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All Those Ebooks: The Seedy Side of Blogging?

by Gip Plaster on October 12th, 2010

I don’t really enjoy reading bloggers hawking their ebooks or pushing someone else’s information products in my direction so they can get affiliate commissions, but I’m not sure they’re doing anything wrong. It’s either a necessary-but-seedy side of the business — or it’s planting seeds for the kind of harvest we all deserve.

I haven’t written any ebooks, so I don’t have anything to sell you today. Since this blog began, however, I have mentioned three — and only three — ebooks that I think are useful and interesting.

None of you have said anything about being offended, and the three bloggers have each made sales because of my affiliate links. My posts about these products, however, got very few comments, and that seems to be the case when other bloggers write these kinds of posts, too.

I take that to mean that none of you disliked those posts, a few of you found them useful enough to make a purchase and most of you were completely indifferent toward them.

Before I offer some thoughts on blogs promoting ebooks, here’s an update on the three ebooks I’ve written about:

[2012 Update: I removed this section because I no longer link to or recommend any ebooks.]

For some reason, some people find selling to be disgraceful, unbecoming, vile or at least annoying. People interested in simplicity, frugality and minimalism are even more suspicious of sales pitches because we try to make careful and deliberate decisions about how we spend our money and how we live our lives. That makes seeing bloggers selling products they could be giving away particularly grating.

On the other hand, products like the three I mention above are useful and even entertaining. Meg offers great recipes and ideas about minimalist cooking for less than $5. Brett expresses an idea that’s hard to contradict for a very reasonable price, too. And while Everett’s ebook is the most expensive, it’s also the most comprehensive look at his topic available. All of them can very literally change your life if you read them and let them become part of you.

More importantly, perhaps, we all need to make money to survive. I think providing you useful information — either by writing an ebook or drawing a great one to your attention — is something valuable for which it is worth exchanging a bit of your money. Don’t you agree?

So which is it then?

While all these ebooks springing from all these blogs may look like the seedy underbelly of an otherwise useful and interesting blog world, I don’t think there’s anything disreputable about selling useful information in exchange for modest amounts of money.

It’s bloggers helping bloggers, people taking their futures into their own hands and readers supporting those who consistently provide content worth reading. It’s planting seeds, nurturing the seedlings and reaping the rewards of your hard work.

It’s doing something simple and something good to benefit both yourself and your world. I hope that’s what we’re all doing in our unique ways every day.

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16 Comments
  1. I don’t have a problem with bloggers promoting eBooks that they find valuable, but there are sites out there that promote mainly for the affiliate money they receive. I also find that there are eBooks that are written very well, and a lot written poorly. It’s hard to really gauge what you are paying for since you can’t peek into the eBook like you can a novel in a bookstore. There are very few “real” reviews of eBooks on websites, too. Most are praising the book so they collect a sum. There is no open review site like you can find on iTunes or Amazon, for example. That’s the reason why I haven’t purchased more eBooks myself, and rarely promote them on my site.

    • Thanks for commenting, James.

      You’re right: I see very few real reviews of ebooks. I feel almost compelled to point out the flaws in the ones I read because no one else is.

      Gip

  2. When I was having my thoughts about “do real minimalists sell ebooks…or buy them”, I wrote this post

    http://minimalistmum.blogspot.com/2010/09/when-life-doesnt-even-give-you-lemons.html

    The moral being:

    The answers to your challenges are in yourself and all around you.
    Look there first, and you will save time, effort, or money!

    I have done enough reading of other people’s great ideas (that they are excited enough to share for free). I still read them for interest, but not for major discovery. My barriers are internal, and the best ebook from someone else will not solve them. So the frugal minimalist in me will not Buy Now.

  3. At least they are promoting e-books, rather than dead-tree books, thus being minimalistic in that sense.

    I don’t mind a blogger selling a book. Even writing a post to promote it — once. Even a small tasteful link to the item on a sidebar. What really rubs me the wrong way, and has caused me to avoid certain blogs are the following:

    *A sidebar as wide as the text column that’s full of e-book ads, whether your own or someone else’s. Especially if they are really large and distracting. If you have more than one or two items you are promoting, try a simple “Visit my e-book store” link, which can take the reader to a separate page with nice info about teh various e-books on offer. Less obnoxious, and probably better for sales, too.

    *Excessively frequent self-promotion articles. If every other or every third post is hawking one of your or an affiliate’s e-books, rather than interesting and useful content, I will soon lose interest.

    *Same thing goes for blogs where more of the alleged content is of the how-to-make-money-by-blogging-and-selling-ebooks variety, rather than minimalism or whatever you blog purports to be about.

    Just my opinion, but those are my turnoffs. I read blogs for the information, the sense of community, and the enjoyment. I do not read blogs to be marketed to.
    Mike recently posted Minority By Choice

    • Thanks for commenting Jess and Mike — as always.

      Mike, I think the key is whether the reviews or promotions add any information. Reviewing a useful product adds information, but repeatedly mentioning the same products doesn’t. And useless reviews motivated only by affiliate fees don’t add much either.

      I’ll continue to severely limit the number of ebooks I mention, but I will mention some when there’s a reason. Don’t you think that’s the best way to handle it?

      Gip

  4. Gip, you are exactly right. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a legitimate review, or a mention of something that might be of interest to the readers. That’s just good journalism.
    Mike recently posted Minority By Choice

  5. Jerry permalink

    My issue is that almost all the minimalist blogs I read end up the same. They start up with great content and some excellent thoughts. As soon as they become popular they begin hawking e-books and pushing the extreme minimalism lifestyle. Then they turn off commenting under the guise of forcing “us” to do something more with our lives. They make it seem that if you own more than 100 things, have a car and a job you’re a loser.
    Well I have 2 kids and a house and 2 cars because we live in the suburbs for the better cost of living and school systems. My idea of minimalism is to keep the toys at bay, tone down the wardrobe, stay debt free and save money in case one of us loses our job.

    • Excellent comments, Jerry.

      You’re right. I’ve written about just about everything you mentioned. Turn off comments is a mistake. Making a site too commercial is a mistake. There are lots of mistakes.

      Keep reading my blog, Jerry. I think we’re going to get along really well!
      Gip

  6. Hi Gip! I don’t mind other bloggers promoting affiliate ebooks and I promote some ebooks that I believe in. I think you believe in the product is ok to promote. Nothing wrong with helping a friend out when you believe the product can benefit others.

    I don’t personally like posts about selling ebooks but I don’t see anything wrong with them per say. I prefer when the ebook is being announced on the side bar and I check it out if I’m interested. This is just a personal preference.

    Thanks for your thought provoking post. Loving blessings!
    Andrea DeBell – britetalk recently posted The Secret to Kick Ass Motivation

  7. Gip – Don’t know if you guys have it over there but ‘Reggae Reggae’ jerk sauce is great and comes in a squeezy tube so you can refrigerate and use for other things also.
    @Jerry – I too have a house, 2 kids and 2 cars – for me it’s about very similar ideals to yours. Spend less, consume less, commit less and spend more time with the kids and doing what I want to do rather than what I have to do. You only get this one chance, so make the most of the opportunity.
    ps – UK public transport is appalling if you aren’t in a city – if I didn’t have a car we would be confined to about a 2 mile radius with two small kids in tow currently…
    Jo@simplybeingmum recently posted Simple Meal Plan – Week Two

  8. I appreciate a useful review of an ebook, meaning it gives enough information to tweek my curiousity. For a sell I need a deep draw that won’t let go. Very few of those around.

    Most blogs promote ebooks that appear from the outside (cover) as a collection of good ideas. Maybe. Maybe not. For the most part I have been impressed by the number of ebooks available and the ease of production once commited.

    For writers who have yet to find a publisher, ebooks are a choice. I have learned to ignore ads no matter where they sit from billboard to web page.

    Thanks for sharing your journey and perspective.

  9. Gwen Harper permalink

    I don’t know how anyone can continue to recommend this book when Ev is now on social media networks begging for money for an apartment, computer and more. Clearly, he failed. Scam artist? I think so!

    • I haven’t heard anything about “Ev” since he still had all the rest of the letters in his name. He’s probably more confused than scam artist, but I don’t really know. Thanks for commenting, Gwen.
      Gip

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