a digital copy of a book.

Just like with hardcover or paperback books, an ebook can contain both text and images. It can be virtually any length, about any topic, and sold at any given price point.

But because an ebook is an electronic file rather than paper, it doesn’t have the same constraints as a physical book. An ebook doesn’t need to be printed or shipped, making it much more affordable to produce. It doesn’t take up space on a shelf. And ebooks are frequently self-published by their authors.

Though the Content Might Be the Same, There Are Big Differences Between Ebooks and Their Physical Counterparts.

  • Ebooks are portable

    Readers can carry a virtual library with them at all times. Whether they’re vacationing, working away from their home or office, or simply bouncing between multiple books, their library is in reach … anywhere they choose to be.

  • Ebooks provide instant gratification.

    Gone are the days of having to wait for your book to arrive, or spending time driving to the bookstore. You can access and start reading ebooks in a matter of seconds.

  • Ebooks allow readers to buy more!

    Bookstores can only hold a limited number of titles. But digital providers can sell an unlimited number of ebooks, which means buyers can find – and buy – anything their heart desires. Plus, with all the intel about past ebook purchases, providers can quickly recommend additional titles of interest.

    Did You Know?

    Ebook Sales Continue to Go Up Year After Year

    In a recent study by statista.com, consumer ebooks are expected to generate nearly 20 billion dollars in revenue in 2018.

    Click here to find out how to get your share!

  • An ebook is a popular format for certain types of subjects.

    You can write an ebook on virtually any subject. If you’ve ever wanted to write a novel, publishing it as an ebook is an easy and inexpensive way to do it. (And in such a competitive field, it’s often the only way to do it.)

    But the more common type of writing you’ll find in ebooks is nonfiction. And of those, the top selling ebooks are generally instructional or informational in nature, explaining how to do something.

    This type of ebook does especially well when it’s related to major purchases. Think “how to get the best interest rate on your mortgage” or “choosing a new car.”

    Ebooks about business and marketing also are consistently popular. Think ebooks that teach people how to run a Google adwords campaign, or how to create your own website.

    Looking for a subject for your ebook? Click here for 1,010 ebook ideas.

  • An ebook reader’s objectives are different.

    With a physical book, the reader is typically looking for entertainment or knowledge on a particular subject. But with an ebook, the reader is often looking for information and/or an explanation. They’re in a different headspace.

    Think about the types of topics that do especially well in ebook format: large purchases and marketing. The audience for this kind of material already knows what they want to do. They just need some help with it.

  • Ebooks tend to be shorter than physical books.

    As with print, anything goes! There are a number of ebooks out there for which a physical copy would run a thousand pages or more.

    Having said that, nonfiction ebooks will typically be shorter.


    It goes back to the subject matter. The reader already has a focus, and it’s relatively narrow.

    Of course, every ebook should be as long as needed to convey the author’s message and meet the reader’s needs. Complex subjects might require a longer ebook to cover all the material. But for the most part, you’ll find digital versions to be shorter than their hardcover or paperback counterparts.

  • An ebook can often command a higher price than a physical book.

    Yes, you read that right.

    The ebook version of a new mass market hardcover is often priced the same or slightly less than the physical book. Those prices are often set by the publisher.

    But for an ebook that’s self-published and distributed, you get to decide the pricing … and you can typically charge more than many physical books sell for!


    Ebooks often contain specialized information—information their audience is hungry for.

    Instead of spending money on some general information they’re not sure will satisfy their needs, people are often willing to spend a higher amount if they feel confident they’ll get the answers they want.

  • An ebook offers a richer reading experience than its physical counterpart.

    Some people wax poetic about the beauty of physical books—the satisfying feeling of cracking a binding and turning pages …

    But physical books are finite by their very nature. You get words and maybe some pictures on a set number of pages. That’s it!

    With an ebook, photos rarely look as nice on a digital screen as they do on the printed page. But ebooks make up for it in that they can contain extras like audio files, video clips, and more. The author simply needs to include links to the other media.

    Moreover, an ebook can be updated far more quickly and easily than a printed book. Suppose the research on your subject changes … or you want to include a new appendix with some updated information … or you’d like to link to an interview that has to do with your topic.

    It’s easy and inexpensive to keep your ebook current.

  • Compared to physical books, authors have limited control over what their ebook looks like.

    Every copy of a physical book that comes from the same print run looks the same. The number of pages is the same, and the layout matches from book to book exactly.

    Some ebooks need to have this exact layout, called a fixed layout, especially if the book has a lot of graphic elements or photos in it. Children’s books and cookbooks are good candidates for fixed layout ebooks.

    But ebooks consisting of primarily text usually have a dynamic layout, which is more user-friendly. With this format, you’ll have all the same content as a physical book, but it’s probably not going to look the same. The text adapts based on the reader’s mobile device and reading preferences.

    Because people will be reading the ebook on screens of different sizes. They might be reading in portrait (vertical) or landscape (horizontal) mode. And they’ll be customizing the size and style of the font to fit their preferences.

    The bottom line is that an author can’t fully control how their ebook will look on someone else’s screen.

    Check out our article on how to publish an ebook for more details on ebook formats.

  • An ebook isn’t viewed with as much respect as a physical book.

    An ebook will stand out if it has high-quality content on a subject people are interested in.
    An ebook will stand out if it has high-quality
    content on a subject people are interested in.

    To be sure, ebooks have a lot of advantages over physical books …

    But there are a couple of downsides.

    One is that if the reader wants a physical copy, they’ll have to bear the burden and expense of printing. That’s not a big deal for a book that’s 20 pages, but it could be cumbersome for a book that’s closer to 100 pages (or more).

    The bigger problem for ebooks, though, is their public image.

    The fact that it’s easier than ever to publish an ebook means many people do it. And with ebooks so widely available, there are a lot of low-quality ones out there. Authors need to be sure theirs are engaging, accurate, and thorough enough to stand out from the crowd.

An ebook is a multi-purpose business-building tool.

An ebook can be sold as a stand alone product, serve as an inexpensive marketing tool for your business … or both … and can end up being worth tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars to you.

Direct response copywriter and content expert Bob Bly found that out with his very first ebook.

His $175 investment (plus the time to write) ended up making him $40,439 in just three years … and it continues to sell to this day.

And that’s just from direct sales. That doesn’t include his earnings from clients who hired him based on that ebook!

Ebook author Jim Edwards has two ebooks that each gross $10,000-$12,000 per month, and another that makes $3,000 per month.

Do the math …

That’s an income of $276,000-$324,000 per year—even if Jim does nothing else!

How can an ebook help you?

Writing, publishing and selling your own ebooks is one of the simplest and surest ways to make a great living as a writer. Bob Bly, author of 100 books and widely known as “America’s top copywriter” makes it easy to get started with his program, Bob Bly’s Ultimate Guide to E-Book Writing Success: A Comprehensive Program to Writing and Selling E-Books for Profit.

With this comprehensive, easy-to-follow program, you’ll learn how to …

  • Write a saleable e-book in record time
  • Take advantage of the 100% profit margin you can earn from e-books
  • Promote yourself, enhance your credibility, and gain respect as a published author
  • Sell e-books on Amazon’s Kindle and other e-readers
  • Master Bob’s tips for persuasive, high-quality writing
  • Build your reader and buyer list over time so they’ll come back for more of your e-books
  • Easily market your e-books on the Internet without the hassle of expensive, complicated software
  • Write your way to a healthy and steady passive income
  • And much, much more!

Writing an ebook can also be an incredibly effecting marketing tool for you and your business. Here are a few ways an ebook can boost your business:

  • By becoming someone who literally “wrote the book on” something, you become an expert on that topic. That’s true even if you didn’t know anything about it until you started researching for your ebook!
  • Writing an ebook gives you serious credibility. People recognize your status as an expert right away … and they’re willing to pay more for it.
  • An ebook can be more than just a strong credential. In some professions, having written one is practically a requirement. It makes it far easier to get into certain events, be invited to speak on your topic, and so forth.
  • An ebook can help you start a contact list. You can offer it to visitors to your website in exchange for their email address. Building an opt-in email list this way gives you names of viable prospects who are interested in your business.
  • It’s a great excuse to get in touch with someone. Simply email them, tell them why you think they’ll find your ebook helpful, and ask if they want you to send them a copy.

    It’s an ideal way for shy types to market themselves!

  • Of course, if you’d rather sell your ebook, you can do that too, and start making money from it immediately, like Bob and Jim did.
  • Your ebook can serve as a springboard to other things. As you’re writing, you may realize that some of your subtopics deserve ebooks of their own, and a series is born.

    Or maybe you realize you could host a webinar that would complement your ebook, or you decide to start a podcast about it. Whatever you decide to do – an ebook can be a beginning just as much as an ending.

Now you know what an ebook is and how writing an ebook can benefit you …

Want to learn how to write one? Our article How to Write an Ebook walks you through our step-by-step process.

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