Is a FREE eBook ever worth anything?

The web was the first place ever to justify the notion of the ‘free lunch’ making, in its early days, a massive amount of information, programming and experience available for free to a community which was energised, inspired and bound together b the common ideal of a world without borders.

We have moved on since to understand that there is a value (and a cost) in every service and websites which give away FREE ebooks do so for a reason. Maybe they capture your details for later marketing, maybe the eBook they promote is one that is part of their viral marketing and maybe they are establishing themselves as market leaders in which case giving away a certain amount of information artfully presented in a professionally created eBook format, makes perfect sense. It is, after all, paid for by their advertising budget and it helps promote their brand and bring in extra clients to their website.

The Turnover eBook reader recreates the experience of reading books digitally

This leads us to consider whether, these days, a FREE eBook is worth anything in the eyes of the prospects, those who will get on a website and provide their details in order to download one. Well, here, the pudding is very much in the eating. A FREE anything where you need to put in your email address is already beginning to become questionable in terms of value precisely because online visitors, these days, are sophisticated enough to know the ploys and get annoyed by the tactics. It also depends on the perceived value of the information that it will contain.

If you really want those who come to your site to download and use the eBook you provide for free you need to make sure the following have been followed:

Attention to detail and eBook quality – just because it’s FREE it should not look cheap. On the contrary, you want the eBook you create to be of value in terms of looks, content and approach and for this to happen you cannot afford to skimp on the quality.

Give a clear, compelling reason why your online visitors should download it from your site
 – don’t just giveaway a FREE ebook on ‘XYZ’ services or products. Create a specific page, explain what they will get from it and show them the benefits. Explain how it will benefit them and why they should consider downloading it. Even in this day and age the web is full of FREE stuff vying for the online user’s attention. In order to make your offering different you need to differentiate it in exactly the same way as if you were selling it.

Cut the strings – forget the ‘Fill your name and email and you will get this eBook worth $$$$ FREE’ trick. It annoys the hell out of every visitor who lands on your site. If they are anything like me they will click away and look elsewhere and will return only if the information you provide is truly better or unique, or both. Then they will most probably do what I do, provide a Yahoo! or a Hotmail address which they hardly ever use except when it comes to getting ‘FREE’ ebooks like this. So do yourself a favour, be different from those competitors of yours which are still labouring under the misguided online marketing notions of the last century and simply say: ‘Click here and download’.

Make your branding clear – Just because you have given an eBook away FREE of charge it does not mean you should not benefit. For that to happen your offering really needs to work at many different levels at once. The ideal ebook should drive traffic to your site through live URLs, should allow the reader to email you directly from the eBook pages through live web addresses and it should reinforce the brand awareness and market penetration of your company through clever, clear, compelling branding.

Define its value to you – the last thing you want is to go into tremendous effort, create an eBook to help promote your site and services, give it away for FREE and then fail to benefit from it because you don’t know what it should be worth to you. After all the eBook, to create, has cost you money which represents an investment. You need to know what that investment is worth to you by calculating the Return you should expect on it (the usual ROI = return on your investment all marketing guides scream about). If, for instance you expect to get ten clients a year from it how much, on average, is each worth to you? This will allow you to decide just how much to spend on your eBook creation service.

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