I was glancing through slashdot this morning and ran across this article by the wall street journal (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704554104575435243350910792.html) that discusses how advertising, embedded in ebooks, could be in our future. The article looks at some of the trends that point to this being true (patent applications by Amazon, advertising in other media, etc).
I realize that advertising being embedded in our electronic media isn’t something new. Probably the most in-genius use is product placement is found in movies, where the camera lingers on a computer brand, an actor only orders a specific drink or drives a specific car. We get use to them, filter them out. If done well, the viewer never really knows that they’ve sat through a number of mini-commercials while sitting in the theater. But could that same experience translate to a book? I don’t know — and nor am I sure I would want to. Imagine reading Douglas Adams’ Restaurant at the End of the Universe. You come to the page where they are in the restaurant and the cow has come out to their table to suggest different parts of itself to be eaten. A hilarious section of the book. Somehow though, I imagine that some of the fun of the book might be muted if on the next page a big advertisement for McDonalds showed up. Maybe with the caption, Even our cows are lovin’ it.
Speaking only for myself, but I find that the reading experience is much different than my viewing experience. It is a much more intimate experience because as the reader, it is up to us to us our imagination to build that picture in our head. Understanding how I read, I’m wondering then how intrusive I would find such embedded advertisement (or linked advertisement) if it were suddenly part of the reading experience. It would also be interesting to see how advertising was placed in an ebook. Since most ebook readers are able to be online, would this give advertisers another method of providing targeted advertising based on your reading profile. I’m not so certain that would be a direction I’d be fond of either.
Maybe if (when) advertising comes to the ebook platform, we’ll see different purchasing levels. Kind of like the ITunes option to purchase DRM or DRM free versions of music — you’d have the option to purchase an ebook subsidized by ads or an ebook without such interruptions for a few dollars more. I guess we shall see.