Updating Books

One of the – many – advantages of digital publishing is the ability to update your ebooks quickly and easily. No, I don’t mean the research and writing effort is quick and easy, but the publishing effort is. As the author/publisher, that gives you several advantages. First and obvious, you can make changes to your book and let your readers replace the old copy with the new. Second, if you use it as a strategy when you first begin a book project, it can be used as a selling point too.

Let me explain what I mean by offering an example. As you know I’m an avid WordPress fan. Some time back I stumbled onto a book, Digging Into WordPress, which was offered in both a print and PDF format. The PDF edition appeared at first to be a bit pricey ($27) until I read further and found they offered a “lifetime subscription”. Every time WordPress got a major upgrade, they would update the book and distribute PDF copies to every subscriber. In a world where tech books are expensive and often outdated before you can get them home, this was a fabulous idea – and one that has more than paid for itself since I bought it. I’ve had either 3 or 4 updates since I bought my copy, with another one expected at any time.

Tech books aren’t the only books that change over time. Family history is often quite “fluid” as research continues to produce new and interesting facts to add to the existing narrative. Fortunately, by publishing digitally, you also have the ability to update your book and send your new revision to those who received the initial one. And, if you published using platforms like Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, it’s also quite easy. While all the platforms offer a way to update your ebook once it has been listed in their bookstore, the Kindle platform will even send email notices to the people who have purchased your book to let them know an updated version is available for them to download. You will still need to use your blog, GoodReads, Facebook and other social venues to let your readers know there’s a new revision available and offer guidance on how to update their copy, but that effort could also inspire new readers to purchase your book.

For many of us who are taking advantage of the opportunities self-publishing provides, this can be a useful marketing tool – as my favorite WordPress authors have already discovered. I’m already collecting information to update my Digital Toolbox book which I hope to have ready in time for RootsTech 2013. My guess is this one will easily support a yearly update as technology continues to offer new ways to make our research life easier.

Take a look at your publishing platform and see what it takes to make your revised books available to your readers. If you are in the early stages of a publishing project and haven’t yet decided which platform to use, check into their ability to accept and distribute revised copies before making your decision. You could find it quite useful information to  have later on. Protect your working files too. Even if you aren’t planning to ever update a writing project today, you could change your mind at any time . . .

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