I started a site about two years ago to aggregate free kindle ebooks from Amazon and display them in a Pinterest-like fashion. It was just a little weekend project, as I had a new job and wanted to brush up on my PHP skills. Naturally, I monetized with Amazon's affiliate program and Google AdSense. The site grew steadily, and has paid my rent and utilities throughout the last year or so of college.

Now it's seeing more traffic than ever and I feel like I should actually capitalize on it a little more and start capturing email addresses. I read a new post every other day about how people regret not starting to capture emails earlier, and I've put it off for too long.

The only problem is that I don't know what to send them. They go to my site for free ebooks, so I thought maybe I could offer up a weekly digest of the best books in their selected categories, but books can go from free to paid at any time and drop off my site. I don't want to send people links to books that were free a few days ago and no longer are, as the whole schtick is to give them free ebooks.

If you signed up for a mailing list on a site you went to for free ebooks (and nothing else), what would you want or expect to receive? Would it be acceptable to collect emails without sending them anything until I have content sorted out?

I want to capture email addresses and monetize that list, but I'm not going to do it unless I can provide the user with some value. How do I provide that value?

  • That's actually a great question but I'm not sure it's related to UX. If you do find a good answer I'd definitely like to know.
    – you786
    Commented Aug 6, 2014 at 3:14
  • Thanks. I looked at the other stackexchange sites, and nothing really seemed to be a better fit, but I agree that it might not be ideal. If someone could point me to a better place to ask, I'd be very grateful. Commented Aug 6, 2014 at 3:22
  • What is the website, by the way? Your profile seems to be empty.
    – you786
    Commented Aug 6, 2014 at 3:28
  • 4
    This question appears to be off-topic because it is about content strategy, not UX per se. Start here: contentstrategy.com Commented Aug 6, 2014 at 14:57

5 Answers 5


I know you said books can be removed at anytime, but maybe you could provide download stats as a portion of your email content. It would let your audience know what's popular (or not popular). Maybe make a top 10. If a book has gone to paid and removed from your site, you could set up a redirect to a live stats page on your site, allowing users to see other popular content.

Calling the email, the "Hot List" or the like and if they do get to the stats page, have a message that says, "Dang, that book was too hot!". And show the stats of books that are still available. You could increase click rates through your site and open rates for email, because people will learn that they have to get to the hot books quick. This will also help them predict when a book may go from free to paid.

I believe that would provide some value. At the very least it sound like fun to me, but I'm nerdy like that.


Peldi of Balsamiq Mockups used to share their actual profit numbers with his blog readers/ mailing list, which was extremely popular and one of the reasons why Balsamiq won over many other mockup software. You can see an example here.

The point I am making is, that in blogs, utter honesty and expertise is what counts. Your website is a success, so that's your expertise. You can write a weekly post about the site, how its working out for you and what features you are working on. It would be valuable to your readers.

Information in blogs and newsletter is hardly ever relevant to what the site offers. Its about the people and company behind the product, and people love to know about that.


I wouldn't call it a newsletter, I'd call it an automatic update. The idea is to notify them when a new book is released that you think they might be interested in. I'd group the users into categories, in this case genres. This will draw users back to your site, increase page views and hopefully improve ad revenue.

You can take it a step further by analyzing the genres and tailoring the email update based on their tastes and send them a related affiliate offer. For example, if they like reading books about web design, send them an affiliate offer for website hosting. If they like cooking, send an affiliate offer for cooking DVD's etc...


This is a really interesting question although not directly related to UX. But then heres my two cents:

~ As mentioned by Paul in his answer, one of the things could be related items. Even if you dont want to steer away from books, you could still mention books related to specific topics (Ex: mention nutrition books to health related books),

~ New releases - there are many web sites having free ebooks (legal) like Project Gutenberg, aggregate the new and top ones from such sites and mention that in the email.

~ Feature a writer every month or every week and showcase their books.

~ Approach the newbie writers who would want to put up their free books and get mentioned about them in the email reaching out to many readers.

If you are interested to work together, I would be open to collaborate with you in any small way to come up with more ideas.


I respectfully disagree with Paul on terminology and think that newsletter is the right term for this. Basically, automatic update e-mail, which he prefers, is just a more technical synonym of a more user-friendly term newsletter.

Having said that, here is my advice on the newsletter's strategy and contents:

1) weekly digest is a good idea (don't include free or promotional items - see below);

2) promotion/sale events could be delivered separately from the weekly digest (automatically solving free vs. paid issue);

3) I'd highly recommend creating thematic newsletters, which would mix valuable content in a blog-like format with relevant books and other items that you offer/promote;

4) same as above, but without sale links (basically, e-mail blog posts) - to maintain readers' interest;

5) interviews with authors of books or experts/critics/readers on a particular book or a specific topic/theme.

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