Saturday, July 25, 2009

Amazon to Embed "Smart Ads" in Kindle E-Books?

Tell me it isn't so, Jeff. Is Amazon about to take another misstep in the marketing of its Kindle e-book reader? There has been speculation for a while now that Amazon is looking into the idea of adding "smart ads" to the e-books it sells to its Kindle customers, the kind of ad that Google seems to be placing everywhere one surfs the net these days. The Google adds were a bit irritating at first but, since I don't pay for the content on which the ads appear, I trained myself to ignore them. I wonder, in fact, just who it is that clicks on those things.

It would be a much different story, though, if I were paying for the pages on which those dozens and dozens of ads appear every day - and finding an ad embedded inside an e-book I've purchased would be especially irritating. Now maybe, just maybe, I could learn to tolerate the ads if Amazon were to share the ad revenue with me by cutting the high price of its e-books. Will this happen? I won't be holding my breath.

From The Business Insider comes this:
Books are among the last bastions of ad-free content. But they won't be so forever if Amazon has its way.

The online retail giant has been nurturing a growing e-reader market with its Kindle device; analysts estimate more than a million have been sold since its 2007 debut. And the idea of serving ads in e-books has been a subject of chatter for a while. But Amazon appears to have taken the next concrete step in that direction. Recent reports indicate the online retail giant has filed patent applications to stuff digital books with contextual advertising.
"There's a movement in the industry to offset book prices through various ways," said consultant Chris Andrews, who's writing an e-book about the advent of e-books. "There's more revenue per book with those ads and they allow publishers to sell the book less expensively. It also gives advertisers this cool market of people who spend hours with content. The relationship is longer than any other media -- and it's deeper."

Others view in-book advertising as just one stop along a continuum of possibilities.

"They're just exploring all the multiple ways you can monetize content, so you can offer a customer a full-priced book at $9.99 or you can offer them a half-priced book that's partially underwritten by advertisers," said Mark Coker, founder of e-book seller Smashwords.
With publishers already complaining that Amazon is selling e-books too cheaply, I suspect there would be some resistance to any talk about lowering e-book prices that contained ads unless the ad revenue was also split with the publishers. It is fun to watch the marketing for a new product like electronic books evolve over the months. Where we end up is anyone's guess, but I will say that a book containing ads is a distraction that cheapens the whole product for me. I do not like the idea at all - and I wonder why Amazon seems so determined to shoot itself in the marketing foot these last few weeks.

(There is much more to the linked article, so please take a look at it and let me know what you think is going to happen and whether or not advertising in books will bother you.)


  1. I'm not an e-book reader, and don't see myself ever becoming one, but the idea of ads in the middle of a book is very disturbing. That's not one generally sees in fiction. Even in print magazines that publish fiction, the advertising is fairly minimal, and almost never interferes with the story. Look at a science fiction mag or a literary magazine, stories and advertisements are always kept separate. That said, it would make sense to have advertisements at the end of an e-book. This format is sometimes used in traditional paperbacks with ads for other books by the same author or same publisher at the end of the book.

  2. I hadn't heard about this! I hope they don't do it. I know if they do i will definitely never be an e-book from them if I can help it, and I own Kindle too!

  3. Real books used to have advertising in them. Browse through some 19th century books and you'll often find lots of add in the back of the book. They're actually quite cool now: ads for old bicycles and medicines, etc. along with adds for other books.

    I'm staying away from all Kindles for a few years at least. The dust needs to settle before I buy one.

  4. Alissa, the ads wouldn't be too terrible if kept to the end of the book or in section breaks, and the like, I suppose. But I do feel that the customer should be compensated by lower prices if paid ads are accepted into Kindle e-books.

  5. Stefanie, I'm betting that it happens, at least in a watered down form of some sort. It's a whole new world out there.

  6. Great point, C.B. I have some of those on my bookshelves and they can be kind of fun to look at, especially at the prices.

    I'm generally an early-adapter when it comes to tech stuff...that's why I have an eReader from Sony instead of a Kindle. I'm sure I would have bought the new Kindle toy by now, otherwise.