Home eBook Culture Strategy, Part 1

eBook Culture Strategy, Part 1

It’s about time I published my strategy for my new topic-focused blog, eBook Culture. Although upon reading Erik
Benson’s post tonight
about getting on and building something rather than “talking
about it but never building it”, I now feel a bit guilty about writing yet another grand
plan instead of getting my hands dirty with implementation work. But I did promise you
that I’d publish my strategy, plus it will serve as a public reminder of what I have to

Re-cap of my goals

In a previous post, I
explained that my personal goals with eBook Culture are four-pronged:

1. Explore the niche world of eBooks.

2. Build up a weblog community of eBook users.

3. Prove to myself and future employers or customers that I’m able to successfully
implement a web strategy and build a social media website.

4. Earn some money and potentially grow a business.

What’s the Problem with eBooks?

So let’s start with asking: what’s the business problem I’m trying to solve with my
new website? Crudely put, it’s that eBooks aren’t accessible enough for mainstream users.
The technology (hardware, software) is still too hard or too messy to use – it’s not
user-friendly enough. eBooks have too many obstacles in front of them. 

I started the new blog to help remove some of those obstacles and make eBooks easier
to use.

Target Audience

Now let me define who my ‘target audience’ is with eBook Culture. Basically I want the
site to appeal to ordinary but tech-savvy people. The sort of people who currently use
iPods/iTunes, only they’ll be readers. Note: I expect this will be a much smaller user
group than for music, because – well frankly, reading isn’t as cool as listening
to music. I’m specifically not targeting people who are already converted to eBooks,
because a) that group is very small, and b) they know much more than I do on this
subject. I do however want to earn their respect and links with good content. 

Let me refer back to goal #1 – explore the niche world of eBooks. So really, my target
audience is me and others like me! That is, I’ll be learning as I go and my aim is
to bring others along for the ride.

Building a Community

I expect this will be the most difficult of my goals to achieve. I don’t have many
social contacts on the Web, indeed I’m not even a very sociable person. How can I expect
to build an eBook community when I won’t even participate in social networks like Orkut
and Friendster? Well, I need to take a different approach. And that approach will be
based on trying to make eBooks as user-friendly as possible. It’s also important
to point out that I don’t necessarily want to be come a focal ‘place’ on the Web for the
eBook community. Let me explain…

One strategy for building a community is to provide a platform for community.
Enable and encourage people to contribute reviews and content and participate in
community discussion. I doubt I will go down this route, because a) developing such
software isn’t my strength, and b) other people have already created social platforms for
the eBook community.

My approach will be to provide information and services to take the pain and hassle
out of eBooks. And believe me, there’s a lot of pain and hassle with eBooks at this point
in time. Some things I can’t control – like DRM. Other things I can make an effort to
influence – like providing easy instructions on how to read eBooks, download software and
convert texts into eBooks.  

So I will put a bunch of things that eBook users want on my site and hope that people
travel through it often enough. This is similar in a sense to the portal strategy from the Web world,
although what I have in mind is less ostentatious and more focused on useful content (rather then e.g. fancy web services). Things like: news, reviews, content summaries, conversion
tools, articles, analysis. 

Even though I won’t end up as one of the ‘places’ where the community gathers and
meets, I’ll be doing my bit to make eBooks easy to use and share. I’ll be providing a
useful service to the community and hopefully helping to grow it. That’s the sort of
community I’m aiming to build – one that visits my site often but doesn’t necessarily use
it as a focal point for discussions and collaboration.

I’ll also be an evangelist for eBooks, which is an important role in a community.

eBooks and the Web

I specialize in the Web. I’m also a writer and prolific reader. So another aspect of
my strategy is to marry eBooks with the Web. I want to help provide a seamless
integration of eBooks from the reading device (typically a mobile device like a PDA) to
the server. This isn’t a revolutionary thought, Apple are doing exactly this with
iPod/iTunes and Tim O’Reilly is doing it with
eBooks with his company’s Safari service. Where
I fit in is probably not so much in the software/hardware side of things, given I’m not a
company (to paraphrase a Dave Winer line). My focus
here will be to provide top-notch written content – how-to’s, reviews, analysis. Playing
to my strengths as a writer and analyst.

Two-Way Web

Come on, you knew the two-way web would stick its oar into the strategy 😉 Basically
my aim here is to encourage people to create and produce eBooks, not just consume them.
The key for this is to provide easy-to-use conversion services, or instructions /

I think there’s some overlap with blogging and eBooks and they could learn from one
another. For example, longer blog posts could be converted into eBook formats. And some
eBooks would benefit from blogging technologies, like finding ways to cut eBooks into
digestible chunks (microcontent). So a part of my strategy is to push the two-way web
philosophy into the eBook culture and see what evolves.


There’s more to write, but I’ll wrap up Part 1 and continue at a later date. So what
are your thoughts on my strategy so far? Am I headed in the right direction?

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