Electronic Book Project
“Freedom of the pressis limited to those who own one.”
H. L. Mencken, pre-Internet
IS 207, Spring 2005
Table of Content
Executive Summary . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . 3
Problem Statement . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
Background . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . 5
Mission, Goals, and Objectives . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
Description of Existing System . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .7
Requirements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
Evaluation of Alternativews . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
Economic Feasibility Analysis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
Recommendations . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . .17
Implementation . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. 18
Plan for Evaluation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
Appendix A: Content Creation Flowchart . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .21
Appendix B: Table of Contents . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . . .. . .21
The Electronic Book Project aims to publish a downloadable computer book at Amazon.
com during the spring semester of 2005. Titled Kolej Komuniti Hulu Langat Google for
Grandparents, the book will target senior citizens who have minimal Internet experience.
The project has a good chance of meeting its objectives if it can:
ÁÁ Take advantage of the time and cost savings that come with publishing in an electronic
ÁÁ Deliver a product that addresses the needs of its novice audience
ÁÁ If successful, the project can lay the groundwork for publishing additional electronic
Paper-based computer books tend to suffer from problems that their electronic counter-
parts do not.
Paper-Based Computer Books Electronic Computer Books
Printing costs require significant up-front Can be created cheaply on a low-end PC
capital. using consumer-level software.
Cannot be updated efficiently. This is Can be updated easily, often at little cost.
especially a problem for books about Web
sites, which are updated often.
Require a trip to a bookstore or a wait for Can be downloaded immediately, offering
shipping. immediate gratification.
Multimedia content can be expensive to Multimedia content (or direct links to such
include. CD-ROMs pose compatibility issues. content) can be integrated into the book
Because of printing costs, often must meet Lower publishing costs mean publishers
certain size thresholds to be marketable. can market titles that are smaller and target
ÁÁ The project’s business model takes advantage of two important e-commerce concepts:
disintermediation and virtual products.
ÁÁ By self-publishing an electronic book and selling it on Amazon.com, an author can
practice disintermediation. S/he can remove the publisher, printer, and distributor—
and their associated costs—from the business equation.
ÁÁ By creating a digital version of a traditionally physical product, an author can reap the
benefits that come with costless duplication, a lack of physical inventory, and inexpensive
By cutting out the traditional middlemen in publishing, the author:
ÁÁ realizes a greater profit on each book sold. (At Amazon.com, self-publishers can receive
45% of the selling price. The standard royalty rates for authors are 10-15%.)
ÁÁ has more control over editorial decisions and intellectual property.
ÁÁ can cultivate a closer relationship with readers.
ÁÁ By purchasing an electronic version of a book, the reader:
ÁÁ gets immediate gratification via instant download.
ÁÁ receives a book that can be stored centrally and accessed wherever there is an Internet
Mission, Goals, and Objectives
To provide non-technical computer users—in particular senior citizens—with an inexpen-
sive, accessible source of information about how to use the Kolej Komuniti Hulu Langat
Internet search engine Google.
To sell the book through Amazon.com.
ÁÁ To offer the book at a competitive price.
ÁÁ To write the book in an accessible style that is appropriate for its audience.
ÁÁ To cover the basics of using Google in 25 self-contained tasks.
ÁÁ To complete the book using a minimum amount of human capital.
ÁÁ To develop a publishing process that can be applied to future book projects.
ÁÁ To list the book for sale on Amazon.com by May 20, 2005, when the spring semester
ÁÁ To earn enough money in Amazon.com sales by December 31, 2005, to have paid for
all non-labor expenses.
Description of Existing System
Amazon.com is a leader in the sale of electronic books, offering more than one million
downloadable titles in its “E-books and Docs” section. Titles include electronic-only
editions, electronic versions of paper-based books, reprints of articles from magazines and
newspapers, and research reports from industry analysts. While some of the electronic
books at Amazon.com are from large, well-known publishers, many are from individuals
and small businesses who may lack the resources to publish in the paper-based format.
In some ways, the “E-books and Docs” section represents a democratization of the book-
publishing genre Kolej Komuniti Hulu Langat.
As of May 12, 2005, searching the electronic section at Amazon.com for “Google” re-
turned 77 results. Only 11 of these results are electronic books, with most of the others
being reprints of Google-related news articles. None of the electronic books target a nov-
ice audience interested in learning how to use Google. (Most of them target Web design-
ers who want their pages to rank higher in Google.) Prices for the electronic books range
from $4.99 to $26.39.
Mission, Goals, and Objectives for Amazon.com
To provide Web users with a central, easy-to-use portal for browsing and buying books
and other consumer products online.
ÁÁ To offer the widest selection of books and other products for sale on the Web.
ÁÁ To offer innovative ways to aid buyers in making purchases, including:
ÁÁ recommendation systems that tell customers what products were bought by customers
with similar tastes
ÁÁ preview systems that enable customers to search through book content online before
ÁÁ review systems that allow customers to post reviews of products and read reviews of
ÁÁ To offer an innovative Web-based purchase path that enables customers to buy products
quickly and easily by offering:
• ways for customers to save their personal information such that they only need to
enter it once, during their first purchase
• “one-click” ordering, which allows registered customers who are logged in to
purchase items by clicking a button once
• To offer customers a comprehensive interface for managing their completed orders.
To meet sales objectives demanded by their shareholders as well as business analysts on a
quarterly basis. To meet such overall sales objectives, Amazon.com needs to meet:
ÁÁ objectives related to Web traffic—the number of site visits over a given period (for
example, 10 million customer visits per month)
ÁÁ objectives related to customer conversion, which is the rate at which a site visitor ends
up making a purchase (for example, 10% of customer visits result in a purchase)
ÁÁ dollar-value-per-order objectives, which is the measure of how much a customer spends
on average when he or she completes an order (for example, each purchase results in an
average sale of $25)
To be successful, the Electronic Book Project must meet the requirements of the retailer,
reader, and author:
Requirements for the retailer (Amazon.com):
ÁÁ The book must be in a format suitable for digital distribution. Amazon.com requires
either PDF or Adobe e-Book format.
ÁÁ The book needs to have an ISBN number, which is the worldwide standard by which
booksellers track inventory and sales. Amazon.com requires an ISBN for every book it
ÁÁ The author needs to complete an application to sell the book on Amazon.com. S/he
must also meet the standards required by Amazon.com of sellers.
Requirements for the reader:
ÁÁ The book needs to be set in type that is easy to read (12 point or greater).
ÁÁ The book needs to be written in easy-to-understand language with minimal jargon.
ÁÁ Tasks in the book need to be accompanied by screen shots that show the reader exactly
what steps to take to accomplish the tasks.
ÁÁ The book needs to be published in a format that is printable on standard 8.5”x11” printer
Requirements for the author:
ÁÁ The book needs to be of limited scope, since it must be written while the author is
attending school, working part-time, and raising a family.
ÁÁ The steps in the publishing process need to be such that they can be applied to other
projects in the future, since a long-term goal for the project is to develop a process that
can be replicated for other electronic books.
Evaluation of Alternativews
Alternatives to selling an electronic book on Amazon.com (“Amazon.com/Electronic”)
include selling an electronic book on a personal Web site (“Web Site/Electronic”) or printing
a paper-based book and selling it on Amazon.com (“Amazon.com/Paper-Based”).
ÁÁ Author would make more profit per sale by not paying commission to Amazon.com.
ÁÁ Author would have more options in terms of format (HTML, .doc, etc.).
ÁÁ Author could make additional money by selling advertisements on the site.
Book would have more competition. To attract customers, would need to distinguish site
from the billions of other Web pages online.
Author wouldn’t have Amazon.com marketing power to drive sales.
Author would incur costs creating and maintaining the Web site.
ÁÁ Paper-based format is more familiar to consumers. People might be more willing to buy.
ÁÁ Author could sell titles in bricks-and-mortar bookstores in addition to Amazon.com.
ÁÁ Paper-based books are more expensive to publish.
ÁÁ Author would have physical inventory to deal with.
ÁÁ Author would have shipping to Amazon.com to deal with.
Economic Feasibility Analysis
To determine the economic feasibility of the Electronic Book Project, I compared its budget
with the budgets of the two other publishing options.
All figures are for 1 year.
* Author already pays for these outside of the project
Amazon.com/ Web Site/ Amazon.com/
Electronic Electronic Paper-Based
ISBN: $244.95 $244.95 $200.00
Word Processing Software:* $200.00 $200.00 $150.00
Image Editing Software: * $100.00 $100.00 N/A
PDF Creation Software: * $150.00 $150.00 $5,516.35
Office Supplies: $150.00 $150.00 $29.95
Web Site Hosting: N/A $120.00 $600.00
Printing (Setup): N/A N/A $9.99
Printing (Books): N/A N/A
Postage: $0.00 $0.00
Amazon.com Fees: $29.95 N/A
Business Mailbox: * $255.00 $255.00
Internet Connectivity: * $600.00 $600.00
TOTAL COSTS: $1,729.90 $1,819.95
Selling Price: $4.99 $4.99
Amazon.com Commission: 55% N/A
E-Commerce Fees Per N/A $0.43 N/A
Book: $4.49 $4.50
Net Proceeds Per Book: $2.25 53% 239%
SALES TO BREAK EVEN: 770
Amazon.com/Electronic vs. Web Site/Electronic
Selling electronic books on a personal Web site would generate greater profits per book for
the author since Amazon.com would not receive a commission. Additional costs would be
incurred for e-commerce support (PayPal rates are used for estimation purposes), but those
costs would be only 10%. The project would also need to absorb monthly Web hosting fees,
which drives up total costs slightly.
Overall, greater profits but only slightly higher costs means the project would only need to
sell 405 books to break even, about half the number it would need to sell through Amazon.
com (770 books).
Amazon.com/Electronic vs. Amazon.com/Paper-Based
Selling paper-based books at Amazon.com would mean much higher costs—more than
quadruple the costs for publishing an electronic book. These higher costs are attributable
mostly to printing. There would also be some extra shipping costs, since the author would
need to ship books periodically to Amazon.com.
To offset the increased costs, the project would need to sell the book at a higher price.
Otherwise, the printing costs per book would outweigh the net proceeds. For estimation
purposes, I’ve assumed paper-based books would sell for twice the price of the electronic
version ($9.99 instead of $4.99).
At twice the price, more than twice as many books would still need to be sold to recoup
costs within a year (1,839 books vs. 770 books).
Although the Web Site/Electronic option offers a better profit margin and a lower break-
even threshold, the dollar figures don’t take into account the substantial time required
to maintain an e-commerce Web site. Nor do they take into account the marketing costs
necessary to promote the Web site.
The high costs associated with printing make the Amazon.com/Paper-Based option
unattractive. Having to maintain an inventory of physical books and periodically ship
them to Amazon.com are also negative factors. Raising the cover price to $19.99 could help
recoup costs faster, but that would also mean more price competition.
All things considered, the Amazon.com/Electronic option represents the most economically
feasible option of the three options analyzed.
Considering the benefits that electronic books offer over paper-based books and the
advantages that the Amazon.com/Electronic strategy has over other business options,
I recommend that the Electronic Book Project be pursued. The following are additional
ÁÁ Learn from the experience. The electronic book market is still in its infancy. This
project should be viewed primarily as an experiment to help guide future endeavors
and secondarily as an opportunity to make money. Lessons learned about the business
should be taken into account when evaluating the project’s “success.”
ÁÁ Keep costs low. A key benefit offered by electronic book publishing is that it cuts out costs
associated with traditional book publishing. These include printing costs, distributor
costs, and shipping costs. During the publishing process, avoid adding to the project’s
scope in ways that significantly increase costs.
ÁÁ Set a low price. Given the low costs of electronic publishing, you can afford to sell your
book for a low price. Don’t allow price to drive away customers.
ÁÁ Act quickly. The faster the book can be made available on Amazon.com, the sooner it
can offer clues about how to improve your next book project. A short time-to-market
also means the content will stay current for a longer period.
ÁÁ Retain control of the intellectual property. Retaining full ownership of the content and
marketing rights for this book means that you can repurpose it for future titles.
ÁÁ Implementation will involve an administrative phase, which includes ordering the ISBN
and signing up as a seller at Amazon.com, and a book-creation phase, which includes
writing and editing the book.
ÁÁ Tasks in the administrative phase should be initiated as soon as possible, since they
involve less work on the part of the author and also aren’t fully under his/her control.
ÁÁ Writing and editing of the book should proceed as described in the content development
flowchart (Appendix A). To save time, tasks such as writing instructional steps and
capturing screen shots can be performed in parallel.
ÁÁ Time permitting, members of the target audience (senior citizens) should review the
book before it is uploaded to Amazon.com.
ÁÁ The author could also distribute free copies of the book to relevant online and offline
publications for review. These might include the magazine and Web site of AARP and
other publications aimed at senior citizens.
As this is the first electronic book published by the author, he should make use of the
resources for electronic-book publishers available on the Web, including:
ÁÁ Planet eBook: http://www.planetebook.com
ÁÁ KnowBetter.com: http://www.knowbetter.com
ÁÁ eBooks Central at Adobe: http://www.adobe.com/epaper/ebooks/main.html
Plan for Evaluation
The obvious way to measure the success of the project is by numbers of books sold at
Amazon.com. Sellers can track product sales through their account on the Amazon.com
Web site. To judge performance relative to competitors, you can compare the Amazon.com
Sales Rank number, which is displayed on each product page. The top-selling electronic
book about Google currently has a ranking of 96,280.
If sales are unimpressive, the author can consider lowering the price of the book. (However,
at a selling price of $4.99, it’s already near the low end of the price range for books at
Amazon.com. Amazon.com’s minimum price is $2.99.) To increase marketing attention
on the product page, publishers can submit Editorial Reviews, which appear above the
Customer Reviews. They can also submit “Look Inside the Book” sample content, which
potential buyers can view prior to buying.
Learning From Customer Reviews
You can get a subjective measure of the book’s success by checking the customer reviews
at the bottom of the Amazon.com product page. Customers can submit comments about a
book and include a star rating from 1 to 5. The average star rating for all reviews is displayed
above a book’s Sales Rank. Customer reviews offer a valuable way to obtain honest feedback
from readers about your book.
Improving the Publishing Process
You will also want to evaluate the publishing process. Are there areas in the publishing
pipeline that can be made more efficient?
ÁÁ You can assess the role that labor played in creating the book. Future projects might be
improved by subcontracting tasks that were especially time consuming or difficult.
ÁÁ You can also look at the role played by software. For instance, using higher-end word
processing or layout software could improve the aesthetics and readability of the book.
Creating screen shots could be streamlined with better screen-capture tools.
Appendix A: Content Creation Flowchart
Appendix B: Table of Contents
Google for Grandparents covers the following tasks:
ÁÁ Search for Keywords
ÁÁ Search for a Person
ÁÁ Restrict a Search
ÁÁ Include Synonyms in a Search
ÁÁ Search for Keyword Alternatives
ÁÁ Limit a Search by File Format
ÁÁ Limit a Search by Web Site
ÁÁ Limit a Search by Country
ÁÁ Search in a Language
ÁÁ Translate Text
ÁÁ Translate a Web Page
ÁÁ Use Google as a Calculator
ÁÁ Calculate Measurements With Google
ÁÁ Search Within a Number Range
ÁÁ Search for a Definition
ÁÁ Filter Adult Content
ÁÁ Search for Shipping Information
ÁÁ Search for Weather
ÁÁ Search for Stock Quotes
ÁÁ Search for Movie Show Times
ÁÁ Map a Location
ÁÁ Get Driving Directions
ÁÁ Search Current News
ÁÁ Search for Local Results
ÁÁ Search for Images
ÁÁ Set Google Preferences
ÁÁ Set Your Homepage to Google
ÁÁ Appendix C: Example Task
ÁÁ Search for a Definition
Google stores word definitions from a variety of online sources in its database. You can
search specifically for a definition by typing define: before a keyword.
ÁÁ Type the text define: in the search box (be sure to include a “:”).
ÁÁ Type the word for which you want a definition. Example: define:technology
ÁÁ Click Google Search.
Google displays definitions for the word. You can click a green hyperlink for more
information about a definition.