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E-Books Which Make Me Angry

If you’re a frequent visitor to my site, you’ll know that aside from affiliate marketing, my other gig is that of product creator – developing information products – books, reports, videos, courses – which are delivered digital. The majority of the online world calls these “e-book” or “ebooks”.

Information can be found all over the internet and begs the question “Why would anyone pay for something that can be found free on the internet?”

The simple reason is that if you’re merely repackaging a blog post, a wikipedia entry, a google news story or a mp3 download, you’re not adding value and you might as well give it away for free.

On the other hand, if you’re adding value to the process, by organizing information, providing advanced applications to a basic technique or providing a comprehensive case study AND your customer gets value out of the process, you are more than justified in charging for your products.

There’s been a recently trend among bloggers and internet marketers to jump on the “I want to build a list” bandwagon. A common incentive to get people to join a list is to say “I’ve written a report on (topic), get access to this report by joining my mailing list now!”

I’ve experimented in the last week joining a number of lists. In some cases, the promised report hasn’t shown up.


In many cases, the report has been nothing short of disappointing. Just because you can hammer out, copy 5 pages of text, convert it into a PDF and offer it online, does not make it a “report” or a “book”. That’s like saying you can buy a smashed-up race car and say you’re a Ferrari owner. It is technically correct, but just so wrong.


Here’s my take on the issue:

If you’re going to do anything (free or paid), do it to the best of your ability.

If it’s a free report, your benchmark isn’t delivering $0.01 of value, since they paid $0 for it. Shoot for the stars. A common phrase I’ve heard and which has guided me these years is “the cream always rises to the top”.

If you’re constantly overdelivering, you’ll have no shortage of sales, customers or business.

I give a number of talks each year (including at the upcoming Affiliate Summit), many of them are unpaid, but I probably put at least 10-20 hours preparation time into each hour that I’ll be speaking.

The fact of the matter is that you’re putting your reputation and your personal brand on the table each time you speak, you sell something or your promote an affiliate product.

Choosing to promote an inferior product because it pays a great commission just means it will come back to haunt you later (possibly for a very long time).

Likewise, taking one disorganized idea, blowing it up into a 5 page PDF and calling it a “bonus” or a “report” does an injustice to your readers or customers. But the person who is going to suffer the most is likely yourself.

If you’re not sure whether a report is good, give it to someone who is brutally honest – your significant other or someone who doesn’t pull any punches. If they say it’s crap, it might be time to fix it, or just send it directly to the trash.

8 comments on E-Books Which Make Me Angry

  1. Daniel M. Clark
    December 31, 2008 at 1:39 pm (4494 days ago)

    Couldn’t agree more. It’s to the point now where anytime I see the word “report”, I just blow it off!

  2. Andrew Wee
    December 31, 2008 at 8:13 pm (4493 days ago)

    To clarify, I am not categorically against reports. I use them as an effective branding/marketing tool myself.

    The geist is to highlight the fact that if you put something out there that’s associated with you, your website or your brand, you need to make sure it’s up to snuff.

    I hope you don’t blow off my reports, Daniel!

  3. Paull Hamilton
    January 1, 2009 at 9:09 pm (4492 days ago)

    I am totally in agreement with you regarding these so-called reports. Obviously from people who cannot be bothered to re-write them and add something themselves. I know most people don’t have that much time to go trawling for information, but it is nothing more than a con to give them re-hashed stuff without new content. I have seen some of these ‘reports’ and ‘ebooks’ and they can be total rubbish. Everyone should boycott them if they were ‘named and shamed’.

  4. David Vallieres
    January 2, 2009 at 12:09 pm (4492 days ago)

    Hi Andrew,

    “Free” reports can be crap… I guess you never know until you sign up for someone’s list but because it’s so easy to un-sub from a legitimate marketers list it will only cost you a few minutes time to find out.

    The ‘free’ report at my site is something I had sold at one time for $27, but I condensed it and after taking it off the market for a few years decided to offer it as a ‘free’ report as an incentive to sign up for my list. So I know the value is there because people used to pay me for the information it contained.

    I think if more marketers really wanted to build relationships with their readers they should take the same approach – don’t give it away unless they can say, “Hey if put up a sales page for this report, could I actually sell it for cash money and how much?”… if they cannot say “yes” they should not be giving it away either as it probably has no value.

    Nice post…


  5. Andrew Wee
    January 2, 2009 at 4:23 pm (4492 days ago)

    Hi Dave,
    Great to hear from you. I’ve been on your list and enjoy reading your emails.

    You had one report that was themed on failing as much as possible on your way to success that had some great content in it.

    It’s certainly surprising that since more marketers know that the customer acquisition is much more difficult than customer retention, that many continue to put “free” (or as little effort as possible) into the early stages. I’d think you’d want to create as much impact as possible in the beginning (and continue to overdeliver…)

  6. James Schramko
    January 2, 2009 at 11:49 pm (4491 days ago)

    Hi Andrew,

    Free reports should be as good as a paid one (as David mentioned). If you set the tone at the start you have a great chance of building from that.

    You don’t often get a second chance to make a first impression. Some reports are not really ‘free’ when you consider they are in exchange for an email.



  7. Franck Silvestre
    January 3, 2009 at 2:28 am (4491 days ago)

    Hey David,

    When I first started, 2 years ago, your Fail as Fast as You Can was a really valuable report.

    My take on this is something Eben Pagan said: “If your customers don’t send you emails to tell you how much you helped them”, your marketing have a problem.

    I just received an message today about one of my subscribers who told me how much my ebook helped them.

    I tested my first IM lead generation ebook ever on DP forum. I was blown away by the response. Hundreds of posts.

    So I may do something right.


  8. AJ Kumar
    January 12, 2009 at 5:25 pm (4482 days ago)

    Hi Andrew,

    great post. I agree that if you are planning on selling some kind of digital product, i.e. ebook, the you better have put in your time and effort to writing something uniquely enough for people to go WOW. True internet can be taken from the net, almost anything, but if you can re-package it the right way, it’s worth you selling it.

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