In nearly every aspect of your business, visual communication and the principles of storytelling have a very important role to play. Whether you’re doing something as simple as putting an attractive-looking video on a landing page in an effort to increase conversions or you’re making boring data and stats come alive by way of a compelling Infographic, human beings are visual learners and this is absolutely something you can use to your advantage.
However, one format that many believes tests this theory is also one of the more modern – the ebook. For a traditional book to be taken seriously, it usually has to rely heavily (and primarily) on straight text, right? This is just the approach that your audience is looking for when they pick this format over something more inherently visual like a presentation, right? If all that is accepted as fact, the same MUST be true of the ebook – after all, it’s little more than a digital copy of something that exists in hard copy, right?
For the record, the answers to those previous three questions are “wrong,” “wrong” and “very, very wrong.”
Ebooks: By the Numbers
To say that ebooks in general have become incredibly popular over the last few years is something of an understatement. Spawned both by the smartphone revolution and the increased prominence of mobile devices like tablets, ebooks have become a major part of the lives of many.
According to one study, for example, ebook sales currently make up over 12% of total book sales worldwide – a number that sees a significant increase every year. Approximately 28.9 million ebook readers (both dedicated readers like Kindles or tablets that can also read ebooks like the iPad) were shipped last year.
While it’s true that digital copies of fiction books from major publishers make up a huge portion of sales, this is only one small part of a much larger story. Estimates put consumer and educational ebook publishing revenue – meaning the category that you would fall into if you started creating and selling ebooks for your business – at roughly $14.55 billion worldwide.
The Major Benefits of Ebooks
One of the major benefits that the ebook format brings to the table for businesses in particular is versatility. It can essentially be anything you need it to be, whenever you need it.
If you want to take that 300 page book that your company produced that has fallen out of print and quickly get it back into circulation online, you can do so by creating a straight copy of the original text. However, if you’ve got about 30 pages worth of content that you ALSO want to make available in a flexible format, ebooks are great for that, too.
Ebooks can even be a great way to collect all of the helpful blog posts that you’ve written for your website into one larger document, giving that content a brand new life to people who may be interested but who couldn’t be bothered to read the blog itself. How you choose to create your ebook can vary wildly depending on exactly what you’re trying to accomplish.
Another major benefit of the ebook format is that they can be read on nearly any device a consumer may have. Smartphones like the iPhone come with ebook reading software built right in – in Apple’s case, it’s the iBooks application. Some ebook formats are even compatible with most major Web browsers.
The king of the ebook reader empire – Amazon – has even made a free version of its Kindle software available for both MacOS and Windows computers. If you’re married to using an ebook specific format like EPUB, a user won’t have to pay a dime to get that book opened on their computer in seconds.
Visual Communication and Ebooks: A Match Made in Heaven
The fact of the matter is that the only way the argument that visual communication has no place in an ebook actually makes sense is if you pay more attention to the “book” part of the term than you do the “E.”
Again – the ebook format is versatile enough to be anything you want it to be given what you’re trying to accomplish. If your only goal is to take a book that you’ve already published and create a digital copy of it, yes – it stands to reason that the finished product would be mostly text.
But at the same time, there’s nothing to stop you from pushing the format to its limit and creating the type of rich multi-media experience users won’t be able to find anywhere else.
It can be helpful to think of ebooks as something of a container format – they’re an opportunity to bring together all of the visual content you’ve already been creating into a single source for your end users.
Say you’ve spent time creating a professional presentation with a tool like Visme, for example. It works great on its own, but it needs a bit more meat on its bones to really justify the jump into the ebook format. You can easily use the presentation as a framework and build out from there – adding things like Infographics, audio clips, visuals and text-based pieces to provide more context and to create something richer and more fulfilling than any one of these elements would have been able to accomplish on their own.
For an example of this idea in motion, consider the most recent book from filmmaker Kevin Smith – writer and director of movies like “Clerks” and “Dogma.” Each chapter of the ebook contains all of the text from the hard copy of the book, but also included are motion graphics and even video clips of the director expanding on some of the topics being discussed in the text proper.
Readers of the text still get all of the same information, but ebook readers get something unique – something that takes the traditional book experience and really elevates it into something more modern.
Unlocking the Potential of Ebooks
This is just one of the many examples of innovative things that you can do when creating content for your business by way of an ebook – but only if you’re willing to expand what you know about the format in the first place. It’s also a clear example of why visual communication has an essential role to play in ebook development, regardless of the topic or the audience you’re trying to reach.
Don’t just think of ebooks as “electronic books” in that they’re a digital recreation of an experience we’ve been having as a society for hundreds of years. Think of them as the natural evolution of that experience. They can and should be something more, starting with the foundation of what it means to write a book and creating something much more interesting from there.
Payman Taei is the founder of Visme, an easy-to-use online tool to create engaging presentations, infographics, and other forms of visual content. He is also the founder of HindSite Interactive, an award-winning Maryland based digital agency specializing in website design, user experience and web app development.