I just read an article by Jared Newman on Macworld’s web site talking about Amazon’s new, "Ad Supported" Kindle. According to the article (and Amazon’s web site), Amazon will be offering a version of it’s Kindle Reader that supports ads for $114, a whole $25 off the $139 regular price. For this sizable discount, you receive ads on the device’s screensaver and main menu.
What an offensive idea! What would be more offensive is targeted ads on your Kindle Reader: you do have to register your device which means they have access to your purchasing history via your account. Hence targeted ads.
Allow me a relevant digression…
Ads are certainly not a new thing. In addition to tradition sources like Amazon and Google, new services are entering the fray. Apple’s iAds is a good example of an up and coming player and with their share of the music player and tablet market, they could get big in a hurry!
Targeted ads aren’t new either. Amazon, Google and others have been doing it for years now. In an effort to make more money per view (or per click), businesses and web sites use targeted ads. Blogs with large followings have significant bandwidth needs which means you’ve to get a revenue stream from somewhere (or pay for it yourself). Free social websites, like Facebook, target ads based on your profile. I’m single with an interest in photography so I’m always seeing ads for photo kit and dating web sites. (I’m pretty sure there are no dating sites for single photographers or I’d be seeing those too!)
Back to the main topic…Amazon and its ad-enabled Kindle. What if they start puting ads, random or targeted, into your eBooks. They could be beneath the cover pick, befor the Table of Contents, every so many pages or randomly spread throughout the book? The author of the article on Macworld said that "If e-books could be had for cheap—or even free—in exchange for the occasional ad, I’d download them by the dozen."1
Let me go on record right now as saying this is a bad idea. Especially if they are free. While I am generally in favor of anything that will increase reading and expanding the reader’s vocabulary, not to mention teaching people that "4" is not a preposition, the whole idea is just…wrong. If I want a book the latest information and advertising, I’ll read a magazine. If I want real cutting edge info, I’ll go to the web and put up with the ads there. Books are a different animal. I may buy a book and not read it for two years (my "to be read" pile is rather large). The ads you put in the book are long out of date so why bother? Or if you’re going to serve the latest ads, are you going to force me to connect to the publishing server every time I want to read the book or just when I open it for the first time? And what happens if you are in the middle of nowhere and you want to read your book?
"You could always do low-cost or no-cost versions with ads and a higher priced version without the ads," you say. Part of it comes back to the "how do I make a living?" question. I partially answered that question here and so I shant repeat myself. And no, I don’t have any more of the answer to the although Cory Doctorow’s might by suggesting what used to be heresy: self-publishing or publish on demand.
Regardless, I don’t want any ads in my eBook at any price! If I want to read a magazine, I hope it’s on Zinio, a digital magazine distributer.
1. The original paragraph is "Am I the only one who thinks this is too bad? If e-books could be had for cheap—or even free—in exchange for the occasional ad, I’d download them by the dozen." The semantic construction is terrible; it leaves you with two interpretations: (i) the idea that ads in eBooks is a bad thing, or (2) that ads in eBooks is a good thing. Based on his second sentence I assume he is pro ads in eBooks.