Ads in ebooks

Last night I was perusing Fast Company, as I do, and found this:

Amazon Debuts Kindle for $114, Packed With Visa, Olay, Buick Ads, Sponsored Screensavers

I was rather sanguine about it for a bit, wondering what was so special about $25 that you’d put up with ads, but figuring if it was just a screensaver, well, okay. I don’t look at my Kindle screensaver now and a couple of the pictures are really pretty. Otherwise, I didn’t really think on it too much. There are ads everywhere and I ignore them. I initially compared it to a magazine, even though it’s not analogous; a book is an immersive experience. A magazine is not.

But after some discussion on Twitter, it was pointed out to me that it wouldn’t take long before there were intratextual ads at points in the narrative with mentions of name brands. Now, when I write, I’m a brand-name dropper. I can’t get my head around people who say “tissue” instead of “Kleenex,” although I’ve been told this happens on the East Coast. So I would be annoyed if, after my Midwestern characters said “Kleenex,” you turn the page and there’s an ad for Kleenex.

Then I got to thinking other things. Bear with me while I do some stream-of-consciousness what-iffing.

Cheap ad-laden ebooks and premium non-ad ebooks

Publishers required by Amazon/etailer to create code for Amazon’s ease of insertion of ads

Publishers pay to keep ad insertions out

Publishers beat Amazon to the punch and solicit their own ads to subsidize the book

Publishers get hit with an Amazon vig for already having ads in the book

Publishers have reason to keep harping on print as the Kindle killer* and jack around with digital production for another five years

But then…

Someone creates apps for blocking the ads

Devices upgraded to disable the apps

[insert app update versus hardware update war here]

I could probably keep spinning out the what-ifs, but follow the money, then read back the history of every open-source web initiative that ever got around someone who wanted to force something on a consumer.

Notice: Implicit in my list is the assumption that ads in ebooks will happen, and there will come a point when they will not be avoidable without paying for the privilege in one way or another.

And watch ad-less file sharing soar to new and breathless heights.

*Richard Curtis declared print books “the Kindle killer” at the 2011 Writer’s Digest Conference. With a straight face.

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