Advertisements in Books

by Hugh

Over on a publishing email list there has been some chatter today about advertising in ebooks.

While I’m not crazy about being sold washing detergent with my War and Peace, I see no reason not to have ads in some ebooks, and I would rate the odds of it happening at 100% …

As with online book reviews that link to an online retailer (with affiliate fees), there is no reason an ebook about, say, rugby shouldn’t link to somewhere where I can buy tickets for the World Cup. If it’s a proper ebook – I mean, not just a book I can read on a digital device, but a proper ebook that is cloud-based and dynamically updated – then the link/interaction will point to 2011 tickets today, and in 4 years it will point to 2015 World Cup tickets. If I am reading about knitting I may well want to buy needles, and there’s no reason an ebook that makes me want to buy knitting needles shouldn’t help me do that (and make some money for the publisher, as well as the needle-maker, in the mean time).

As my friend Alistair Croll says: Buying a book is an expression of serious interest in a certain topic, and there is all sorts of valuable business to be done when people have expressed clear interest in a topic.

Certainly the level of engagement, and value of the average eyeball reading a book far outweighs the value of an average eyeball on a webpage. Digital books will and should allow any number of commercially valuable interactions – not just display ads. Or perhaps not display ads at all.

Doing this in a way that does not distract from the book itself will be the trick, but good design, and the powerful nature of new reading platforms means that doing this right is easily imaginable. If I can toggle night-reading on my Kobo for iPad, I can toggle ads.So ads needn’t distract from reading – they could be just another layer to which a book is connected.