As eBooks gain more popularity, it can’t really surprise anybody to see advertisers trying to cash in. Does this mean we can expect to start seeing ads in our Kindle books? There’s no real push that way yet, but it only makes sense, really. If offsetting some of the cost of a new book by putting up with a few pages of ads is possible, I doubt most people will mind.
Before anybody gets too up in arms, I should probably point out that this isn’t precisely a new and innovative concept. Off the top of my head, the earliest example of ads in books (and I’m not making any claim of this being the actual earliest example by any means) would be in Victorian serials, such as most of the Dickens releases. In more recent years, not much has changed. WOWIO, a popular eBook marketplace, has proven that it is possible to provide free books to interested consumers without taking sales revenue away from the authors by allowing advertisers to adopt specific titles and “wrap” them with ads at the front and back of the book.
The only question is what format the advertising is going to take. We’ve discovered over the years that the internet, traditionally a primarily textual medium however much that is changing in recent years, didn’t exactly encourage people to stick with your average magazine ad equivalent. Pop up ads, obnoxiously loud talking ads, animated gifs, flash animation, and more have all become pretty much a staple of internet browsing. Let’s be honest and say that there’s not much that could destroy the reading experience more effectively than these things manifesting in the middle of your book.
Overall, there’s a lot of potential here, both for great things and for unpleasantness. My impression is that a lot of the reason advertisers avoid books is that they sell in small numbers, compared to other forms of media consumption, and they last too long to be useful. What good does an ad do for somebody when it’s in a book I bought five years ago, right? Well, with devices like the Kindle, there is at least some potential for periodic advertising updates in books located on their servers, right? Sounds unpleasant, but it ends up being all about the implementation.
The only place where I’m really leery of what might happen is on the many Kindle apps, and possibly future hardware offerings, which are capable of displaying video and playing sounds. It’s neat to be able to play integrated video in your eBooks, but if that means that ads can be inserted that will take advantage of the same capabilities, it’s not worth it. For now, at least it’s nice to know that the Kindle device itself is safe, and that authors are given enough control over their works through Amazon, in general, that this will likely not be something that sneaks up on people if or when it does come around. When it does, who knows but that we might really appreciate the opportunity for some great new free or cheap eBooks in spite of the ads?