Relooking the benefits of corporate e-books

What is an e-book? It is an electronic version of a printed book which can be read on a computer or a specifically designed handheld device.

An e-book is a more advanced version of a word-processing document where interesting animations and sounds can be included. Links can also be added so that e-book readers can join a forum or interact with the author in real time. A common misconception of an e-book is just a gadget (the size of a PDA) that has to be lugged around.

According to the figures from Author Earnings - which are based in part on regular samples of Amazon sales data - the market share of established publishers has been declining, while sales of independently published e-books have been growing. To be even more specific, sales of books without industry standard ISBN numbers have increased.

So how should a company respond to this e-book growth to increase its revenue and reach? Is this just another fad that will fizzle out and put a hole to its profits?

Sharing of Knowledge through Corporate e-books

For organisations to stay competitive, they must be willing to share knowledge with the public because the digital revolution has enabled information to move beyond geographical boundaries. The new rule of corporate survival is not just the ownership of knowledge; it also means that the conscious effort to modify and "self-destroy" it.

With this in mind, business decision-makers must seriously consider the sharing, selling and protection of organizational knowledge through the launching of corporate e-books off their websites. Some organisations use the term "white-paper" as synonymous to "e-book" and even launch it on portals that aggregate them under different categories.

Here are some steps about getting started in creating corporate e-books.

Step 1: Identify your organizational strengths

This is crucial as most surfers are willing to read only 2 corporate e-books from each visit. As an example, if you run a publishing company, you have to decide which magazine or trade publication that you want to portray.

Step 2: Choose the medium of transfer

If you are reaching to a global audience and have a limited budget, the best starting point is to use the PDF format. This format is compatible with most common programs in the market and its reader can be freely downloaded.

Step 3: Choose the links

Creating a corporate e-book is to enable you to transmit your ideals and expertise to your customers. The buzzword here is loyalty. Thus it is crucial that links like "feedback to us" and "join our mailing-list" be included in the e-book.

Step 4: Recruit them

You should also invite people who download your e-book to consider working for your organisation. This idea is not as simplistic as it seems. You can include a requirement that the person has to provide details about his qualifications before given permission to download the e-book. You can easily programme unsuitable candidates to receive your corporate e-book and not get an online job application form.

Step 5: Greater staff participation

As the idea of a corporate e-book gets passed around, you have to encourage your staff to contribute ideas and articles to create inter-departmental e-books. This is useful if future job seekers want to find out more about working in a specific department.

Step 6: E-Commerce anyone?

Many participants for our talks about e-books do not realise that there is a market for the sale of corporate e-books. If your organisation has a talented workforce, it will not be a surprise if their corporate e-books can be sold and the remuneration can be a reward for their effort. Many foreign MNCs have also established a separate department for marketing and distributing of corporate e-books.

Step 7: Newsletter

The corporate e-book can be used to create an updated mailing list of relevant target audience. A positive outcome is to launch a newsletter that further complements that information provided by this e-book

Step 8: Get it in print

The e-book has finally gone full circle! The idea of putting the corporate e-books to print is to improve the sense of loyalty and belonging to your corporation. You can also include a sypnosis of the corporate e-books in your company's annual report.

Colin Ong Tau Shien is a current NTU adjunct lecturer in entrepreneurship/e-commerce, and also a popular A-levels tutor in economics and general paper.