The coming nonfiction e-tsunami. Watch out for floating “Babe Ruth bars.”

Website Magazine cites a research report from Yankee Group that estimates ebook sales will reach $2.7 billion in sales in 2013. That’s compared to $313 million two years ago, in 2009.

Quite the leap.

Average prices, meanwhile are expected to drop to $7.

The article suggests that the downward price trend is one reason for the explosion in sales. Makes sense — it’s basic economic principle, after all.

Given that Website Magazine‘s audience is web developers and small business owners, it’s no surprise that the article veers to the topic of self-publishing white papers, how-to’s, and re-packaged blog posts. It also suggests business owners jump on the trend by publishing ebooks themselves:

Expertise in any industry can be used to create an e-book in short order, then sell that material or use it as a promotional or cross-sell incentive.

True. But I hope business owners realize that self-publishing a badly written, poorly organized ebook will be a liability, not a smart business decision. And I think it’s a stretch to suggest that the average small business owner can expect to “add revenue along the way.”

Business owners who self-publish should expect nothing more than pocket change. They should focus instead on the value of the ebook as a promotional tool.

Yes, there will be exceptions, but only if the venture meets at least one or two of the following criteria:

  • It already has an audience — i.e. it’s an established business vs. a start-up nobody’s ever heard of;
  • The topic is both catchy and compelling;
  • The business does a great job at PR and marketing the ebook;
  • The ebook offers information of genuine value;
  • The ebook is well-written enough that readers can understand and apply whatever it’s trying to teach them.

What percentage of ebooks in the coming nonfiction tsunami will meet at least two of those conditions, do you think?

And what percentage will more resemble floating Babe Ruth bars?

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