Reinventing the B2B eBook

Posted: June 25, 2015

Topics: Digital Marketing

We had an interesting conversation with a client recently. They were looking for an “interactive and engaging” eBook – something more than the standard PDF with hot links. As we talked and looked at examples of things everyone liked, it became obvious that what they wanted was a website – not an eBook.

The term eBook in B2B marketing is a holdover from the days when paper was how you read things – interactive PDFs, simulated page flipping and flash-based slideshows all helped recreate 8½ x 11 sheets of “paper”. They could be read offline and they usually printed nicely.

But as web technologies and standards have evolved and the number of devices in use has exploded, the potential to do much more with our eBooks is there for the taking.

Video, animation, great imagery, user controls and a great user experience can all be used to create the engaging, interactive, lead-generating experience B2B marketers have been looking for. And every client we talk to wants it.

So what’s holding things back?

IMHO it’s that word – website.

To B2B marketers, it’s loaded with challenges – and the biggest one is corporate IT. As soon as the word “website” gets mentioned in corporate environments, IT gets involved and momentum tends to get killed by well-intentioned IT folks.

The other challenge is design. The word “website” instantly conjures up corporate websites, which conjures up a collection of disconnected pages held together with drop down menus and a “homepage,” not visions of engaging and focused online stories.

The good news: web design has evolved along with the underlying technology that drives the web, and visual storytelling is now part of every good web designer’s bag of tricks. We can create “websites” that incorporate great content and behave more like engaging reads.

Check out these examples:

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Faurecia’s annual report combines facts, figures and people in an engaging way. arcserve simplified a Data Recovery white paper into easily digestable chapters. ion interactive combines bold graphics and simple transition animations to bring their content to life.

So if web technologies are the secret to better eBooks, what’s holding us back?

Maybe we just need a new word.

Instead of telling IT and designers we want our eBooks to be more like “websites”, we just need to invent a new term that doesn’t come attached with the same preconceptions.

In the same way a short text message was reinvented as a “tweet” and a whole new platform was born, maybe the eBook needs a new, more exciting handle – and a new platform that makes producing them a simple and rewarding experience.

Like “Wikis” only better looking with a more interesting name.

We’ve got a few ideas. Maybe you’ve got some of your own.

If you do, we’re all ears.


This post was written by R. Wilkie, Creative Director at PUSH 22.