The Wall Street Journal’s Emily Steel has a piece looking at the potential intrusion of advertising into e-books (an idea we have covered a number of times before). Possible proposals include providing free advertising-sponsored e-books and incorporating video, graphical, or textual ads that display at the beginning or along the edges of a book.
The ad business has experimented with putting ads in e-books, but it has never proven popular or lucrative. But now that e-books are taking off and sales of printed books are “under pressure”, the industry is giving it another look.
The article looks at Wowio’s advertising practices, including a deal with Fandango to advertise the Jack Black movie adaptation of Gulliver’s Travels using Jonathan Swift’s book, and Scribd and ScrollMotion’s efforts.
Paper books used to have all sorts of advertising in them: several pages in the back advertising the author and publisher’s other works, and I’ve read more than one “Nick Carter” or other men’s-adventure novel that had a cigarette ad bound into the middle.
Still, it is uncertain that even printed books, let alone e-books, will sell in great enough numbers to interest advertisers anymore. And there are other problems to consider as well.
Regardless, ads will have to overcome the annoyance factor. Imagine an ad for a sports drink that says "Is your day feeling like the worst of times?" that appears in "A Tale of Two Cities" next to the line "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times," or ads for condoms interspersed through "The Scarlet Letter," says Forrester analyst James McQuivey.
"It would be an unpleasant distraction in the middle of a narrative," says literary agent Ann Rittenberg. "This is going to be a lot more complicated than putting an ad at the back of a paperback."
And a Random House spokesman makes it clear that ads will not appear in Random House e-books without author consent.
It’s unclear whether advertising in e-books will ever be able to overcome the annoyance factor—but given Wowio’s patent applications, at least some people think it is worth a try. The question is whether authors and readers will agree.