Amazon is introducing an advertising component to the Kindle platform. I love it. Kudos to Jeff Bezos & Co. for their forward thinking on this initiative. I'm talking about the less expensive ($114) device currently known as "Kindle with Special Offers & Sponsored Screensavers." (It's not the sexiest name but it certainly describes the product! Still, I wonder what Apple would have named this...)
I've blogged before about how advertising and its close cousin, sponsorship, will take on a larger role in the ebook world and most people have criticized that logic. They say "books aren't magazines", "the book reading experience needs to remain free of ads", blah, blah, blah.
Why? What makes books so special? More importantly, who's to say there can't be two flavors of a book?: One without ads (higher-priced, for purists) and one with ads (lower-priced, for everyone else)?
Before I get too far ahead of myself, I need to point out that what Amazon introduced with this new Kindle isn't what I'm describing. They're not talking about including ads in books. Yet. At this point, all this new device offers is a slighly lower price ($25 less), periodic offers from Amazon (e.g., a discount on an Amazon Gift Card) and "sponsored" screensavers.
Wait a minute. I recently bought a $139 Kindle without Special Offers & Sponsored Screensavers and now I feel gypped. So I paid $25 more and I won't get any of these nice discounts Amazon plans to offer owners of the new Kindle? That stinks. I wonder if they'd let me opt in after the fact. Seriously, this makes no sense. They should let all Kindle owners opt into this program, not just the ones that paid less than the rest of us.
I know prices are always subject to change but I really wish Amazon would have initially priced this new device at $99 or less. As soon as the Kindle gets below $100 they'll have a mass market hit on their hands. I can't believe I'm saying that, particularly since I gave up on the Kindle a year ago. Amazon has done some smart things since then though and this is just one example.
Don't think this new Kindle is the furthest Amazon plans to go with ebook advertising though. They're playing it smart by taking one small step at a time. There's no point rushing into this, but one day ads will be presented as splash screens when you open an ebook and even somewhere on the screen as you read. It's OK. The world isn't going to stop spinning on its axis when this happens. We'll all be fine. In fact, this model will put more content in front of more people than could have been reached without advertising. That's a good thing. And if you want to pay more to avoid ads I'm sure that option will exist (just like it does today, where you can pay $25 more for a "regular" Kindle.)
Here's where it all gets very intriguing: Will Amazon (and other retailers) compensate authors and publishers for this advertising/sponsorship income? I'm not convinced they have to, but think about the revenue-sharing models this could present. Amazon could ask for additional discount points from a publisher and offer that publisher a cut of the advertising/sponsorship income. Interesting.