What is the Difference Between a Whitepaper and an Ebook?

As a content-producing digital marketing agency, we’re often helping our clients shape their messaging into a variety of different types of downloadable content to both generate the most leads possible, but also to present their message in the most impactful way possible for their customers.

One of the most common decisions we help our clients make is whether a piece of content is better delivered as an ebook or a whitepaper, and sometimes just marking the delineation between the two is where we start with many clients.

Let’s set the record straight on the differences between whitepapers and ebooks.

What is a Whitepaper?

Think of your whitepaper as a research paper in graduate school. It will have solid research, references, arguments and the like. It is a deep dive into a specific, usually technical, topic, and it is meant to demonstrate your company’s expertise in whatever it is you do.

Common Characteristics of Whitepapers

  • Text heavy
  • Minimal design elements like photos or graphics
  • Technical or intellectual language
  • One specific topic explored deeply
  • Leans toward the academic side in tone and style

What is an Ebook?

An ebook is more entertaining in tone. Rather than academic, think about it as an editorial publication. Ebooks contain more graphic elements and photos, and are often laid out more like a mini-magazine. Their subject matter is usually more fun and relatable, and can be your company’s opinions or best practices related to a particular topic, rather than hardcore research.

Common Characteristics of Ebooks:

  • Prettier to look at than a whitepaper
  • Well-designed with lots of images and graphic elements
  • Surface-level overview
  • Not research heavy
  • Leaves the reader wanting more

How to Choose the Right Format for Your Premium Asset

The first thing to consider is your buyer persona (or target demographic), which often dictates which type of content vehicle makes the most sense. What does that person want to know, and how do they want to learn about it? Knowing who you’re trying to deliver content to is often the best way to determine how to shape that content, and then you can decide how in depth you plan to go on any one topic, and begin plotting an outline that would fit an ebook or whitepaper, accordingly.

For example, if you’re trying to communicate a marketing message to a creative, you’re probably going to want to lean on imagery and a well-designed ebook that gives you space to simplify big points and teach something valuable to the persona you’re targeting.

If you’re getting technical about a problem or solution, and looking to deliver that content to someone who wants the gritty details of your expertise, then a whitepaper will give you more opportunity to speak at-length and really explain every important point you’re trying to make. Something an ebook would struggle to do concisely and in a design-friendly manner.

Important to Note

There is no real “right ” or “wrong” when it comes to making the decision to use an ebook or a whitepaper for your asset, but there is always a “best” choice, and your marketing agency or consultant is often the best place to lean on to figure out which is best for your situation.

If you don’t have one, Contact Us, and we’d be happy to help.