Amazon's Next Move
The Uber-Index

In-Book Advertising

Ironic billboard Apple's upcoming iPhone OS update will include an option for in-app advertising.  The iAd service is just the next step Apple is taking to beat Google in what will surely be a very lucrative mobile advertising market.

Does this represent an opportunity for book publishers and authors?  Absolutely.  Hear me out, even if you're one of those purists who insists on books existing as they always have, without ads...

Let's start with the fact that you could always sell two versions of your products: one with ads and one without.  The version without ads is priced higher than the one with the ads.  Test, measure, rinse, repeat.  Why wouldn't you want the opportunity to study real world data from your customers to see whether ads have an impact on product acceptance and sales?  The results might just surprise you.

Or, how about all those free samples you have floating around?  I'm talking about the excerpts you distribute in the hopes that you'll convert some number of browsers into buyers.  Your conversion rate is something less than 100%, so why not find other ways to monetize that experience?

This is yet another one of the Kindle platform's shortcomings.  Amazon never built a model content owners could leverage to drive some additional revenue.  They didn't offer it with books but I'm even more amazed that they never figured it out for newspapers and magazines, especially since we're all quite used to seeing ads throughout those products.

In case you haven't noticed, most customers feel ebook prices should be lower than print prices.  That pricing pressure alone should cause every author and publisher to experiment with services like iAd.  What have you got to lose?

P.S. -- If Apple is smart they'll build iAd into the iBooks app.  You'll tell them whether or not you want iAd service included every time you provide them with ePub files for your next book.  Hopefully they'll also let publishers try out that two-pronged approach where the book is available both with and without ads, at two different prices.



I couldn't possibly agree more! If it is all about our audience and the value they receive from our books (I write fiction so my goal is to provide entertainment) then giving them a lower price thanks to sponsors should work great. After all, that is how radio, TV and even many top blogs are funded. I agree ebooks need to cost less simply because digital products are inherently transitory, although terrific products.

Great post!

Book Calendar

Ads tend to be intrusive. Product placement might work a little better. You might want to have a character drink Diet Coke or drive a Porsche. This is a little less obtrusive. They do this in video games and television shows.

Randy Picker

I've written a paper about advertising in books, if you are interested. The paper is The Mediated Book and you can get it at:

Tim Spalding

I submitted the issue to some members over at LibraryThing (see So far, the vote is running 46 against, 6 in favor. The general tenor of the "against" comments are quite negative. I share them.

I think this falls into a large category of things that ebooks make possible—even inevitable—but which, when regular readers hear of it, occasions strongly negative reactions. Regular readers are conditioned to the expectations of print, not to the endless technical and legal possibilities of digital media.

Misunderstanding the gap between possible and expected is how Amazon convinced itself that it was okay to reach out and delete those 1984 editions with wonky permissions: the digital media made it possible, even necessary, so why not do it? I suspect we'll see many such disconnects as books become full-fledged digital objects and applications—books that literally can't be read in certain countries, subpoenas on the pages people read, books that mysteriously drop content for some legal reason, books with viruses, books that die when a company dies, social books that abuse your expectations in some ways, not to mention rampant ebook piracy, unauthorized edits of a book, etc.

Could readers be slowly brought to ebook advertising? Probably. A decade or two ago pre-movie advertisements in the US felt like a shocking abuse of paying customers. Now it's ubiquitous. So, go slow while defining deviancy down.

Michael LaRocca

In-book advertising would be an abomination, as is all advertising. Um, all advertising except mine. :-)

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