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In-Book Ads? Let the Whining Begin.

Whining It's going to happen.  It's not if, but when.  I'm talking about the day when you'll find ads throughout ebooks.  This Fast Company article provides a nice overview, including some info on a few related patents recently filed by Amazon.

If you're a purist and who's totally offended by the idea of ads in a book, get over it.  My guess is you'll have the option to pay more and still get ad-free ebooks.  Tightwads like me, on the other hand, will gladly deal with the minor inconvenience...and we'll save a few bucks along the way.  Heck, I miss the ads in the Kindle magazines I subscribe to, so what does that say?

The world of content is rapidly changing, including how it's monetized.  More options are a good thing, no matter how bad this idea sounds to you today.  I'm just curious to know more about what Amazon plans to do with the money they'll earn from all these in-book ads.  Will they pass any of the income along to publishers and authors?


Alain Pierrot

On the opportunity of advertising in books, — and amount of revenue to be expected —, I think Tim O'Reilly's 2007 remarks still hold:

Joe Wikert

Alain, I couldn't agree more with you (and Tim!). But I never said this model would replace the existing revenue model now, did I? It will simply be a nice way to augment current revenue streams...and who knows where it might lead?

Book Calendar

It would seem that product placement would make more sense. Having the hero use a Smith & Wesson, or wearing a Men's Warehouse suit might be a little less intrusive.

Jonathan Dozier-Ezell

The problem we're still running into, even with these new patents Amazon filed, is demand. For some reason, everyone in the e-book business seems to apply a logic stating the only cause for every American not having his/her nose stuck in a book is price. Clearly, Amazon must be thinking that this ad revenue can offset the loss they are currently taking on the $9.99 price point. There's no way any of this revenue goes to anyone else but Amazon. But the hard work really begins when Amazon tries to sell these ads. When Busch buys their Super Bowl ads, they can count on millions of viewers to see the ad and be in the mood for beer. Managing to bring that sort of union between product and placement will be impossible in books. If I could count on anywhere near 100 million people buying my book, I'd sell it online for a dime and forego all advertising. I understand this is an extreme example, but I think it gets the point across. Advertisers are going to want a return on investment. What return can we promise them?

Joe Wikert

Jonathan, I don't see the sales job for this being similar to the enormous effort around selling a Super Bowl ad. I think it's much more analogous to how Google sells AdWords/AdSense. The content base is tiny right now but as it grows I could easily see Amazon creating an auction system much like what Google has done. It would be completely automated, unlike the selling of a Super Bowl ad.

Jonathan Dozier-Ezell

Joe, Even provided that Amazon goes with an AdSense model, which does make more sense than selling display ads, I don't see in-book advertising being a feasible alternative. Since e-books can only guarantee that the user is online during the download, it will be very difficult to guarantee clients access to click-through feedback and impression data. Combining AdWords with Analytics, I can tell not only which ads were viewed but how long the page on which they appeared was active. Getting that much information from an e-reader begins to border on Big Brother antics, and I doubt most readers will be willing to part with that kind of privacy to save a couple of bucks on reading material. And still there's the issue of reach. Billions of Google searches and websites are viewed each day. If only we could say the same for books.

Sorry I'm wordy, but I've been thinking a lot about this too. Thanks for bringing it up and continuing the conversation.

Ryan Biggs

As it stands, Kindle is a lousy deal for publishers of periodicals. If print subscribers moved en masse to Kindle, with Amazon taking 80% of revenue, and no support for advertising... that just doesn't add up to enough to pay the news desk.

Joe Wikert

Jonathan, models can be tweaked, right? Even though AdSense measurement requires a live connection, why must that be the case with a Kindle model? What if the ads embedded in the Kindle had additional info attached, so that when clicked on, they show more details about the advertised product/service? Then that data could also be uploaded to Amazon the next time you connect. My Kindle is connected every day, and most of the day at that. The rare times when I'm not connected is when I'm on a plane, for example. So any clicks I make on ads I'm interested in simply queue up info that could be pushed back to Amazon the next time my Kindle connects via Whispernet or USB. Also, while I totally understand your concerns about "Big Brother antics", if Amazon is smart they'll offer more than one model. Data privacy advocates can pay more to avoid the ads and tracking. I'd prefer to save a few dollars and would happily let them see my every movement. It's the same reason I have so many of those frequent buyer bar-code cards attached to my key chain!

Ryan, I couldn't agree more with you. That's why I think smart newspaper/magazine publishers will also offer a direct subscription service for the Kindle where they can keep 100% of the revenue. I talked about that in this post:

chris bates

Yep, I reckon it's a winner for non-fiction. I'd actually welcome decent adsense-style ads in certain publications that I read. There's a ton of niche markets here that this model would work well with.

As for fiction ... I'd predict a none existent ROI for the advertiser.

Duncan Newton

Talk about an evolving model! While ads in e-books is pretty much inevitable, one wonders if this is but the tip of a new iceberg. Consider for a moment how ads in e-books could influence traditional book publishing. Already some publishers are shifting their strategy for trade books from produce-and-hope-to-sell, to sell-and-produce, using digital printing technology. Amazon does this all the time.

One wonders if publishers'(or Amazon's) margins could be fattened up by placement of ads in these digitally printed books. For example, someone ordering a book that is on-demand printed would receive a book with ads amongst the front matter or in place of the plug for another title by the same author that often fill up the remaining pages of a given volume. And since Amazon would know the zip code of the customer, those ads could be for businesses near their home.

As with e-books, selling the ads would be an issue, but you can be there's a way to make it work.

L.L. Barkat

I was just discussing this issue with a friend who's a publishing contract person for a big firm. Funny, he thought for a moment, then said... well, there could be different versions... you could pay more for the ad-less option. Maybe that's the way it'll end up going...

Amil Tolia

Interestingly on the subject of ads in EBooks, a firm called textbookmedia use this model to a greater/lesser degree of success by having three price points.
1. A deep discounted sponsored etextbook
2. A less discounted etextbook, and
3. A full price textbook.

My colleague and I tested the sponsored etextbook and consider it, as a concept to be quite novel, especially if the information is relevant to the (assumed) textbook buyer. For example an accounting student buying a book on finance is likely to enjoy adverts regarding jobs in accountancy. Obviously the deployment of a Google AdSense technology would be appropriate.

With respect to the textbookmedia implementation, the ads were, perhaps, a little too frequent in that they disturbed the flow of reading and study, which would serve as a strong motivator for many students to purchase the eTextbook (ad free).

Oh and by the way, the deep discount on the books was 100% therefore the ad filled book was free.

Does this provide the advertiser/advertisement placer with carte blanche to advertise as prominently and frequently as they like?

Would be interesting to understand other views on this subject!

Also what is the publisher point of view on a third party inserting adverts into eBooks?

Rogert Münzberg

@ Amil:

This business model is successfully used by a Danish publisher for around 18 expanding its market to all EU-countries selling in different languages.
Most titles are for educational purpose and half-page ads are placed at every third page (in average) and on the inside 'cover'.

Have a look a

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