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eBooks vs. White Papers

Watch this short video to get a high-level explanation of ebooks and white papers.

What’s the difference between ebooks and white papers? That’s a question I hear a lot as a freelance white paper writer.  Let’s take away the confusion and look at these two content marketing approaches — ebooks vs. white papers — from a high level.


If you’ve read or downloaded ebooks, like this one I wrote about mobile-friendly websites, you’ve seen they run the gamut. They can be as short as a few pages or as long as 50 or more pages. Anything that long, however, I would categorize as a guide, not an ebook.

In any case, I would describe an ebook as more lightweight fare. They tend to:

  • Be short, about 1,200 words
  • Be light on research
  • Quote fewer sources, maybe one at most
  • Offer simple information or instructions in a listicle format

White Papers

White papers, on the other hand, are more academic. Therefore, they tend to:

  • Be longer, running 2,000, 3,000 and up to 5,000 words
  • Require and provide more research
  • Quote more sources, with up to four sources, sometimes more
  • Take a deeper dive

Of course, none of this is perfectly set in stone. The biggest difference I see between ebooks and white papers is tone. Ebooks often read like blog posts, while white papers take a more serious (but not necessarily dull or boring) approach.

Need help with a white paper or ebook? Let’s talk about your project!

Bonnie Nicholls on Linkedin
Bonnie Nicholls
Bonnie Nicholls is a freelance writer specializing in thought leadership content: case studies, articles, white papers/ebooks and blog posts. She supports industries such as Agile/Scrum, defense and leadership training.