Ultimate guide: WordPress eBook plugins & how to use them
If you’re looking for a WordPress eBook plugin, you’ve come to the right place. This is the complete guide to listing and selling digital eBooks in WordPress. I’ll show you how to choose the right WordPress eBook plugin for your site – whether you want an eBook library plugin with downloadable PDF’s, or an eBook store plugin with e-commerce.
In this article, I’ll teach you about 2 methods for creating a WordPress digital eBook library. They both one of our table-based WordPress eBook plugins – either Posts Table Pro or WooCommerce Product Table. They’re ideal for creating a WordPress eBook library (like Scribd) or eBook store because the eBooks are listed in a searchable, sortable table layout with filters. I’ll show you how to use them alongside some high quality free WordPress plugins to add all the features you need.
Jump straight to the instructions for the method you need:
- Method 1 – Create an eBook library with downloadable books, e.g. PDF links
This is a non-ecommerce option, as people can download the eBooks directly from the list to their e-readers (like Kindle or NOOK) or smartphone (Apple or Android device), without having to buy them individually. It’s suitable for lists of free eBooks, or eBook membership sites (i.e. an ebook subscription service) where you sell subscriptions giving access to your downloadable WordPress eBook library.
- Method 2 – Build an e-commerce eBook library
This is a full e-commerce option, where people can view your eBooks in a table and purchase each one individually. They will then receive a protected eBook download link that they can add to their library e.g. in Amazon Kindle or Barnes & Noble NOOK ebook readers. You can choose between two popular WordPress eBook store plugins: WooCommerce and Easy Digital Downloads.
- Perfecting your eBook library
Whether you use Method 1 or 2, use this section to add the finishing touches that will make your eBook digital library a success. I’ll show you how to create filters to make your eBooks easier to find, plus extras such as adding embedded audio players to a WordPress audiobook library. You’ll even learn how to create a private members-only ebook library that is hidden from public view.
Choosing a WordPress eBook plugin
Our WordPress eBook plugins are ideal because you can list lots of digital books on each page. Users don’t have to waste time scrolling through multiple pages. You can even include extra data about each eBook such as the author, blurb, image, publisher, year – whatever you like! This also improves search engine rankings in Google.
Your users can quickly search, sort and filter the list to find an eBook they’re interested in. They can then either click to download a WordPress eBook PDF or other format such as EPUB or MOBI (depending on the device they’re using such as a Kindle, NOOK, or an Apple/Android device like an iPad or iPhone). Or if you’re using an e-commerce plugin, then they can add eBooks to the cart directly from the table of eBooks.
I’ll recommend a suitable WordPress eBook plugin in the relevant sections of this tutorial. Read about the method you’re interested in, and I’ll tell you how to set it up and which WordPress eBook store plugins to use.
Let’s get started!
What can you sell with a WordPress or WooCommerce eBook plugin?
People use the term ‘eBook’ to mean lots of different things. In a nutshell, an e-book refers to any book or other document that you download and read electronically. It doesn’t refer to printed books, or web content that you read directly on a website.
- Type of book – fiction or non-fiction, science fiction, storybook, thrillers, textbooks.
- Any non-fiction genre – autobiographies, biographies, creative writing, history, journalism, law, memoirs, philosophy, religion, self-help.
- Reference books – user manuals and handbooks, DIY books, travel guides, recipe books.
- Academic publications – commentary, critiques, downloadable essays, reports, scientific papers, white papers.
- Other ebook formats – music manuscripts, poetry, songbooks.
It’s a diverse list, but what they all have in common is that they are downloadable and read on a computer, table or smartphone. That’s what makes them an eBook.
Now we know what we’re talking about, let’s dive right in and learn how to create a WordPress eBook library like Scribd.
Selling WooCommerce eBooks
As a WordPress website owner, one way to sell ebooks is through WooCommerce. You can use the WooCommerce plugin to create an ebook subscription site or ebook store. Paired with the right WooCommerce ebook plugin, this e-commerce plugin is perfect for selling digital products (or digital downloads) like ebooks.
This way, customers can find the ebook they’d like to purchase and download it to their e-reader in whichever ebook format they prefer. Some ebook readers (like Amazon Kindle) only work with specific ebook files. Giving customers the ability to download digital files makes storing ebooks incredibly easy.
Method 1 – Create a WordPress eBook library with downloadable eBooks
Method 1 is about creating a digital library of eBooks similar to Scribd. It uses our Posts Table Pro plugin to create a searchable, filterable table listing your eBooks.
This method is ideal if you want to create a WordPress eBook library with downloadable eBook links. Users can find a digital book and click to download it as an eBook PDF or whatever format you decide to use. It’s suitable for free digital eBook libraries, and WordPress membership sites where people are given access to a protected eBook library e.g. ebooks with DRM.
Method 1 is NOT suitable if you want to sell each eBook individually – you’ll need a WordPress eBook store plugin as well as an e-commerce plugin for that. If this is what you need then jump to Method 2 instead.
Method 1 has two straightforward steps:
Step 1 – Add your eBooks to WordPress
Before you can create a table of eBooks, you need to store them on your WordPress website.
The best way to do this is to create a custom post type for storing your eBooks. This creates a dedicated ‘eBooks’ area in the WordPress admin, and keeps them separate from your other website content. You’ll be glad you did this when your digital eBook library grows over time!
If you’re a developer then you can create a custom post type programmatically. If not, then I recommend installing the free Custom Post Type UI plugin. Use this to create a custom post type for your eBooks:
- Install and activate Custom Post Type UI.
- Hover over ‘CPT UI‘ on the left of the WordPress admin, and click the ‘Add/Edit Post Types’ link.
- Add a ‘Post Type Slug‘. This should be 1 word lowercase, e.g. ebooks.
- Add a ‘Plural Label‘, e.g. eBooks.
- Add a ‘Singular Label‘, e.g. eBook.
- Scroll down to the ‘Settings > Supports‘ section and tick or untick any WordPress fields that you wish to use for the eBook post type. I recommend keeping the fields that are already ticked, and also ticking ‘Excerpt’. This adds a useful extra field which you can display in the digital library using the WordPress eBook plugin.
- Scroll a bit further to the ‘Built-in Taxonomies‘ section. Tick the options that you want to use to sort and filter the contents of your eBook library. For example, if you intend to organize your eBooks using tags and categories then you need to tick these boxes.
Next, add eBooks to the library
Once you’ve created your ‘eBooks’ custom post type, it’s time to add the eBooks to the library. For each eBook, hover over the new eBooks link that appears on the left of the WordPress admin and click ‘Add New’. Add each eBook as a separate post in this section of WordPress:
- Title – add the eBook title to the top of the page.
- Categories and tags – add any categories or tags that will let people sort and filter the eBook in the digital library.
- Featured Image – upload an image, if you’re planning to include these in the WordPress eBook library. This will probably be an image of the eBook front cover or author similar to how ebook retailers like Amazon (United States) or Kobo (Canada) do it.
- Content – I recommend using the main content field for adding a downloadable link or button to the eBook. You can display this using the WordPress eBook plugin in Step 2. Here’s how to add the WordPress eBook download link:
- Click the ‘Add Media’ button and upload the downloadable book (e.g. in eBook PDF, EPUB or MOBI format). If you get any messages that you can’t upload a particular file type, ask your host to ensure that the file types you need are allowed.
- Click ‘Insert Into Post’.
- This will add a clickable link to the eBook into the content field. The link text will be the filename – you can reword it to anything you like. If you’d rather add a clickable icon or button instead of a plain text link, then you need to add the code for a button or icon instead. Your theme might include a button shortcode that you can use, or you can create buttons using a plugin such as Shortcodes Ultimate. If you’d rather add a ‘download’ icon, then you can use the icons that come with your theme or the free Better Font Awesome plugin.
- Excerpt – Use this to add the eBook’s blurb or description. The WordPress eBook plugin can include this as a column in the table.
Create any extra fields for your eBook library
If you need to include any additional fields in your eBook then you can do this by creating custom fields and taxonomies. As a general rule, use custom fields for storing unique data about each eBook such as ISBN number or barcode. Use taxonomies for filterable data such as topic, publisher, year or author. For example, you might create a taxonomy that marks bestsellers or ebooks with DRM. This way, customers can easily sort them by new releases, popular ebooks, or DRM-free ebooks.
I recommend the free Advanced Custom Fields plugin for creating custom fields. You can use the Custom Post Type UI plugin for creating custom taxonomies. Once you’ve created the extra fields for your eBook post type, you can add the data for each eBook. You can list all these extra fields in the digital library using the WordPress eBook plugin (see next section).
Step 2 – Use a WordPress eBook plugin to list eBooks in a table
By now, you’ve created a custom post type for your eBooks and added them all to WordPress. Great! Now comes the fun part – it’s time to create your WordPress eBook library similar to how the Kindle store does it.
We’ll do this using the Posts Table Pro WordPress table plugin. It’s designed to list all sorts of information in an interactive table, and is particularly popular as a WordPress eBook plugin.
Here’s a video about how to use Posts Table Pro to create a WordPress e-book library. You’ll also find written instructions below.
(Please note that the video recommends the free Pods plugin for adding your e-books to WordPress, whereas the below instructions recommend some alternative plugins. You can use any plugins to create custom post types and extra fields – they all work with Posts Table Pro.)
- Get Posts Table Pro and install and activate the plugin. (You’ll receive instructions for this in the ‘Getting Started email.)
- Create a new page (Pages > Add New). Call it ‘eBook Library’ or whatever you like.
- Add the following shortcode. I’ve assumed that the slug for the custom post type you created in Step 1 if ‘ebooks’. If it’s something else, add this instead.
[posts_table post_type="ebooks" columns="image,title,excerpt,content" shortcodes="true" links="none"]
This will list your eBooks in a table with 4 columns: featured image, eBook title, excerpt (which I suggested you used for the blurb or description), and content (which I suggested you use for the WordPress eBook download link or button). I’ve disabled the ability for people to click through to a separate page for each eBook – if you want this, then you can remove links=”none” from the shortcode.
That’s everything you need for a professional-looking WordPress eBook library. If you want to make any further changes to it, skip to the section on Perfecting your eBook Library.
Sell membership access or add ebook subscription service to your WordPress eBook library
So far, I’ve shown you how to create a table of eBooks that is available for everyone to access. If you don’t want this, then there are a few WordPress plugins to protect your eBook library and restrict it from public view. Here are 3 suggestions of how you can achieve this.
Hide the eBook library with Password Protected Categories
Our WordPress Password Protected Categories plugin lets you put all your eBooks in a category and password protect that category. This will protect your eBook digital library with 1 or more passwords.
Note: If you want to use Password Protected Categories with your eBook library then you’ll need to add the table of eBooks directly to the category archive template for your eBooks post type, instead of adding the Posts Table Pro shortcode to a standard page. There are basic instructions for this in the plugin knowledge base, but you might want to create a custom template for the eBooks post type so that it won’t change your blog category layouts too. You can ask your developer to do this, or post a job on Codeable to find someone suitable.
Use Groups to restrict access to authorized users only
The free Groups WordPress plugin is an easy-to-use free WordPress membership plugin. It offers an easy way to create ‘hidden’ areas of your website that only logged in users with access to the appropriate ‘Group’ can access.
This method is useful to making a WordPress eBook library available to pre-approved people only similar to Kindle Unlimited. For example, you might want to make it available to members of your organization, employees, or book club. Each person needs to have a user account on your WordPress website. You need to give each person access to the eBook Library Group manually. (If you want to sell access to the eBook library then you can still use the Groups plugin – but you’ll also need some extra plugins which I’ll cover in the next section.)
Install the Groups plugin, create your eBook library as described above, and create a Group called ‘eBook Library’ or similar. Go to to the eBook library page with the product table and restrict it to members of the eBook Library Group.
To give people access to the eBook library, you need to add them as users in WordPress (Users > Add New). Select the eBook Library Group from the dropdown on the Add/Edit User page. When they log into their account, they will be able to access the protected eBook library.
Use the Groups plugin documentation to make further changes. For example, you can create a message that will appear when unauthorized users try to access the hidden eBook library.
Sell subscriptions to your WordPress eBook library
You can sell access to the eBook library using the WooCommerce plugin with the Groups for WooCommerce add-on – plus Subscriptions if you want to take regular payments. This builds on the ‘Groups’ method in the previous section by integrating the hidden eBook library with the world leading e-commerce plugin and the ability for people to subscribe online.
Some tips on which combination of plugins to use:
- If you want people to make a one-off payment to your eBook library then you can do this using Groups, WooCommerce and Groups for WooCommerce. Sell access to the eBook Library Group as a product in WooCommerce, so that people can buy it on your website.
- If you want people to make an ongoing subscription to the digital eBook library, then you’ll also need the Subscriptions plugin. You still need to sell access to the eBook Library Group using WooCommerce, but buying this product will sign people up to an ongoing subscription. This is similar to the Kindle Unlimited implementation. Payment will be taken regularly (e.g. using PayPal or Stripe) so that the customer can continue accessing the eBook library. If they ever cancel the subscription then their access to the Group will be revoked.
Prevent prevent from downloading your eBooks
So far, we’ve assumed that you want people to be able to download your eBooks to their computer. However, some eBook libraries prefer for users to read the eBooks online in their browser.
You can easily prevent people from downloading the eBook by embedding it within your WordPress website, instead of adding it as a downloadable file:
- Create a custom post type for your ebooks (as described in Step 1, above).
- Add each ebook as a post and embed the ebook into that post. (WPExplorer have provided an excellent article on how to embed PDF documents on your WordPress site).
- List the ebooks in a table using Posts Table Pro plugin (see Step 2, above).
Users can click on the title of a book to open the page where you have embedded the PDF. They can read the PDF format online and can’t download it.
Method 2 – Build an e-commerce eBook library
Method 1 showed you how to create a downloadable eBook library – either public, or restricted to specific people. In Method 2, I’ll tell you about WordPress eBook plugins for selling eBooks individually. With these plugins, people can view a table listing all your eBooks. They can then choose to buy specific eBooks from the list. This is a full e-commerce solution – customers can pay for their eBooks online and receive the downloadable eBooks via a secure link.
There are 2 free WordPress e-commerce plugins that are ideal for selling eBooks:
- Easy Digital Downloads – EDD is famous for selling digital products such as eBooks. Coupled with a table-based plugin for displaying your eBooks, it’s the perfect way to create an e-commerce eBook library.
- WooCommerce – Powering over 41% of all online shops, you can use WooCommerce to sell anything online – including eBooks. Like Easy Digital Downloads, the default WooCommerce store layouts aren’t really suitable for eBooks. However, you can use it with a table-based WordPress eBook store plugin to create the perfect layout, complete with Buy buttons.
- You can also use other e-commerce plugins such as WP eCommerce. I haven’t featured them all in this article, but they all work with Posts Table Pro for listing your eBooks.
I’ll tell you how to create a WordPress eBook library using both of these e-commerce plugins. The method is slightly different for each, so we’ll start with Easy Digital Downloads and then move on to WooCommerce.
Create an Easy Digital Downloads eBook store
People can read about the eBooks in the table, and add as many as they like to the cart. They can then click through to the Easy Digital Downloads checkout and pay online. Once the order is complete, Easy Digital Downloads will send them a secure link to download the eBook in whatever format you’ve uploaded (PDF, EPUB, MOBI etc.).
How to set it up
- First install the free Easy Digital Downloads plugin. Use the official documentation to set up payment methods, taxes and more.
- Add each eBook as a separate downloadable product via Downloads > Add New.
- Next, create a new page (Pages > Add New) which you’ll use as your main eBook store page.
- Finally, follow the steps in our other tutorial about how to create Easy Digital Downloads table layouts. This covers everything you need to know to create an amazing eBook store layout using Posts Table Pro. You can create a single table listing all your eBooks, or multiple tables listing eBooks from different categories. There are over 50 options, so go through the tutorial and create the perfect eBook store.
Easy Digital Downloads tip: If you’re selling eBooks then you must charge European VAT to customers in the EU. You can easily do this with the Easy Digital Downloads EU VAT plugin.
Build a WooCommerce eBook store
Now we’ve reached the only section of this tutorial that doesn’t use Posts Table Pro as your WordPress eBook store plugin. That’s because we have a dedicated WooCommerce version of Posts Table Pro, so we’ll use that instead. It’s called WooCommerce Product Table and is our bestselling plugin.
The way it works is that you’ll add each eBook as a separate WooCommerce product. You’ll then use the WooCommerce Product Table to list the eBooks in a searchable table with filters. As with the Easy Digital Downloads eBook store plugin, you can list all your eBooks in a single table or create separate tables for each category. Either way, it’s easy for customers to find your eBooks, pay online, and receive a secure download link via email.
How to set it up
- First install the free WooCommerce plugin. Use the WooCommerce setup wizard and documentation to set up your standard store pages, tax settings, payment gateways (e.g. PayPal and/or Stripe for credit and debit card payments), etc.
- Next, add each eBook as a product (Products > Add New). Choose the ‘Downloadable’ product type in the Product Data section of the page. This will open up some extra options for you to add the downloadable eBook file(s) in whichever format you choose. This might be PDF, MOBI, EPUB or similar.
- Finally, create a new page (Pages > Add New) which will be used for your eBook store. Use the WooCommerce Product Table knowledge base to list your eBooks in a table layout with all the information you want to display. It’s really flexible and you can even store extra data about your eBooks using product attributes, custom fields and taxonomies. If you want to offer different price options then you can use variable products for this. Each price option will appear as a variation dropdown list next the add to cart button.
Perfecting your eBook library
Whichever of the above WordPress eBook plugins you use, don’t forget to add the finishing touches.
Adding filters to the eBook library
The most important extra that you need to add are filters. You can add filter dropdowns above the eBook library for various options including categories, tags and any custom taxonomy.
If you’re using WooCommerce Product Table then you can also add attribute/variation filters above the table, and filter sidebar widgets. All of these will increase your eBook sales by making them easier for people.
Add embedded audio and video players
If you’re selling audio books or have a promotional video, then you can embed media players directly into the main eBook library page. For example, you might be creating a WordPress audio book library and want to include MP3 players for your audio books.
To do this, add an embedded audio or video player directly into any of the text fields in your eBook library (such as the main content area or a custom field).
Go to the plugin settings page and tick the ‘Shortcodes’ option. This tells the WordPress eBook library plugin to render the embedded media player properly, instead of just as plain text.
Next, your visitors will be able to listen to audio tracks or watch video directly from the main eBook library page.
Add quick view buttons
If you’re building a WooCommerce eBook store, then you can enhance your book lists with the WooCommerce Quick View Pro plugin. This handy plugin adds ‘quick view’ buttons (which you can rename to anything you like) to your eBook library pages. Customers click these buttons to view more information about your eBooks in a lightbox, without having to visit the single product page.
Here are some examples of how you can use quick view to improve your WooCommerce eBook library:
- Upload multiple images to the product gallery, and display these in the quick view lightbox. Use the images to preview different pages from your eBook, just like Amazon’s ‘Look inside’ feature or Kobo’s ‘Preview Now’ feature.
- Add the blurb from the back of your eBook to the product short description, and display this in the quick view.
- Sell product variations (e.g. different eBook file formats or printed book options) in the quick view.
The perfect WordPress or WooCommerce ebook library
These WordPress eBook plugins come with over 50 options for changing how the eBooks are listed in the library. View the full list of options for either Posts Table Pro or WooCommerce Table. Think about which ones will help you list your eBooks even more effectively. Spend some time experimenting to find the right combination of options, and make your WordPress eBook library a big success.