Would you buy an ebook if it had advertising embedded in it? No? What about if those ads were full-page ads added at the start and end of the ebooks? No? What about if they meant that the ebooks was free? Hmmmm.

Even though the whole concept of advertising embedded in ebooks usually sparks howls of outrage, shortly followed by irate blog flaming, under the above conditions the issue starts to look less black and white.

I, for one, would at least try an ebook with a couple of pages of ads at the front or back, if they were whole pages that didn’t impinge on the body of the book. And I don’t think I’d be the only one.

I think this ebook model has legs, and here are three reasons why:

1. We are used to ads in books.

What publishers call trade paperbacks have been using this model for years. I suspect we’ve all bought thrillers and other fiction with a couple of pages of ads bound in at the back. They are often full-colour ads for other authors from the same genre and publisher. And that’s not counting “also by this author” ads.

2. We are used to ads in other media.

Picked up a physical magazine lately with no ads in it? What about a magazine app? A newspaper? Watched an ad-free show on free-to-air TV? Didn’t think so. We understand that advertising pays for the content we consume and are usually happy to put up with it in order to get free stuff. Of course, some are prepared to pay extra to get rid of ads – premium TV subscriptions etc – and I think this will also apply to ebooks eventually.

It’s also happening in music. Seen a free music service called Guvera? It’s exactly the same model. Advertisers decide what music fits with their brand, and then sponsor those albums, artists by creating (for example) the Coke channel. Yes, you’ve got to put up with advertising banners around the download buttons to the songs, but they aren’t as intrusive as you would think. And all the songs are free. And the service is taking off, constantly adding more advertisers.

3. The barriers between media “genres” are slowly breaking down.

By media genres, I mean books, magazines, web video, static web pages, RSS, film, television etc. What some people called “enhanced” ebooks now often contain video, Static web pages commonly have embedded video from elsewhere, TV show can be streamed over the web, as can magazines, which are apps, and sometimes have embedded RSS feeds, and often video … the list goes on.

So I think some ebooks– especially non-fiction titles – will start tending to look like magazines. If you try to define the two genres, you quickly see there’s almost no difference anyway. So it wouldn’t seem so unusual that an ebook/magazine would have pages of advertising.

Graphic novel and ebook publisher WOWIO certainly thinks the idea has legs. They’ve been inserting ads into PDF publications for a while now, and now Fox News is reporting that they’re interested in moving into EPUB ebooks. As Fox reports:

The ads themselves aren’t intrusive: There are no annoying highlighted links in the text, nor are there irritating animations or takeovers to interrupt the reading experience. The advertisements are simply pages added to a book, typically up front: Notices for movie site Fandango and auction site iTaggit appeared in the copy of H.G. Wells’s The War of the Worlds that I read. It’s much like the advertising you’d see in a magazine, except that if you want more information or are enticed by a promotion, all you have to do is click to visit the advertiser’s site.

This week the firm announced a major step forward by signing a deal with massive distributor Ingram, which will give the online store access to more than 50,000 popular books on November 1. Ingram has many bestsellers, such as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson and Legacy by Danielle Steel


hey’ve even gone as far as applying for a patent on in-ebook advertising, which they were granted last week, according to the press release.

So don’t lose your lunch the next time someone mentions ads in ebooks. The more ways to pay for them, the more there will be.

Via Jason Davis’ BookBee


  1. I hate ads with a passion.
    Yet, I can imagine paying for an e-book by viewing ads.
    THE question is, how obtrusive would the ads be?

    A couple of pages at the beginning and at the end is OK.
    An ad displaying on Kindle instead of a dead author picture whenever I put the device down is acceptable.
    An add on 2 other places (besides the beginning and end of book) that can be quickly skipped would be barely tolerated, IF the book normally sells for high price and I get to read it (with adds) without paying anything

    A reference to a sponsor in header of footer on each page would annoy me way too much.

    An advertisement every 10 pages that does not let me to turn page for the next 15 second would make me explode in a bout of howling outrage …
    Put an animated adds on pages and I will organise campaign against publisher

  2. As long as there’s a clear price difference, why not? It also depends on what kind of ads. I don’t mind ads for other books by the same author, or other authors in that genre, but food ads or something completely unrelated would be irritating.

    If they go in this direction, I’d like to see two versions of the ebook, one ad-free at a higher price, one with ads at a significantly lower price.

  3. I have three basic responses to ads in ebooks:

    1) No
    2) Hell No
    3) Bloody Hell No

    If an author were to offer an ebook for free with ads or for pay without ads, I would simply ignore the ad toting author completely in all editions across all media types. Even an author who is open to the idea of ads is an author probably worth skipping. There are more than enough titles to choose from that I’ll never read all the books I’d want to. Ads will be a reason to exclude authors for the might want to read list and pick something else.

  4. First of all eBooks are simply paper books in electronic format.

    So considering paper books have included a couple of pages of trade ads at the back of the book for decades then this is a NON ISSUE.
    It is nothing new, innovative or different from before. (as long as it can be ignored by scrolling/paging etc and not forced to be viewed by some software mechanism)

    The only issue that is objectionable, imho, is where ads might:

    a) be forced to be viewed (grammar I know !)
    b) be within the pages of the writing piece itself

    I am no supporter of advertising. I still CANNOT get my head around why people are prepared to wear T shirts with commercial logos on them and pay full price for the honour of being a walking taking billboard.

  5. A couple of ads at the very back where I can quit reading the book when I see the first one would be okay. *If* it meant the book was much lower in price.

    If the marketing genius actually hit the nail on the head and showed me something *I* was interested in, I *might* even read them.

    Nothing else.

    And the day I discover unexpected ads in an e-book I paid for is the day I return that e-book for a refund and quit buying from that retailer.

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