Learn About eBooks

Selling eBooks on Your Own Website

Please see our other pages for information on eBook Retailers and eBook Distributors.

Many publishers and authors ask us about selling their eBooks from their own website, and there are many great reasons for this idea, for example:

  • Driving traffic to the publisher’s or author’s website;
  • Helping build an author platform;
  • Side-stepping the royalties and fees charged by the big retailers;
  • Retaining control of the sale price (without the discounts applied by retailers or the upper limits some retailers have on price).

Selling your own eBooks is completely possible, and can be very rewarding for these and other reasons.  However, there are some drawbacks to selling your own eBooks.

First, applying Digital Rights Management (DRM) to an eBook is expensive, and can become prohibitive if you only have a few titles. As is explained on our DRM page, the only standardized DRM you are able to apply to your own eBooks is Adobe Content Server. The license for Adobe Content Server is very expensive, and the cost of setting it up and maintaining it is also regularly cost-prohibitive. The easiest way around these issues is to not worry about applying DRM to the files. That actually works in your favor in other ways, as well, since it means you can sell Kindle files in addition to ePub files.

Second, consumers are most comfortable buying eBooks from the major retailers because they have accounts already set up and the eBooks usually appear on their device after the purchase without any extra effort. Offering payment options like PayPal can be one way of making customers feel more comfortable about their personal data, and creating thoughtful, easy-to-execute download options for different devices is always an important part of selling your own eBooks.

Third, most publisher and author websites do not have a very large reach, so their discoverability is less than that of the major retailers. This can be addressed with solid marketing to your target audience, adding informative content on your website on a consistent basis, and using the retailers as a platform to push your most popular titles.

Fourth, most publishers and authors do not have the necessary infrastructure in place to sell eBooks on their own websites. There are not many web store solutions that include the ability to sell digital content natively, especially with DRM applied. However, there are some solutions to this problem, so it is not insurmountable.

Direct2ReaderIf you are a publisher with at least 10 titles, Firebrand can set up Direct2Reader eBook sales capabilities to your own shopping cart, including management of Adobe Content Server. This allows your customers to purchase ePub files from you with the Adobe DRM applied, maintain a digital locker for downloads, and access your eBook store on their mobile devices. This also ties into Content Services, our eBook distribution service for publishers, and with NetGalley, our galley management service. For more information, please see the Direct2Reader page.

Sideloading Files

If you decide to sell or give away your eBook files on your own website, it is important to give your consumers the information they need to load those files on their eBook devices. This can become a little bit hairy because of the large number of devices on the market, so we normally recommend pointing consumers to the device websites for help and information on these processes.

Below is some template text (and links) you can use on your website to assist customers in knowing how to load their files. Feel free to copy, re-use, and adjust this text as needed:

To load the Kindle file (.mobi) on any Kindle device or in any Kindle app, first upload it to the Kindle Personal Documents Service. This service will allow the file to be treated like any Kindle book you purchase from Amazon, including syncing your bookmarks, reading location, highlights, etc. between your devices.

To load the EPUB file in iBooks on an iPad/iPhone, etc., add it to your iTunes library choosing File > Add to Library, or drag the EPUB file to the Books library in iTunes on your computer. Then just sync your device with iTunes to add the book to your iBooks library. Alternatively, you can visit the book download page on our website in your iPad browser (Safari, etc.) and click on the download link. That will open up a dialog on your device asking if you want to load the file in iBooks.

Here is a helpful video about how to sideload the EPUB file on a NOOK device.

To load the EPUB file on a Kobo device, use the Kobo Desktop application.

Affiliate Links

So, what if you don’t have the ability to sell eBooks on your own website? You might want to consider just pointing to the eBooks you have up for sale on the different retailers. We recommend you sign up for an affiliate account at each of the major eBook stores. These affiliate programs give you a kickback on each sale when someone follows a link from your website to the store. It is not the same as selling your own eBooks, but every little bit helps.

Amazon: https://affiliate-program.amazon.com
Apple: Affiliate program: http://www.apple.com/itunes/affiliates; Link Creator: http://itunes.apple.com/linkmaker
B&N: http://affiliates.barnesandnoble.com
Kobo: http://www.kobobooks.com/affiliates

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Is it a good idea to put my Table of contents at the end of my eBook?

Some people do this to increase the size of the free samples automatically generated by the eBook retailers. However, the Kindle and other devices will re-set the “last read location” to the end of the book if you have your Table of Contents there, so we normally recommend against that practice.

What is the difference between HTML5 and XHTML5?

HTML5 is the latest version of the HTML standard used on the Web and in eBooks. XHTML5 is a stricter and cleaner version of HTML5, with rules from XML imposed on the code. For example, when a tag is opened it has to be closed, and all of the tags have to be properly nested. XHTML5 allows the code to be more easily interpreted by the display engine, and it keeps the code more consistent and easier to edit.

I have heard you can’t use color in eBooks. Is that correct?

No, that is absolutely incorrect. eBooks look great with color, and we highly recommend using color images and even colored text (within reason) in your eBook files. Some devices have grayscale eInk screens, so the color will not show up on those devices. However, the color will be in the file, and it will work on all of the color devices. We do recommend you test colored text on a device with an eInk screen and ensure that the text will not be too light to read.

Do you need to have a separate ISBN for each version of the eBook for different companies?

Technically, yes. See an extended answer on our ISBNs page.

What is KindleGen?

KindleGen is Amazon’s eBook creation/compiling program. It is used on the KDP website to auto-convert files uploaded into the Kindle store, and it is also integrated into the Kindle Previewer program to handle the conversion of non-Kindle files loaded in that program. You can download KindleGen and get access to other Kindle creation information at amazon.com/kindlepublishing.

What is a fixed layout eBook?

Fixed Layout eBooks are HTML-based eBook files that are usually designed to match the layout of a print book. The key difference between fixed layout files and reflowable files is that reflowable eBooks allow the reader to have more control over the reading experience, such as changing the font size, background color, etc. For more information, please see our Fixed Layout Children’s and Non-Fiction pages.

Does Amazon sell HTML files or only Kindle?

Amazon only sells eBooks in the Kindle format, but that format, just like ePub, is built using HTML and CSS files.

How is fixed layout different from a pdf of the book?

Fixed layout eBooks are built using HTML, so they have more functionality than PDF files. For example, the narration overlay functionality used in many children’s eBooks is not possible in PDF files. In addition, none of the eBook retailers sell PDFs, so fixed layout eBook files offer the best sales opportunities.

A university librarian told me they are not acquiring any Kindle books but only HTML5/ePub. Have you found that to be common with other libraries? I know our local public library does buy Kindle books.

Libraries acquire their eBooks from services like 3M and Overdrive. These services sometimes offer an option for Kindle checkouts, but typically they are limited to ePub files because of the more common use of the Adobe DRM.

Has the Kindle format gotten any more sophisticated in how it handles tables or floating images?

Yes, Amazon’s Kindle Format 8 has support for many great design features, including floating images, tables, color text, embedded fonts, and more.

How are page numbers handled in an eBook?

Print book page numbers are included in the HTML code of both the Kindle and ePub formats as anchors. They are also listed in the PageList section of the NCX or Navigation file. The PageList is used by some reading systems (like the Kindle and iBooks) to show the reader the print page numbers of the book as they read.

How are page headers created in eBook files?

The different reading systems control what shows up in the header of your eBook. Most will display the title of the book, and some will also display the author name. That text cannot currently be set to display the chapter name or other information about where the reader is currently reading in the text.

How do eBooks handle hyphenation of long words?

Some eBook reading systems will apply hyphenation to longer words to make the text better fit on the screen. This is typically controlled by the reading system, and will change depending on the font size and other settings the reader has set on their device.

What about protecting the file?

eBook file protection is called Digital Rights Management (DRM). Please see our DRM page for information on how it works and suggestions on how to use it.

Can I sell my eBooks on my own website?

Yes! You are certainly able to sell your eBooks on your own website. For more information, please see this page.