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Is the eBook the New Whitepaper?


The Genesis of the E-Book

The very first e-books were produced by the Gutenberg Project in the 1970s, which began by archiving books in the Public Domain. It took a while before original material was being published specifically for e-books. The e-book started to really take off around 2000 when the popular author Stephen King released his novella Riding the Bullet. It became the first mass-market e-book and over half a million copies sold within the first 48 hours of its release.

The Dawn of the Instant Download

As the formats of e-books have become more sophisticated, they’ve become another way of reading that provides the reader with instant gratification. You can find a topic you’re interested in and within minutes you can purchase and have an e-book of your choice downloaded and available to read. In 2011, Amazon announced that its e-book sales in the US exceeded its print book sales. Avid readers seem to enjoy both print books and e-books.

Today, e-books are published in all different genres, both fiction and nonfiction, for pleasure and for education. They’ve become a valuable tool for online marketers to use as a means to inform and attract ideal customers. In this e-book, we’ll discuss the difference between an e-book and a whitepaper and how you can design an e-book that will help you generate leads in your industry.

How Does an E-Book Differ from a Whitepaper?

A whitepaper is an authoritative and data-laden report that explains a problem and offers a persuasive argument that a specific product or service is a solution to that problem. It’s a very soft sell wrapped up in a highly technical wrapper. Although it may contain a “call to action,” it doesn’t reveal itself with a direct sales pitch. Since there has been printed paper, industries have published whitepapers to provide information and education to their in-house employees as well as to consumers. A whitepaper can serve to establish industry credibility. Whitepapers are still offered in print as well as in digital format today. They are still used to convey data and to gain marketing leads by providing in-depth information that businesses and consumers can use to make purchasing decisions.

Characteristics of Whitepapers

So, what’s the difference between a whitepaper and an e-book now that they both can be digitally distributed? Whitepapers are generally written in a more formal, legal or scientific, style. They contain vast amounts of in-depth technical data on a very specific subject. In the field of marketing content, whitepapers are the white-bearded professors. They are more academic than many other types of content.

Whitepapers require deep and careful reading. They are often text-heavy and based on formal research. They center around the data that supports their company’s product or service as a solution to an industry problem. Written in a formal style, the whitepaper leaves you with the feeling that a very impressive team of experts has provided you with valuable information.


Of course you have a choice as to what you create but, from my vantage point, having worked for the last 15 years with a focus on books, I see books holding much stronger authority. Therefore my suggestion would be to create an eBook over a whitepaper. What do you think?

I’ve stated a number of times that the ebook is the new whitepaper. It’s at the top of the content hierarchy and delivers one author status. Yes, you are an author when you publish a whitepaper, but it doesn’t carry the same credibility from the research I’ve conducted.  What do you think? Ask others you know their thoughts on this subject. Let’s keep checking in on this subject and see how it evolves in this world of great content.

Melissa G Wilson

Melissa has been a leader in the book writing, publishing and marketing arena for the past two decades. To date, she has helped more than 100 thought leaders write, publish and market their books. Her clients include executives such as Dan Weinfurter a seven-time Inc 500 winner and Orlando Ashford, President of Holland Cruise Lines.

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