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Last Train to E-Ville: What's happening in the wild, wild world of e-publishing.

Have you built your own virtual library yet? EbookCity is a good place to start. Plus, e-Marketing Tip of the Month from Godfrey Harris.
Have you ever wished there was a library that stayed open 24 hours a day, was lending card and fine-free, and didn't make you walk up those big marble steps? EbookCity, the publishing portal recently opened by electronic publisher Versaware, can help you build your own library in cyberspace. The new site gives users access to thousands of electronic titles, and one of it's coolest features is Library Builder, a tool designed for storing and organizing downloaded content, much the way you would arrange the shelves of your home library (if you weren't such a disorganized slob...)

The catch, of course, is that Versaware would gladly sell you some of their own ebooks, which they've been publishing since 1996, to fill up your virtural library. Under the motto, "E-publishing for an I-World," Versaware has developed fast and inexpensive methods of transforming print materials into dynamic, multi-media products available on CDs or as personal computer and reading device downloads. EbookCity makes it easy to locate all available titles, both free and otherwise, and the Library Builder tool organizes them into "shelves" and has its own searchable catalog.

Versaware has already licensed the content of over 50 publishers, producing about 5,000 reference titles, and have converted the content of some 2,000 books from the public domain. For example, 52 of Charles Dickens' titles are available for free, along with various works by Shakespeare, Wilde, Goethe, and others. The 29-volume Funk & Wagnalls encyclopedia is a free download, as are Webster's Dictionary and Roget's Thesaurus.

"We're very proud of what we're offering with eBookCity, and glad to be at the forefront of this technology," said Versaware COO Tina Ravitz. "Now we're trying to get as many people as possible to come to the site, and let them see how easy it is to use these reference books and their content."

Ravitz went on to explain about the multi-media aspects of Versabooks and how the material can be extracted and organized into studies and reports. "It's the way kids learn today, with video, sound, and 3-D imagery. It inspires them to delve deeper in the subject matter and gives them a greater depth of understanding," she said. "We now can offer the technology, the content, and the distribution channels. Library Builder allows people to put it all together in one place." The book report will never be the same...

E-Marketing Tip of the Month:

LET YOUR FINGERS DO THE TALKING: WORD OF MOUTH ON EMAIL by Godfrey Harris

If word of mouth advertising is the least expensive, most effective form of market promotion-as some marketing specialists believe--then the Internet may soon become the most important, least intrusive medium to transmit word of mouth comments.

At its essence, word of mouth advertising is very personal--someone speaking to a friend, relative, or associate about a product, service or event that the person has experienced. Since friends generally have no hidden agenda and nothing to gain from embellishing the attributes or hiding the limitations of something they have purchased or used, word of mouth has a basic honesty that other promotional techniques cannot match.

In short, most people believe what a friend tells them. More than that, they accept endorsements or complaints because they tend to share the same values as their friends. But since most people don't voluntarily talk about the type of antacid medicine they take or the brand of gasoline they use, programs have to be designed to get conversations about products, services, and events started.

On the Internet, getting people to pass information to their friends, colleagues, and associates is faster and easier. EMail messages can be forwarded to dozens of favorite addressees with no mistakes and no misunderstandings. The trick is drafting an EMail message that someone would feel comfortable passing to a friend. Make your EMail messages: Short: Say what you want in as few lines as possible.
Simple: Insure that the reasons a recipient ought to use a product or service are clear.
Surprising: Send your offer to the recipient out of the blue.
Sensational: If the reward or special advantage built into a word of mouth program is so generous or unusual, it should engender a conversation that begins: "Wow! Guess what I learned today?"
Sequential: While traditional forms of advertising require repetition, word of mouth advertising needs to be sequential. Any reiteration of a basic message should be wrapped in different words, new rewards, and fresh incentives.

We follow these principles ourselves in designing Internet programs for our clients. Once you learn how to get someone else's fingers to do the talking about a product or service, you'll find that it turns out to be a lot more rewarding than selling a new customer in the first place.

Godfrey Harris (HRMG@aol.com) has been a management consultant for more than 30 years, specializing in new product development, commemorative event planning, and word of mouth programs for private and non-profit entities. He has written four books on the subject of word of mouth advertising and conducted a number of day-long seminars on the topic in the United States and abroad.


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