Amazon has applied for two patents: On-Demand Generating E-Book Content With Advertising and Incorporating Advertising In On-Demand Generated Content. Essentially, the patents are for adding content-generated ads to Kindle products, in a manner similar to Google’s AdSense program.
The patents specify a number of hypothetical advertising practices that seem like many readers’ worst fears. One example: “If a restaurant is described on page 12… [then] page 11 or page 13, may include advertisements about restaurants, wine, food, etc., which are related to restaurants and dining.” In addition to full page ads, the patents also describe adding ads to the margins of a book and fitting in extra ads if the book has larger margins.
It’s interesting to imagine what long-term goals of Amazon this may reveal. Since the Kindle and the books read on it are already purchased up front, I can’t imagine very many consumers would be happy about ads. It seems unlikely that ads will be added anytime soon, as Amazon is already getting bad press for this and wouldn’t want to lose its customer base.
One possibility, actually mentioned in the first patent, is for Amazon to create some sort of two tiered bookstore in the future. In addition to the current, ad-free books, Amazon could start offering discounted, or even free books that rely on advertising revenue. Another thing to consider is the use in newspapers and periodicals. Papers are already primarily ad-supported anyway; Amazon could be hoping to license their ad service as news makes the transition away from traditional print media. Any paper being published to an eReader format could mostly shop between Amazon, Google, and others to choose an advertising provider.
Another possibility is that these patents are defensive move meant to keep Google with their successful ad-based revenue model out of digital books while Amazon itself has no immediate intention of putting ads into books.