Chapter 13

What’s the Difference between an E-book and a White Paper?

(And When Should You Use Them?)

White paper (n): An authoritative report or guide that often addresses issues and how to solve them. White papers are often used to educate readers and help people make decisions.

E-book (n): Simply, a book published electronically, designed to be downloaded and either read on a screen or printed.

Mostly, the differences between a white paper and an e-book are in style and tone.

A white paper (sometimes called a research report, summary, or technical brief) plays it straight. It is usually a topical report focused on a single central issue—for example, an emerging trend. White papers tend to be longish (10 to 12 pages) and geared to a technically specific audience—and business-to-business (B2B) companies love them.

E-books—like Qvidian’s Dive Deeper into Your Sales Metrics: Four Ways to Discover Hidden Sales Treasure (see Chapter 23) are looser, more playful, and wholly more novel (no pun intended). An e-book might be just as long as a white paper—or longer—but with an engaging theme, appealing design, and layout dominated by bold text treatments and callouts.

Jonathan Kranz, author of Writing Copy For Dummies (John Wiley & Sons, 2004) and owner of the Boston-based Kranz Communications, puts it this way: “I think of white papers as the man in the gray flannel suit: an official who wants to establish authority by demonstrating what he knows in a formal, even pedantic manner.” The ...

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