A New Slippery Slope

Advertising in e- books. Are you ready for it? Do you want it? Granted, advertising in a book is not a new idea. There are paperback imprints that in the front or back of one book will place ads for other books which they publish which may be of similar interest to the reader. There was a somewhat short-lived experiment in the early 1970s to place four-color ads for cigarettes in the middle of paperbacks as well. But…advertising in an e-book?

That is the idea currently being floated by Harper UK. As it is currently conceived, such commercial interruptions would be limited to works of non-fiction (apparently because we readers of fiction have such easily derailed attention spans). The example which was presented was that an e-book concerning bird-watching could contain an advertisement for binoculars. You can see where this could go. Imagine the irregularly scheduled commercial in the e-book version of a sex manual. Or an ad for ginsu knives in a true crime book. Given the ever-growing popularity of the iPad (not to mention the Kindle Fire) such a commercial or advertisement could manifest itself in multiple media forms. Would it be a page that you could skip by, or perhaps one of those annoying popups for a movie or commercial product? And make no mistake: such a plan may be limited to non-fiction books at the moment, but if the trial with non-fiction e-books is at all successful, works of fiction will be next.

With that in mind, here is a bit of free advice: if you are fortunate enough to have a major entity, be it a publisher or Amazon or whoever, interested in publishing your work, make it your business to determine how and if your agreement addresses this issue. The argument from the other side may be that such an addition to your work in e-form is part of the content, or form, or your work, and thus falls under the purview and authority of the publisher. If you are in a position to negotiate this point (in other words, you haven’t signed anything yet) there are a number of points to consider. Two of the bigger ones would substance and form. You might object to ads for certain products (alcohol, condoms, and firearms, to name but three examples) or products manufactured or sold by a certain companies (The GAP, Wal-Mart, Progressive Insurance, and McDonalds, to name but a few). You might also have some concerns with regard to how the commercial is presented, or the product portrayed, in Your Book. An even bigger issue, however, concerns who will get the cheddar from the sale of such ad placement. When an ad is placed in your e-book, will your cash register go Ka-ching? Or will the proceeds of such go into the publisher’s coffers to offset the costs of publishing your e-book?
Is this an issue yet? No; but I believe it will be soon. Authors, published and prospective: what do you think about advertising in an e-book? Do you like the idea, or not? Why? And readers. Would you mind an occasional advertisement? Or are you happy to have a place to go that is ad-free?

14 thoughts on “A New Slippery Slope

  1. Lord save us from the Marketers!

    If I pay for a book (or anything, for that matter), I don’t want to have to be subjected to commercials. My money financing the (entity) = no commercials. Ad money financing the (entity) = commercials. I know this isn’t how the real world works but, so far it is how books (e or non-e) work and I want to see it stay that way. I would object hugely to an ad being stuffed into the content of a book I purchased, and even more into one I wrote.

  2. I have paid $20.00 a year for ten years so my email does not have any ads on the screen. Call me a sucker. I started in advertising and one of the things I did was look for ways to invade privacy with my messages. I DESPISE advertising that is foisted upon me, especially when I am paying for something. NO, I do not want to see adverts in eBooks, unless the advertiser pays for the book and I have to read around his ads. Magazines are only available (for the most part) because advertisers pay the freight. Magazines without ads would be prohibitively expensive.

    I resent people shoving anything down my throat, and the older I get the angrier it makes me. Such is life.

  3. I hate advertising, period. I get annoyed by the ads advertising other books that even come in print books–even though it only takes me a second or two to flip past them.

    Now if the ads in e-books are in the parts you don’t have to see (ie. how on my Kindle when you download a book it opens on the start of the story, not the very beginning of the file, I wouldn’t care. But they wouldn’t be likely to hide the ad like that.

    I read a lot of non-fiction, and I don’t want to see it there either.

  4. Oh brother, Joe. (insert eye roll here)

    For fun in my upcoming YA I used a bunch of junk food references because my teen girl always carries or stashes snackage everywhere. Maybe I should get ad placement money like they do in the movies.

    “Stay thirsty, my friend.”

  5. I agree. No ads.

    Maybe Kathryn’s on to something…

    Print publishers could use this as a marketing tool – “Come back to Hardbacks – the only place you won’t be bothered by obnoxious advertisers”.

    We dive to mute our TV during commercial breaks in our house. We hate Pop-ups.

  6. I would not *Drink Coke* like ads in books or *Eat at Carl’s* movies. Product *Drive Ford* placement is one thing, but *Brawny absorbs more* ads popping up *Cialis* at random are just *apply directly to the forehead* annoying.

  7. Thanks for this blog. As someone who develops and creates ebooks for publishers, I found it very interesting. But I have to agree with the first comment, if someone purchases something they want to purchase the rights to view it without advertisements.

    If publishers do go this route, they should definitely make the content free. Then the reader would know the price of the book is having to view the occasional ad. As someone who loves a deal, I would be all over this and if the ads were pertinent to what I was reading, I might click on it. IE I’m reading a triathlon book and there is an ad for bikes. This idea might have traction.

  8. I don’t mind a publisher informing me of other books they have available. I even welcome that, but if we end up with ad placement a popups or something else within the actual reading area of the e-book, that will kill the e-book for me.

  9. Melissa-Great. I had ads in the end of my paperbacks and I didn’t mind. Seriously, I’d pay $2.99 for a 9.99 book and live with the ads.

    I may well be doing my first ebook original and I’m jazzed about it.

  10. I wish everyone would feel free to say how they REALLY feel!

    Seriously, my hackles went up when I originally started reading about this. I find it especially irritating to be subjected to ads in theaters (I know longer go) and, even worse, in DVDs.

    Anyway, it sounds like both authors and readers alike don’t like the idea. I hope the industry pays attention. And, once again, thank you, one and all, for all of your comments.

  11. Joe–we had marketing specialist, Shannon Aviles speak at the FRW meeting yesterday. Given the fact that she pointed out Amazon’s “small print” in its contracts states they can change the terms/conditions of the ebook contract at any time without giving notice makes our Amazon uploads ripe for having advertising tagged on without discretion or permission. I’m telling you right now. I’ll pull my books before someone other than me uses them for advertising without my permission!! You are absolutely correct, advertising on our ebooks is coming down the pike.

    I ask you . . . who ARE these people???

  12. The only kind of advertising that is acceptable to me in any form of book is a discreet plug for similar books by the same author and/or publisher. And this must be placed at the end of the book, whether print or e.

    The only reason a consumer should put up with advertising is to get something free or at a greatly reduced price (magazines would be horrendously expensive if they weren’t supported by advertising). If I’ve paid what a product is worth, I expect not to be assaulted by ads.

Comments are closed.