What’s the Difference Between a Whitepaper and an E-Book

June 28, 2018

One of the most common questions we get asked from our clients is for the exact difference between a whitepaper and an e-book. Both types of content have distinct similarities and a few differences. So before you decide on whether to choose a whitepaper or e-book for your client, take a look at some of the things you can expect from both:

Are Whitepapers Longer?

A lot of people believe that whitepapers are, in general, longer than an e-book. This might be the case, sometimes. But it’s not a hard-and-fast rule. For instance, you could have a 100-page whitepaper or a 5-page white paper. It all depends on the unique content you are filling the pages with.

E-Books are Fluffier


First of all, when we talk about fluffy content, we’re usually referring to softer, less data-backed writing. In general, whitepapers have more hard data and statistics to back up claims while an e-book can focus more on opinion or a closer look at generalized statements. However, this doesn’t mean that e-books should have no data in them. In pretty much every case, having hard data or examples to back up your claims is a positive feature, no matter what industry you are in.

What About the Tone?

In most cases, the tone is the biggest difference between a whitepaper and an e-book. This relates back to having a strong buyer persona because that is what ultimately sets the tone. For example, a whitepaper that is going to be delivered to high-level CEOs will read significantly different than an e-book catered to parents of preschoolers. Typically, a whitepaper is more formal in tone while an e-book can be a little more colloquial and laid-back.

The Purpose

Since whitepapers often take a more formal approach, many believe that this type of content is meant to be strictly informative and educational while an e-book has greater chance to be funny and entertaining. This isn’t quite the case, because both a whitepaper and e-book can contain funny, informative, inspiring, and educational content. However, governments, finance, and other more serious industries often favor the formal structure of a whitepaper while e-books are used by a broader spectrum of clients.

Formatting Differences

Because whitepapers take on a more scholarly tone, it’s common to see a whitepaper focus on the linear story progression of one singular topic. It’s extensively researched and rarely strays from the topic at hand. On the other hand, an e-book often takes the form of several “chunks” of content, often touching on several different ideas relating to one topic at once. It’s not uncommon for a client to take several blogs that relate to each other and reformat it into an e-book.

E-books are also more known for their sleek graphics and pictures while a whitepaper is often a little drier and basic. However, just like with every other distinction, there are exceptions to this rule. Some whitepapers might have cause to include more infographics, images, and graphs, while some e-books might paint a better picture with words only.

How to Choose Which Type of Content to Order?

Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether you would be better off ordering a whitepaper or e-book. Depending on your unique needs and goals, either one could be the right way to go. Here are a few tips to keep in mind to help you decide which of the two options are best for you:

Is the content going out as part of a strategy to get clients to register or sign up for something? Whitepapers are often seen with more value, so it’s a good idea to choose this option as a reward or paid content for your readers.

  • What’s the topic? Are you looking for long-form content about the best ways to make vegan tacos or is it an article on how Fintech is disrupting the finance industry? If it’s the former, an e-book is probably the better choice, while the more serious subject would be better suited to an e-book.
  • Do you have a ton of graphics and pictures to go along with the content? An e-book might be better.
  • Will the content be delivered to a scholarly group or industry-insiders who don’t need much in terms of a general introduction to the topic? Whitepaper!

If you’re still not sure whether a whitepaper or e-book is appropriate for your strategy, you can always contact your trusted third-party content writing service. Schedule a free consultation with us today and find out everything you need to know about drafting the perfect whitepaper or e-book for your unique needs!

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