It won't be long before we start seeing ads in e-books, a business professor and a former book editor wrote in a Wall Street Journal editorial today.
Growing e-book sales and the opportunity for targeted advertising mean space in e-books is ripe for corporate messages. Add rapidly falling e-reader prices and the planned Google e-book store and the pressure is on for publishers and retailers to increase revenue from digital books.
Ads in books may sound like heresy. Reading is supposed to be immersive - one of the requirements of a successful e-reader is that it be unobtrusive, so the medium could disappear as the reader gets lost in the story. Who wants to curl up in a chair with "Red Bull - it gives you wings"?
But the lack of ads in paper books isn't because book-reading is sacred, Ron Adner and William Vincent argue. Companies don't advertise in books because there is no guarantee of when or whether the book will sell. That's all changing, they say:
In short, physical books can't compete with other print media for advertisers. Digital books can. With an integrated system, an advertiser or publisher can place ads across multiple titles to generate a sufficient volume. Timeliness is also possible, since digital readers require users to log in to a central system periodically.
The tech giants have already realized this potential. Google places ads next to search results in its Google Books archive, which already has ten million scanned texts. Amazon filed a patent for advertisements on the Kindle last year, and Apple could easily make the leap to in-book advertising using its iAds platform (Why iAds Could be Bigger Than iPads).
Advertising in books - the tangible things that you put on your shelf or leave on your coffee table - seems weird. But e-books aren't a possession. You can't lend an e-book to a friend (note: the Nook lets users "lend" certain books out once each, for 14 days only). Amazon can even cause your e-book to disappear to disappear from your e-library.
What do you think? Are ads in e-books a violation of the treasured ritual of reading? Or a necessary way to subsidize prices in the age of readable bits?