The Decline Of The Ebook, And The Search For “THUD”

There was a time when an e-book was considered a novel idea. It turned into a gold rush. People throwing stuff into a PDF file, throwing some slick marketing behind it, and basically creating income out of thin air.

Obviously an attractive concept. Then the gold rush mentality took over. People sold a lot of crappy ebooks. People also bought a lot of crappy ebooks. Just look at Clickbank’s Marketplace and you’ll find a LOT of really stupid ebooks – all of them claiming to be the secret to something.

Ebooks have lost their shine.

There was a time when an e-book was considered a novel idea. It turned into a gold rush. People throwing stuff into a PDF file, throwing some slick marketing behind it, and basically creating income out of thin air.

Obviously an attractive concept. Then the gold rush mentality took over. People sold a lot of crappy ebooks. People also bought a lot of crappy ebooks. Just look at Clickbank’s Marketplace and you’ll find a LOT of really stupid ebooks – all of them claiming to be the secret to something.

Ebooks have lost their shine.

Perception Is Reality

An ebook might contain a treasure trove of knowledge, but the problem is that the perceived value of an ebook is low.

Look at a printed book. The average price of a book at the bookstore is, let’s say, less than $30. No matter how awesome a book is, if you charge much more than that, you’re going to have a much harder time selling it. The perceived value is around $30. It is just a book.

The problem with e-books is that it is just a PDF (usually). A simple file that anybody can make for free on their computer. People only place so much value on the knowledge within. There is knowledge everywhere. No shortage of it. So, your ebook is just another echo in just another PDF file. The print book might sell for $30, but we’re at a point now where the initial shine of the ebook doesn’t exempt it from the problem of perception.

The perceived value of an ebook is low. Besides, most people will download it, scan it really quick, close it and never open it again. It sits there lost in their hard drive’s file system.

What can you do about it?

Doing Something Different

No matter how good your product is or how good you are at marketing, perceived value is something you have to deal with. So, the FORM of your offering should take this into account.

Why do you think internet marketers so often sell things in physical format? They call it the “thud factor”. When the customer opens the box, it looks like they got a lot of stuff. The perceived value is high. With digital products, you don’t have the same thud factor.

It is purely a psychological thing. At the end of the day, after you’ve gotten that huge pile of DVDs, you wish it were in digital form so it would take up less room. But, still, you most likely experienced that little “thud” when you opened the box and got that nice fuzzy feeling. 🙂

So, what can you do to add higher perceived value to your offerings? Well, there are several ways:

  1. Use videos. Videos have a higher perceived value than an ebook. You can add to it by providing a way to download the video. So, ask yourself, can you take what you would put into an ebook and, instead, communicate the same information using video?
  2. Use membership sites. Membership sites are great platforms because they don’t have a real-world comparison in terms of pricing. So, you don’t have the perception problem when it comes to pricing. You, as the marketer, CREATE the perceived value. So, can you take what you would have put into an ebook and put it into a membership site instead? Realize, too, that you don’t necessarily have to charge money for a membership site. You could even use it as your bribe to earn list opt-ins.
  3. Make it an Event. People love participating in live events. You can add perceived value to anything by putting a live component into it. This is why I love webinars so much. If you haven’t thought about doing webinars yet, give it some thought.
  4. Go Physical. Even though you have to chuckle sometimes at the length some marketers go to to add as much “thud” to their stuff as possible, it is clear why they do it. It is the thud. I once paid $1,000 for a course which came in the form of 20 DVDs. Nice thud, but when you opened it, it was just a really bad recording of a live event. But, going physical adds perceived value and, usually, you can charge more for a product simply because you’ve made it physical.
  5. Rethink your terminology. What you call something adds to (or subtracts from) the perceived value. For example, calling something a “white paper” means more in some markets than the word “ebook”. Words like “worksheet”, “blueprint”, “manual”… these things might increase conversion because they have a better perception than “ebook” As usual, you would need to split test it to see how your audience responds.
  6. Pile on the proof. Powerful social proof adds perceived value. While it might just be a PDF, if you’ve got several notable people in your niche saying how awesome and groundbreaking it is, then you’ve moved past the “ebook” thing and into the value of the contents.
  7. Put it on a reader device. Realize that the perceived value thing applies mostly to PDF ebooks. However, e-books that are bought via a site like Amazon and read on a Kindle or an Ipad – that has higher perceived value. Of course, it is usually earned value, because Kindle books are just as well put together than a typical physical book – WAY beyond what you find in the typical PDF ebook.

Brainstorm Your “Thud Factor”

What can you do to add a “thud factor” and higher perceived value to your offerings?

The FORM of your product is an important part of the marketing, so it is worth thinking about.

Free access to a membership site might work as a much better incentive for a list opt-in than yet another e-book. A video training course will probably work much better than an ebook.

Let me know your thoughts.

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About David Risley
David Risley is the founder of the Blog Marketing Academy, a 20-year veteran blogger and online entrepreneur. His focus? Building a reliable, recurring business around his "lifestyle" and the lives of his students. He has this weird obsession with traveling in his motorhome around the country with his wife and 2 kids. David also likes to talk about himself in the third person. In bios like this one. Read his full story.