Ebook Engine from eBooks.com

A simple API that enables publishers to sell secure ebooks from their own websites

It's really simple to sell secure ebooks from your own website
It's really simple to sell secure ebooks from your own website

In addition to selling millions of ebooks to millions of readers around the globe, since 2000 eBooks.com has provided fulfilment services to book publishers. Ebook Engine is a simple tool that’s popular with publishers who have other priorities than building and maintaining a complete, secure, DRM-enabled ebook delivery system.

  • An easy fulfillment service that enables any publisher to supply ebooks direct from their own website
  • Really simple integration
  • Also good for: bundling ebook with print book sales

How it works

It’s a fast, simple process. We will work with your development team to set up a connection between your website and our servers, and to establish the necessary protocols that allow your customers to access their ebooks, once bought.

When a visitor buys an ebook from you, your site will display a download link. When they hit that link, the encrypted ebook will be delivered to the user’s device from eBooks.com’s servers.

How to get started

If you’d like to do this, or would like more info, just ping us and we’ll get you up and running in no time.

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Q&A: Ebook Engine in more detail

What is Ebook Engine?

Ebook Engine is a simple ebook fulfilment service. You supply your ebook files and metadata to us and we give you the ability to securely deliver ebooks to individuals so they can read on their device or desktop.

The ebooks that you sell can be read with our online (browser-based) reader, and are also downloadable to Ebook Reader (Android and iOS) and the vast array of apps and devices that support Adobe DRM.

Ebook Engine is not a white label storefront

Ebook Engine is not a “white label” storefront service. We don’t provide a turn-key online bookstore. Ebook Engine is only suitable for a publisher who already sells books from their own website. In other words, your website will already need to have these things in place:

  • eCommerce payment system (credit card processing or PayPal)
  • Online catalog of your books
  • Shopping cart system
  • Customer account page, including a “bookshelf” for each customer
  • Help desk and support

So how exactly does this work?

  • You supply standards-compliant ebook materials (book files and metadata) to us,
  • Adapt your online catalogue / bookstore to display and sell ebooks to your visitors,
  • When a user buys an ebook from your site, you display access links (‘Download’ and ‘Read Online’ links) for the book in the user’s account page on your site,
  • The access links include encrypted information that provides us with what we need, in order to give your customer access to their ebook.

Here’s a demo … 

Click to setp through a demo of Ebook Engine's setup
This will show you what’s involved on your end.

Why would I want to use Ebook Engine rather than just using my existing retail partners?

You should continue to work with your existing retail partners, but it makes sense to also provide ebook fulfilment from your own site. You can direct your customers to another retail site, like ebooks.com for fulfilment, and that makes good sense if you don’t have the resources to dedicate to managing ebook sales from your own site. But keep in mind that each time you send a customer away from your own site, you reduce the chances that they will buy the book. When they arrive at the new site there are many other books from other publishers also available there, and the chances that they will find another book that interests them, or simply lose interest, are increased with each additional step they take. There is attrition when customers move from one site to another. If you want to retain your customer, and encourage them to buy your books, keep them on your site and keep it simple.

Another reason is profit margin. Selling your own ebooks allows you to drive customers to your own site and retain more of that margin for yourself. While your relationships with retailers are important, why give away that extra margin for sales that you have directly generated yourself if you don’t have to?

Can I rent out my ebooks?

Yes, you can rent your ebooks. In the instructions that we provide to your developers / web team we show them how to provide expiring access to an ebook.

Can customers pre-order for NYP titles?

Yes they can.

How much development work is required on our side?

This will vary depending on what you already have in place on your retail site and your specific requirements.

If you already have a retail site with shopping cart functionality, it will be a simple task that involves adding the ebooks to your catalogue and determining whether to display them as entirely new records, or alongside the print book version on the same product page, and how to display the download links after the purchase has taken place.

How long will it take to get it up and running?

From our perspective the turn around time is very fast — a day or so. Your developers will need to spend some time testing to ensure that the fulfillment code is correctly set up at your end. Once your development team has passed the integration tests you can be ready to start fulfilling ebooks within 16 hours.

Are there instructions that I can hand over to my web person / development team?

We have created complete API documentation for your development team. This can be downloaded from within your Ebook Services admin portal, or just ask and we’ll email it to you.

Can I put my tech people in touch with yours?

Absolutely. What we recommend is that you pass the Ebook Engine Developer Stuff document to your developers / web team as soon as possible. Once they have reviewed it we set up an introductory call between our tech teams.

Besides the setup development time / cost, how will it affect my company’s existing processes

This depends on what your current processes are. If you are already supplying ebook files and metadata to eBooks.com, EBL (or other aggregators), and already have an ecommerce solution on your website then, once the initial development and setup has taken place, you should barely notice any changes to your existing processes.

Who takes the money? Who hosts the shopping cart and processes the transaction with Ebook Engine?

You do. With Ebook Engine you manage every aspect of the search, discovery, purchase, authentication and bookshelf display process. What we do is supply access to the book, according to your requirements (i.e. for the length of time you specify, in the format(s) you specify, with the print and copy allowance you specify, etc).

Can customers order print and ebooks in the same shopping cart?

Your customer can order print and ebook in the same shopping cart. You will need to work with your development team and a designer to determine exactly what this would look like. You will need to create these web pages at your end.

Who stores the customers’ details?

You do. When you send us the authentication information to let us know that a valid request for access has come through, we will store that information and use it for billing you. It is important to note that we will only record the information for books that a customer accesses, not for all books purchased. If you sell a book to a customer, but they never access it, we will have no record of that in our system.

Do customers need a second login?


After they buy the ebook how does my customer find their ebook, to start reading it?

This is up to you, but there are a few ways that you can do this

  1. You can send them an email when they purchase the book that includes a link to download the book. When the user clicks on this link it will pass information to our servers that allows us to detect that this is a legitimate request, and from there the user will start downloading the book (or reading it online);
  2. If you already have an account area for your customers on your site, with a record of their purchases, in addition to sending them an email confirming their purchase you could include the link to download the book from within their account, perhaps next to the purchase record for that title;
  3. You can create a bookshelf on your site for each customer within their account. They can go there at any time to access their ebooks.

Do customers have to leave our site at any point?

No. The customer remains on your site throughout the whole process.

How will this be branded?

The branding is in your hands. All we do is provide the fulfilment, so from the customer’s perspective we are invisible.

How secure is Ebook Engine?

Like all services provided by Ebook Services, Ebook Engine is secure and runs using 128 bit encryption for all communications and data transfers. Ebook files are stored on dedicated servers in our Canada-based, tier one data centre. All book files are stored on non-public servers and access is controlled via 2-factor authentication methods (2-factor = “Something I know + something I have.”)

What file formats and devices are supported?

Ebook Engine supports PDF and ePub files. These files can be read on a number of different devices including Windows Desktop and Mac OS, iOS (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch), Android OS, Kobo Reader.

We will also convert your PDF and ePub files to our proprietary Online Reader format at no extra cost. This will make your titles available on most tablets, laptops and desktops with a web browser.

If you wish to make your titles available on Amazon’s Kindle, the only way to do this at present is with social DRM, which is available for your Ebook Engine. Our social DRM consists of watermarking the file with the user’s name and email address on random pages throughout the text. The file can be copied and passed on, and there are no limits on printing and copying, but it will include the name of the user who originally downloaded it.

If I don’t have e-commerce on my site, will you do it for me through eBooks.com

Yes we can. We’ll provide you a simple way to refer visitors to eBooks.com, where the customer can complete their purchase and access the ebook.

Can you set this up on my website for me?

We can provide you with guidance and tips, and our development team is happy to work with your development team / web people, but the work to create any additional pages and the authentication process on your site will need to be carried out by your own team.

Do all of the titles we sell on eBooks.com also need to be on sale on our own web site?

No. It is up to you as to which of your titles you want to offer for sale as ebooks on your own site.

Do all eBooks sold on our site also need to be on eBooks.com?

Yes. All ebooks (hosted by us) that you sell on your own site must also be for sale on eBooks.com.

Does the fee we pay for each sale apply to print+eBook bundles, or does a different rate of payment apply for bundles?

The fee is the same for every ebook you supply to an end user, regardless of whatever else you might supply along with it.

What would the end user experience be like?

You can better understand the user experience by buying and reading a book on eBooks.com. Buy something cheap and classic, like Pride and Prejudice.

Q&A: Administering Ebook Engine

Are Ebook Engine ebooks available for expiring and perpetual access?

Yes. In the API documentation we explain how your developers can structure the links to allow for perpetual access or expiring access.

Who controls the DRM for the Ebook Engine books?

You determine what the print, copy, read aloud, sharing permissions are on your books, we wrap the DRM around them when your customer clicks to download or read online.

How do I upload new titles and metadata to my Ebook Engine account?

We’ll provide access to our Publisher Interface for managing your inventory and an FTP account for uploading your ebook files and metadata. We will also provide you with a metadata template for metadata submission, and a handbook to help you navigate the Publisher Interface. We also accept ONIX if you would prefer to supply your metadata that way.

Who manages customer support?

You manage customer support, but your Ebook Engine representative is always on hand to answer questions as they arise. We are also happy to provide you with the FAQs and customer support replies used by our own customer support team at eBooks.com to help you with common troubleshooting and FAQs.

What is the delay between uploading a file and metadata and the book becoming available for sale on my site?

Provided that you have delivered your files and metadata according to our required specifications your title should be live on the system within 2 working days. For titles that need to be processed urgently please upload the file and metadata to your FTP account and contact us to ask that we fast track it.

Can I get a report of my sales?

You can get a report of the orders that have been fulfilled (i.e. when a customer has actually clicked to download or to read a book online), but not of the sales.

Because you are handling the transaction and we only act when a customer actually downloads or opens a book, it isn’t possible for us to provide you with sales reports. You will need to keep a record of these at your end. On the upside, we only bill you for the books that are read, not for the sales that are made. Any difference between the two, you keep.

I usually work with my distributor – they do all my sales reporting – how can I get these sales included?

You will need to keep a record of your own sales and supply these reports to your distributor directly. We are only able to keep a record of the books that have been accessed, not the books that have been sold. So this reporting function by necessity will have to come from you.

I don’t want to sell some of my books as ebooks from my site. Can I choose which books to sell?

You can. It is up to you which books you do and don’t sell from your site. When you supply us with files and with metadata you can specify which channels each book is available for. If there are titles that you don’t want to make available as ebooks on your own site, then you can flag them in your metadata. We provide you with a catalogue of the titles that are flagged as available for Ebook Engine in your metadata.

Can I sell my ebooks in different currencies?

If you wish, supply us with USD, GBP, EUR, AUD and CAD prices in your metadata and we can supply this information to you in your catalogues. Then it is up to you which price(s) to display on your website.

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