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Could a “website book” be a useful new book form for some authors?

By Lee Foster

The “forms” in which we publish our big projects, our “books,” continue to evolve.

Could a “website book” be considered a new form?

One example of a website book can be seen in my SF Travel & Photo Guide: The Top 100 Travel Experiences in the San Francisco Bay Area, now live at http://bit.ly/2wEJjyV

We all recognize the most obvious of our past forms for books:

-The printed book, going back to Gutenberg. Of course, the main modern decision is whether to “offset print” a few thousand copies or have books produced one at a time, print-on-demand. I have published four POD books among my books on my Amazon Author Page at http://amzn.to/1jl9Lnz

-The ebook, a newer and vital form, from about 2005. Whenever possible, I have converted (or urged my traditional publisher to convert) my print book to an ebook. Some consumers will desire only ebooks, for various reasons. My sample website book is also an ebook for $3.99 on Amazon.

-The PDF ebook. A PDF is the simplest form of ebook, universally readable, saved from the Word template that I use to create my books. The PDF version of my SF Travel & Photo Guide was recently useful as a licensable option. I was asked to give an entertaining slideshow talk to a financial group, meeting in SF, on “San Francisco Bay Area’s Top Travel Experiences.” The meeting planner wanted to send a follow-up to her group. She licensed the right to send the PDF as an email attachment to the 50 people who attended her meeting.

-The app. My sample website book is also an app for $3.99 in Apple and Google. An app is an ebook with higher software functionality. In this case, the integration of this travel content with travel maps is important. The app world is its own selling ecosystem, entirely different from and parallel to the ebook world.

-The audio book. Some consumers will prefer to listen to a book, rather than read it, for a variety of reasons. My travel/literary book Travels in an American Imagination: The Spiritual Geography of Our Time is also available as an audio book, as can be seen on my Amazon Author Page.

-The translation, especially into Chinese. So prominent is China in our modern world economy that translation of your book into Chinese is a worthy goal in itself. Two of my books are ebooks in Chinese. They are Northern California Travel: The Best Options and Travels in an American Imagination. Amazon distributes them through Amazon.cn in China and even lists them as ebooks on our American Amazon on my Author Page, scroll right, at http://amzn.to/1jl9Lnz

All these kinds of book presentations might be considered legacy forms or modes because we are familiar with them. They are known and widely used.

So, what is this new form, a “website book.” A website book is a book that is available in its entirety on a website. Connectivity is required.

One can imagine two scenarios. The Table of Contents and all the chapters could be a single large file. Or the Table of Contents would be one file and each chapter would be its own separate file. Critical would be the user’s ability to navigate forward from the Table of Contents to a chapter and then back from the chapter to the Table of Contents.

An example of the “single large file” approach can be seen in my SF Travel & Photo Guide: The Top 100 Travel Experiences in the San Francisco Bay Area, now live at http://bit.ly/2wEJjyV

The logical next question is: Why do this? What is the rationale for publishing a book as a “website book”? Of course, the book could also be published simultaneously in other forms. My book is also an ebook on Amazon and an app in Apple and Google, as mentioned above.

A website book might have several benefits:

-Revenue from ads. Google Adsense Ads are a start. When 100 people look at my articles, I earn about 25 cents from Google on click throughs. Private ads, affiliate income, and sponsorships are other “ad” types of revenue. Most of our modern media, such as television, is ad driven. Folks will endure ads for a long time before they will pay for content.

-Revenue from the book in saleable forms. A consumer looking at a website book online might well conclude: this would be more convenient in an ebook or printed book form. Price may not be a barrier. Convenience and wise use of time may be critical. The issue of connectivity may be a factor. A website book will not be available in the wilderness or in an airplane that lacks WIFI.

-Licensing of writing or photo content revenue. I license my writing and my photography. Display of writing and photography that can be licensed is a plus. For example, one day I got a call from the great Canadian travel agency Uniglobe. The caller, from Toronto, said, “We see all the worldwide essence-of-the-destination travel coverages you have at www.fostertravel.com. We’d like to license 100 units for a three year period.” We did a deal, for upwards of $10K. Display of photos for license takes viewers to my 7,000 images digitally ready for license at http://stockphotos.fostertravel.com. This is where photo buyers of major magazines, such as AAA Via or Rodale’s Runner’s World, get my images. It’s also where consumers can secure an inexpensive $20 Personal Publishing License for use of a photo in a blog. As I write this, this week, one consumer ordered three of my wildflower photos as 11×14 prints. All the fulfillment is set up automatically. Clearly, a “website book” presents more licensable content to more potential buyers.

-Assignment possibilities due to robust website content presentation. I received a phone call out of the blue one afternoon from St. Louis. The caller said, “I’m an editor at Answers.com, the #23 website on the Internet for traffic. I am tasked to hire 200 ‘experts’ as quickly as possible, including 10 in travel, meaning one in San Francisco and CA. We want you to be that SF expert and produce short derivative articles for our website. I see from all your website content that you could do the job.” We did a deal, and it was an assignment in the $10k+ group.

-Audience enlargement for speaking and consulting possibilities. As mentioned above, I like to give a slideshow talk on “San Francisco Bay Area’s Top Travel Experiences.” A meeting planner looking for a talk can review the website book and determine whether I would be a good fit. I also consult with authors on their path, and have a book on independent publishing. Seeing the website book in existence might encourage authors to confer with me on setting up their own publishing plans wisely.

-Alerting the audience to a range of your other products or services, such as tours. Some of my colleagues in travel journalism offer tours, such as Airbnb Experiences. I don’t do this myself. One friend has a medley of walking tours in San Francisco. An energetic “website book” presentation of his walking tours might well attract more customers for his tours.

In conclusion, the ways in which a consumer wants to get content will continue to evolve. The opportunities for authors to connect with audiences and earn income keeps changing. Authors need to remain alert to possibilities, and “website books” may be an appropriate form for some authors to consider.

See Lee’s four Northern California books/ebooks on his Amazon Author Page.

See Lee’s books/ebooks
on his Amazon Author Page and in Independent Bookstores

Note from Lee:

Aside from this website book/ebook/app, I publish other books/ebooks about San Francisco and Northern California. One is titled The Photographer’s Guide to San Francisco. My main book/ebook on Northern California is Northern California Travel: The Best Options. Those volumes, including some more on California, can be seen on my Amazon Author Page. My further books on Northern California are Back Roads California and Northern California History Weekends. One of my California books, Northern California Travel: The Best Options, is now available as an ebook in Chinese.

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