Does Your Genealogy Society Publish eBooks? If Not, They Should.

Today I stumbled across the web site of the Upper Shore Genealogy Society of Maryland. The Society covers Caroline, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne’s, and Talbot counties. What caught my eye was a listing of ebooks of local records the society sells on CD-ROM disks. I started thinking, why don’t more genealogy societies do the same?

Here are the ebooks sold by the Upper Shore Genealogy Society at

Calvary-Asbury United Methodist Church Records
Transcribed records from Dudley’s, Dams, Roesville, Sudlersville, Templeville and Millington Churches, with full name index, from 1802 to 1954.

The Caroline Sun
Newspaper articles from The Caroline Sun, Caroline County, Maryland, from 1902 to 1959.

Methodist Episcopal Church Records
Full name indexes available for viewing online.

Chesapeake Cousins (Upper Shore Genealogy Society Journal)
New – Table of Contents viewable online.

Cemetery Publications

  • Caroline County
  • Kent County
  • Queen Anne’s County
  • Talbot County
    • Surname Index of all 15 volumes viewable online.

Obituary Publications
7 volumes with online viewable Full Name Index.

The ebooks sell for a modest price of $4.00 each while printed books cost $6.00. Maryland residents need to include 6% sales tax. Both printed and CD-ROM ebooks may be ordered online at

A Challenge

Does your genealogy society publish and sell printed books of local records of genealogy interest? If so, does your society also sell them as ebooks? If so, kudos to both your society and the Upper Shore Genealogy Society of Maryland! If no, then I have to ask: “Why not?”

If your society is not selling ebooks, the result is lost sales and also not serving genealogists around the world who could benefit from the information in the society’s publications!

One More Thing

Actually, I would make one additional suggestion to any genealogy society, including to the Upper Shore Genealogy Society of Maryland: sell the ebooks not only on CD-ROM disks but also as downloadable ebooks that the buyer can read within seconds after purchasing, all without requiring any additional labor by the society.

There are several benefits to the instant online sales:

1. Obviously, the customer receives better service. The ebook is available immediately without waiting for someone to receive the order, stuff a CD-ROM disk into an envelope, mail it, and then wait for the postal service or UPS to deliver it.

2. Many of today’s laptop computers and more than a few desktop computers do not not include CD-ROM disk drives. Such drives are rapidly becoming obsolete. You could offer ebooks on flash drives, but even that is only a partial solution. For instance, are you going to use flash drives with the older USB connectors or the newer, smaller, high-speed USB-C connectors? Most of today’s flash drives still use the older USB connectors, but the world is (slowly) moving to the newer USB-C connectors. Publishing on flash drives with the older USB connectors almost guarantees that they will become obsolete within a few years (just like publishing on floppy disks).

Switching to downloadable files bypasses these hardware issues.

3. Accepting orders, creating CD-ROM disks (or flash drives), stuffing them into envelopes, and mailing the products is a waste of man-hours and money. Creating safe and secure online sales with credit card payments requires a bit of labor to create the order process. However, once created, using online sales will SAVE many man-hours over a period of time. Once customers can use this process to both order and receive your ebooks, you will likely see impressive reductions in expenses (buying CDs or flash drives) as well as labor (mailing them to buyers), not to mention postage. I suspect you may also see an increase in sales as well as traffic to your website.

Sales of downloadable ebooks can be accepted and fulfilled (product delivered) without anyone’s involvement, even at 3 AM in your local time zone. Even better, you can “farm out” the labor to a company that will handle all this for you, such as to Amazon,, Apple,, or others.

For more information about having a company sell your ebooks for you with almost no labor required on your part, see 20 Websites to Sell and Publish Your eBooks at as well as the articles found by DuckDuckGo by starting at

COMMENT: Some people seem to think that placing genealogy information online means giving it away for free. Not so! If you or your society expended money, time, labor, and perhaps some materials in gathering and publishing the information, it is entirely reasonable to charge a modest fee to the genealogists who appreciate your labors. Even better, any revenue received can be used to pay the expenses of time, labor, and materials in gathering and publishing future information!

“If you are good at something, never do it for free” is the most famous dialogue from movie The Dark Knight.

With today’s solutions of having a company sell your ebooks for you, the issues of collecting credit card payments becomes almost trivial. Simply sit back and let someone else do all the complicated stuff while you or your society only need to deposit the payments into a bank account.


In short, it’s time to upgrade your society’s publications to modern publishing formats. The result will be less labor required, lower expenses, more customers, happier customers, and more distribution of the local information that is important to genealogists worldwide.

I’d call that a win-win-win-win solution.


I would add that e-books and PDFs are not the same things. E-books are in EPUB or Kindle format, and are readable on a variety of devices, reformatting text so it displays correctly, whether you’re reading on a laptop, tablet, or phone. PDF files are formatted to remain exactly the same no matter which printer is printing them, and are extremely user unfriendly for smaller devices like tablets and phones. Create your e-books in EPUB or Kindle format. Or advertise them as PDF documents, not e-books, please.

Liked by 1 person

Excellent suggestion. I can think back on several genealogy society CDs that contained possible information about an ancestor family. I wasn’t willing to pay $20 to see it it even had any information, but would be willing to spend $3 or $4 for an e-book.

Good point about PDFs, reading one on a Kindle or tablet can be a real challenge.

Liked by 1 person

Any suggestions as to good – preferably free or inexpensive – software to create e-books please ?

Liked by 1 person

I want to publish an e-book with genealogical information (a list of ship’s passengers), but do not have a Macintosh so would need to do it on a PC.


Oxfordshire Record Society April 1, 2019 at 12:42 pm

Thank you for the suggestion of “iBooks Author”. I am not a Mac user, but I know a keen genealogist and Mac enthusiast !


I agree with your electronic publishing suggestion with a slight hesitation. Our society published a book of cemetery records just as “personal computers” were coming into use: we started on a Commodore Pet, then Commodore 64 and then finished on Commodore 128 from which our 1100+ page, 2 volume book was published. When DOS came along and Commodore was losing ground, we decided to “move” the data from one language to the other; this was prior to today’s widespread Internet information so my husband finally found a person in Denmark who told him how to make a cable that would read the Commodore data disc and convert it to DOS data disc. We now have it in a searchable Excel version.

Our hesitation to publish online came from an early local incident – before electronic publishing was available – where a “popular” local genealogist copied the maps and alphabetical cemetery list from one volume and the index from the second volume and had them BOUND by the local library (despite our copyright which we had actually registered at the copyright office). Someone else had already put a copy of the book in the library which they had put on the shelf in spite of our asking them to wait and we would donate one. So sales of our book locally were seriously hampered by this and we have been cautious about making the information electronically available because of the ease of copying and redistributing the data.


We are thinking about selling both hard copies and ebooks including those by an author not part of our society. We would obviously get written permission for what we would do. Are their taxes to be collected? Is there a reference on the facts of taxation? We are incorporated in CT but currently work out of numerous states.
Phill Stiles


    Warning: as we found out, any electronic format will cut into the sales of the printed copies. Don’t sink a lot of money into the print books until you see if you have a market.


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