Should You Publish in Print or Electronic
Format – or Both?
An excerpt from
the publication, Profiting from Booklets and
Special Reports, by Marcia Yudkin.
Copyright 2001, 2004, 2006, 2009. All rights reserved.
Get more details
or order your copy now.
Now that you’ve decided to
create a booklet or special report, you need to
decide whether you will be offering the text in
printed form or as an electronic download – or
in both ways. Do not use your personal
preferences or values as your sole criterion
(e.g., “I like having something printed and
substantial when I pay money for something” or
“Anyone who doesn’t understand that paper is
obsolete isn’t worth selling to”).
Why not? It may turn out that
your preferences aren’t as widely shared as
you think they are. And there may be important
practical considerations that you haven’t
factored in yet. Before making your final
decision on this question, consider these
Perceived value may be higher for a
tangible item than for a downloaded one,
particularly if the product is durably and
On the other hand, a download may offer
much higher perceived value because the
information is thereby immediately
Printed and bound information may be less
likely to get copied and redistributed than
a download that is not copy protected.
Your target market may not feel
comfortable with the process of downloading
files, or may have so many technical
problems opening and reading the download
that the customer service headaches quickly
If you want to provide another kind of
item along with text, such as audio or video
tapes, a print catalog or an object, such as
a calculate-your-mortgage wheel or meatloaf
pan, the print format makes more sense.
When it would be nice for people to be
able to click on Web addresses right from
your text, a download may seem like the
Fraud rates for downloadable products are
very much higher than for products that get
sent by mail.
You can gather a valuable, valid postal
mailing list when selling tangible items to
be shipped or mailed, but addresses are less
reliable for download sales.
Now let me say a little more
about a few of the factors above.
First, fraud is indeed a very
serious problem for products bought and received
immediately online. Not only does the merchant
almost always get stuck with a loss when a
customer disputes an online charge, if the rate
of "chargebacks" – sales reversed
because of customer protest – gets too high,
the merchant can lose his or her credit-card
processing account and find it next to
impossible to secure another one. On the other
hand, established third-party digital download
services have address checking and fraud
detection procedures in place that may not be as
available to individual merchants.
Second, Adobe Acrobat (PDF)
files can be copy protected by the creator with
several security options available. For example,
you can set up a file to allow someone to read
but not print, read but not copy and paste to
another application, download but not create a
copy of the file or not allow the file to be
e-mailed to another computer. However, such
restrictions sometimes do more harm than good by
annoying or even enraging honest users who find
themselves unable to make fair use of the
material for which they’ve paid. For instance,
they may download a file at work and then be
unable to send it to their home computer, which
is where they would have downloaded it to begin
with if they’d had high-speed Internet access
Third, don’t underestimate
the difficulties both novice and experienced
computer users may have in downloading files and
accessing that information. Nancy Hendrickson,
co-author of a genealogy e-book, had to stop
offering her e-book as a PDF file because
customers had a multitude of difficulties:
The buyer couldn’t figure out where the
saved file was on their computer.
The buyer couldn’t figure out how to
open the PDF file (even if they already had
Adobe Reader installed on their system).
Those without Adobe Reader couldn’t
figure how to download and install it.
Even after including in the
"thank you for your purchase" message
a detailed "here’s how to download and
run the file" note, Hendrickson continued
to get complaints from almost 25% of her
customers. She and her coauthor then converted
the e-book to a self-executing .exe file and
complaints fell off to almost nothing. However,
her e-book is now not available at all to
customers with Mac computers.
If you’re tempted to dismiss
her experience because your customers are
technically sophisticated, more knowledgeable or
adept computer users, consider my experience:
I’ve been online since 1994, have purchased
and downloaded several e-books or special
reports and have never been able to figure out
why hyperlinks that are supposed to be able to
transport me from a page in a PDF file to the
corresponding Web page don’t do anything when
I click on them. I’ve also downloaded a few
PDF files that were practically unreadable
because I didn’t have the font in which they
I don’t say this to dismiss
the potential of downloaded content. On the
contrary, I love getting an e-mail notifying me
that someone has bought one of my digital
products without any intervention on my part.
Just realize: This is not a trouble-free medium,
and be prepared for technical problems and
In this light, perhaps the
best option is to offer both print and digital
versions, so that people can select the medium
that fits their needs and capabilities. When one
of my colleagues offered print, PDF and both
print and PDF versions, about 15 percent chose
more or order your copy of Profiting from
Booklets & Special Reports now.
Get Profiting from
Booklets & Special Reports as part of a more
comprehensive infomarketing course.