EDIT: By Thursday night, this post only had 3 comments. That’s no good, so I’m canning the blog-every-day-this-week endeavor and I won’t be updating the blog again until the post has a lot more comments.

Today was day 3 in my Week of eBook Consumption. This week I’m decluttering my ebook collection and writing something about it every day.

Why is it that ebooks can cost so much more than real books? Well, there are a number of reasons, with one of them being that you can add more value into an ebook than you can with a real book. In this blog post I go over exactly how you can add more value to an ebook or other digital product, which benefits both you and your customer.

And by the way, I think this is one of the best blog posts I’ve written recently :)

If you want to save this for later, you can download a simple .pdf version of this blog post by clicking the button below and tweeting or sharing the post. It’s free, duh:

[Click here if you can’t see the button]

What is value, anyway?

But before I get to how to increase value, let me talk a bit about value itself and what it means.

And uh, this might get a bit freaky nerdy, so… consider yourself warned.

In the marketing world, Value = Benefits / Cost. So let’s think about that for a bit. This means that the amount of value you get out of something is great if the benefits are great (or, conversely, small if the benefits are small), but that value is cut into by any costs involved.

What are some benefits that come from reading an ebook (or consuming any digital product, for that matter)? In other words, what are people looking for when they buy your product? These benefits could include any of the following:

  • Useful information that makes life easier or better
  • Valuable information that helps make more money
  • Entertaining information
  • Information that is just interesting or “good to know”
  • Rare information that is difficult or time-consuming to find

So remember that since there’s a positive benefit-value correlation, the more of any of those benefits you include in your ebook, the more valuable your ebook is. (And let me just say now that whenever I say “ebook,” you can also insert membership site or app or whatever digital product you want.)

With me so far?

Ok, so now that we’ve talked about the benefits part of the value equation, what are some costs to the reader that could lessen the value of your ebook? In other words, what could ruin or diminish the experience?

  • Your product contains inaccurate information
  • Your product contains vague information
  • The information in your product is not what the reader thought it would be
  • The consumer feels like he/she was overcharged
  • The user’s experience while consuming the product is a poor one because of poor design or presentation
  • It takes too long for your reader to consume the product

So let’s back to our value equation. To make something valuable, you want to give lots of benefits while minimizing the costs. Simple enough.

But wait, there’s more!

Two types of value

Now that we’ve got a general idea of what value actually means and how we can increase or reduce it, let’s discuss the two broad types of value: actual value and perceived value.

Actual value is essentially what we talked about above. It’s the scholastic, impartial analysis of how useful the information you provide is. It’s how useful/entertaining/whatever your content actually is to the average consumer. But then there’s perceived value, and this is one big reason why digital products can be so expensive.

Perceived value is the “shallow” value. It’s the judge-a-book-by-its-cover value. It’s the value that makes you either say “wow” or “lame” when you look at the ebook or product.

How to increase the value of your ebook (or other digital product)

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the main event. How can you increase the value of your product? In other words, this section is all about how you can

  1. charge more for your product, and/or
  2. make your readers/customers feel like they’re getting a great deal

We’re dealing here mainly with increasing perceived value, which is ideally backed up by real value.

But of course ,the most basic, elemental, and possibly most valuable (to your customers and to you) way to increase the value of a product is just to increase the amount of benefits that will come from consuming your product. This is the actual value. This is the good stuff. This is the stuff that I list in the 5 bullet points in the “What is value?” section above.

In other words, provide great content that fits the needs and wants of your consumer.

As always, the main thing you need to do is deliver great content. But I think that’s a given, and I’m not going to talk about it much.

Apart from providing killer content, which should be the main anthem of whatever you’re doing (blogging, singing, painting, etc.), below are several ways to  increase the value of your product:

In general, video and audio increase perceived value. You obviously can’t provide audio or video in an ebook directly, but there are ways to get around that. If you’re selling your ebook as a downloadable .pdf, you can include audio or video media in the zipped file. You could also include a link and password in the material that lets people access a password-protected site that contains the material. Or you could provide a number of links to private YouTube videos. Or you could provide direct links to the media files on Amazon S3, some other file hosting service, or your own hosting account.

(Side note: A great, simple way to do this would be to put all the media in a public Dropbox folder and then password protect the folder. Then you could just give people the password to access whatever’s inside. Unfortunately, Dropbox can’t do this yet, but they’re apparently working on it. It’ll be sweet when/if it happens, though. In the mean time, does anyone know of a service that does this?)

Apart from having great content and changing the medium of the material itself (like having a video course instead of an ebook, for example), one of the most popular ways to increase value is to offer bonus material.

Tangential parallel material is often used as a bonus to increase perceived value. What I mean by “tangential parallel material” is stuff that is sort of related to what your main product about, but not directly. It’s supplemental material.

For example, if you’ve got an ebook about speed climbing, you could provide an extra report or ebook about weather in the mountains. It would include information on lightnight, cloud formations, and when to keep climbing vs. when to turn around so you don’t die. If you’ve got an ebook about blogging, include a “special report” about how to best make money using AdSense on your blog.

This bonus material can be any of a number of things, including…

  • Other reports or ebooks (as just illustrated)
  • PLR ebooks or articles (ideally rewritten and redesigned)
  • Interviews
  • Templates
  • Lists (packing lists, website lists, equipment lists, etc.)
  • Plans
  • Real-world examples or analyses
  • Case studies

These bonuses are especially great if the person who buys the product can use them directly, like plans in a furniture-making ebook, or a sample non-disclosure agreement or business plan in an ebook about entrepreneuship.

And of course, these materials can be in text, audio, or video form. Check out my 31 ebook ideas post for more ideas of what you could include as a bonus.

Including your main content in other formats is another great way to increase value. So for example, in addition to your ebook in .pdf form, you could offer it in .epub (for iPads and stuff) and .mobi (for Kindles) formats. You could also include an audio version, a “CliffsNotes” version (an outline of the most important things), an infographics version, or a PowerPoint version. You can also include the material in different languages, if applicable.

Slick design goes a long way in terms of increasing perceived value, but I’ll talk about ebook design more in depth some other time.

Finally, unadvertised bonuses that customers only find out about once they’ve purchased the product can help increase both perceived and actual value, plus increase people’s goodwill toward you.

Final words

Again, providing value is the main goal of everything we do online, and being able to do it is an extremely important skill. If you want to be able to consistently make money online, you’ll need to provide value, and the more value you’re able to provide, the more money you’ll make.

  • How else can you provide value with an ebook or other product?
  • What have been the best products you’ve ever purchased, and why? Where is the value?
  • When have you been disappointed after buying a product?