Kindle AdsAmazon is introducing an advertising component to the Kindle platform.  I love it.  Kudos to Jeff Bezos & Co. for their forward thinking on this initiative.  I’m talking about the less expensive ($114) device currently known as “Kindle with Special Offers & Sponsored Screensavers.”  (It’s not the sexiest name but it certainly describes the product!  Still, I wonder what Apple would have named this…)

I’ve blogged before about how advertising and its close cousin, sponsorship, will take on a larger role in the ebook world and most people have criticized that logic.  They say “books aren’t magazines”, “the book reading experience needs to remain free of ads”, blah, blah, blah.

Why?  What makes books so special?  More importantly, who’s to say there can’t be two flavors of a book?: One without ads (higher-priced, for purists) and one with ads (lower-priced, for everyone else)?

Before I get too far ahead of myself, I need to point out that what Amazon introduced with this new Kindle isn’t what I’m describing.  They’re not talking about including ads in books.  Yet.  At this point, all this new device offers is a slighly lower price ($25 less), periodic offers from Amazon (e.g., a discount on an Amazon Gift Card) and “sponsored” screensavers.

Wait a minute.  I recently bought a $139 Kindle without Special Offers & Sponsored Screensavers and now I feel gypped.  So I paid $25 more and I won’t get any of these nice discounts Amazon plans to offer owners of the new Kindle?  That stinks.  I wonder if they’d let me opt in after the fact.  Seriously, this makes no sense.  They should let all Kindle owners opt into this program, not just the ones that paid less than the rest of us.

I know prices are always subject to change but I really wish Amazon would have initially priced this new device at $99 or less.  As soon as the Kindle gets below $100 they’ll have a mass market hit on their hands.  I can’t believe I’m saying that, particularly since I gave up on the Kindle a year ago.  Amazon has done some smart things since then though and this is just one example.

Don’t think this new Kindle is the furthest Amazon plans to go with ebook advertising though.  They’re playing it smart by taking one small step at a time.  There’s no point rushing into this, but one day ads will be presented as splash screens when you open an ebook and even somewhere on the screen as you read.  It’s OK.  The world isn’t going to stop spinning on its axis when this happens.  We’ll all be fine.  In fact, this model will put more content in front of more people than could have been reached without advertising.  That’s a good thing.  And if you want to pay more to avoid ads I’m sure that option will exist (just like it does today, where you can pay $25 more for a “regular” Kindle.)

Here’s where it all gets very intriguing: Will Amazon (and other retailers) compensate authors and publishers for this advertising/sponsorship income?  I’m not convinced they have to, but think about the revenue-sharing models this could present.  Amazon could ask for additional discount points from a publisher and offer that publisher a cut of the advertising/sponsorship income.  Interesting.

Via Joe Wikert’s Publishing 2020 Blog


  1. I’m not overly concerned about an ad supported device, as long as it remains an option. I just don’t think $25 off is enough of an incentive to get somebody to put up with ads. They ought to be giving it away, if they want us to view years of ads (assuming we use the device regularly until it dies).

  2. So, I would end up getting ads splattered throughout Kindle books which are the same high price, if not higher, than print books, either paperback or hardback, because of the Agency 6 model? Does anyone think the Agency 6 are bright enough to lower ebook prices if Amazon agreed to give them a kickback on money garnered through ebook ads? Or would they just keep on with high priced ebooks?

    I’m sorry, but I might be able to live with ads on a screensaver or with ads at the end of books, perhaps even at the beginning of books, but I will not put up with ads popping up throughout a book. Not unless they start putting ads all throughout paper books too.

  3. “Here’s where it all gets very intriguing: Will Amazon (and other retailers) compensate authors and publishers for this advertising/sponsorship income? I’m not convinced they have to, but think about the revenue-sharing models this could present.”

    Oh please, make me pay for your advertising connection on your Kindle Amazon. You send me eBooks and then you bill me for this service. Thanks Amazon!

    You are really really special you know that.

  4. “Despite refusing to sell books to 90% of the world, and in spite of the fact that we’re charging greater-than-paper prices for raw OCR dumps people still insist on paying us money for e-books! How can we make them give up on purchasing e-books entirely?”

    “Include advertising.”

  5. What would Apple have named it? Why, the iAd of course. 🙂

    The cheaper ad Kindle will most likely bomb, in my opinion. Quite a few consumers go out of their way to avoid more ads in their lives; they buy devices to record tv and fast forward through commercials. Folks pay more on some sites just to see less ads.

  6. Time will tell if it bombs or not. If they can keep the special offers part fresh they might snag enough of the folks who troll the internet daily for deals and hand out on sites like Woot, Fat Wallet, Slick Deals, etc.

    Personally I’m not interested in the ad Kindle (maybe if it was super cheap), but I know from reading comments in various places that quite a few people seem to be. Some are even hoping Amazon will find a way to offer them a way to add this to their current Kindles.

    Ads in my books? No thanks. MAYBE if I could buy a book from a new author for a couple bucks, instead of $7-$12, because there are ads in the front or back (never interspersed with content) AND they offered an ad free version, but the way the big pubs are they’d probably knock a buck off or nothing at all and want me to buy an ad infested version. No thanks,

  7. Funny. I sent Amazon an email not an hour before reading this blog post. I basically said I could walk away as a customer if ads ever became ubiquitous across the Kindle platform. I’m exposed to enough ads elsewhere that I can’t support opening a new venue to display more ads, deals, or Special Offers anywhere, especially on a device I use almost daily.

    I’m not convinced ads will put more people in front or more content. And even if it did, somehow, how would that translate into more quality content, and not just more teenage vampire romances? More content for more people might just be a bad thing.

  8. The price point made me really suspicious. They could afford $99 if they really wanted to sell that Kindle model. I agree with Joe – they’re playing it smart by taking little steps. Next step could be ads/offers in Kindle for iOS – as a solution for the change of AppStore rules:

    As an author I’m not against ads. I’ll have the opportunity (at least theoretically) to earn money if the book is free, or even – distributed illegally.
    But as a reader, I wouldn’t like to see them, as they bring distraction to the place, which is supposed to be distraction-free: e-reading device or app. The difference between print book and e-book is that when you see the ad in a print book, you don’t stop reading that book. This difference is called “a click”.

  9. ” . . but one day ads will be presented as splash screens when you open an ebook and even somewhere on the screen as you read. It’s OK. The world isn’t going to stop spinning on its axis when this happens. We’ll all be fine.”

    Eh no I won’t be fine and I don’t for a minute believe most readers will accept it. Also the more noise people make about it the less likely it will come about.
    And this effort by Amazon is pretty abysmal. I wonder what kind of person would be persuaded to buy this.
    Essentially it adds up to being paid $25 for 3 – 5 years of advertising. My . . they must be really cheap people !

  10. Ads definitely have their place but unless the offers are significant to offset what is essentially little more than a tiny discount this isn’t going to tempt many people. If you’re paying the “Special Offer” price why not pay slightly more and not have the inconvenience of ads?

    I might be tempted by a free Kindle with ads….

  11. This current model is obviously a test case, “will customers opt for the add supported version”? At the point no one knows the answer to that question. A really interesting option would be to pay a fee later to turn the ads off.

    It’s also a pretty good bet that amazon has had this planned for sometime and was waiting for the right timing. My guess is that Kindle sales have dipped a little and this is a way to boost sales back up.

    Also it’s an opportunity to begin building an add network for mobile devices. If it works… hmm going to go buy amazon stock.. be back later. 🙂

  12. I agree Christian. Of course this is a kite flying exercise. See what the public will endure. Explore the potential of developing a huge advertising model for Amazon to compete with Apple etc.
    The biggest problem Amazon have is that they have nothing unique in their eReader. More eReaders are coming on to the market in the coming years. They will be much cheaper and better and thinner. I don’t see Amazon being able to sustain this attempt.

  13. If the Kindle is supposed to duplicate the p-book experience, this is not the way to go about it.

    Do we have ads on the covers of p-books instead of book-themed covers? How do you think p-book buyers would react to that idea?

    Do you really think it will stop with ads replacing the author pics? Next there will be ads at the beginning of every chapter or every section or every change of perspective. How about a pop-up ad whenever you access the dictionary? And every one of those ads will be like a bucket of cold water in the face of every reader who has become engrossed in the story. What a way to ruin the whole escapist/reading for relaxation thing.

    Call me a purist, a snob, an eletist, whatever. My books are a quiet refuge from the world in which I live and I want to keep it that way.

  14. Lenne, Um… the insides of MM pBooks have been filled with ads for a long time. Check out the back 10-15 pages, or the first 5-6 pages of most MM pBook, it’s all ads. And they have stayed there, in the back of the book. It will be the same with Kindle ads. They won’t interrupt your reading experience, that would just be stupid, and Amazon is not stupid.

    Howard, I think your underestimating Amazon, even with the iPad, Xoom, and the iPhone, Driod, Windows phone 7, the Kindle still sells. If anything I would guess Amazon has a Kindle 4 and Kindle Color in the wings and they are waiting for the middle of the iPad product cycle. (tho what I *really* want is Kindle for the web)

  15. Umm, Christian… In my pre-Kindle days, I seldom purchased MM paperbacks and the ones I did purchase may have had ads in the back, but they were: 1. in the back, after the end of the book and therefore easily ignored and 2. for other books, not cars or skin care.

    There were no ads in the hardcovers I purchased. Since I haven’t purchased a hardcover in years, I can only assume that is still the case.

    That being said, there is a huge difference between ads for other books by similar authors at the end of a book and ads that I am forced to view before I can begin to read…or, as I fear will happen if this ad-themed Kindle succeeds, ads at chapter headings and as banners throughout the text.

  16. Christian – “‘iPad, Xoom, and the iPhone, Driod, Windows phone 7”

    But none of these are simple eReaders. They are tablets and smart phones. As the number of people buying and reading eBooks grows at the huge rate we are seeing, I really don’t believe the many manufacturers of devices across the far east will sit back and leave the market to the Kindle….

  17. I suspect the concern about future ads being placed between chapters, in banners between lines of text, replacing bookcovers, etc, is alarmist overreaction. Though I remember a few random paperbacks that had collections of photos in the center spread, such as the novelization of “2001: A Space Odyssey,” the vast majority of books kept their ads to the front and back of the book, inside the cover, and no one had a problem with it.

    I realize “no one likes ads” (and I put that in quotes because, when it’s something people actually want, like an ad for more books in the same genre or series, they don’t seem to mind ads too much), but consumers have to realize that ads are one of the ways product prices are kept down… therefore they actually benefit the consumer. Ads, otherwise, are as easy to ignore as commercials. How often do you throw up your hands and scream bloody murder when a commercial pauses your enjoyment of “CSI”?

    So I think we should all relax and let the publishers try what they want to try. Once we see what we actually get, and start voting with our wallets, they’ll know what is and isn’t acceptable, and act accordingly.

    But if consumers send the message that no ads are acceptable, don’t go complaining the next time prices go up… you asked for it.

  18. I’m glad this post sparked such a great debate. As I mentioned way back in the third paragraph though, why can’t we have two options? One will be higher-priced for all of you outraged at the thought of ads in books and one that’s lower-priced for the rest of us.

    That’s basically what Amazon is already doing on the hardware side. You can pay more for a Kindle without advertising, but if you’re not offended by ads you’ll save money with the lower-priced device.

    I’m just applying the same approach to the content itself. It’s going to happen. Whether it becomes popular or not will be determined by how customers vote with their wallets.

  19. Steven Lyle Jordan said, “But if consumers send the message that no ads are acceptable, don’t go complaining the next time prices go up… you asked for it.”

    Well, that might be reasonable, if we could expect that book prices would go down if they had ads in them. Do you think if ebooks have ads, the prices will actually be lowered by the Agency 6?

    Also, I don’t think your analogy in regards to watching CSI on TV & sitting through ads is equivalent to buying books with ads in them. This is more equivalent to paying $50 to buy a season of CSI on DVD & then having ads spaced throughout the programs just like on TV.

    Or better yet, if I payed Ford $25, 000 to buy a new car but then had to sit through ads for Ford products every time I started the car! And then somebody said, “Oh, but if you send the message that no ads are acceptable, don’t be surprised when car prices go up.” ??? I’m sorry, but that makes no sense.

  20. “One will be higher-priced for all of you outraged at the thought of ads in books and one that’s lower-priced for the rest of us.”

    Why are you so sure that’s the way it will play? In the short term, maybe. But it could well turn out the long term effects to be regularly prices books as $12.99 with ads and premium prices at $15.99 without ads. And who’s going to pay the overhead in creating and maintaining different versions with and without ads? (Hint: the consumer.) Publishers are already claiming the costs of making ebooks and paperbooks are about the same. And what about the costs of fighting the ad strippers? (You know they’ll claim it costs them when readers illegally remove ads.) I think, over time, ebooks will need to go down just one road. The consumer will unlikely gain long term benefits and savings from ads.

  21. “But if consumers send the message that no ads are acceptable, don’t go complaining the next time prices go up… you asked for it.”

    I am sorry but this is one of those crassly idiotic statements that can only be described as total BS.

    There is no evidence whatsoever of the price of eBooks being too low for publishers to produce. There is no evidence that eBooks from the big publishers are low at all. In fact they are evidently and transparently overpriced and producing super profits for those publishers.
    There is also no evidence whatsoever that Amazon have any intention of reducing their commission on eBooks and equally no evidence that were they to do so, those publishers would reduce their prices.
    What is clear is that advertising revenue from this new model being floated by Amazon would be a completely new business and would produce very high income levels with almost no outlay, independent of their other businesses.

    Customers need to send the signal that they simply won’t accept advertising and will continue to move toward well written eBooks that are priced in the well documented zone of 2 – 5 dollars. Both publishers and eRetailers will have to suck it up and do what the customer wants if they want the business.

  22. Greg you are completely right. Also it doesn’t take much imagination to realise that a whole new pirate industry would be born out of offering eBooks with ads removed. Yet another boost for illegal downloading as if the big publishers were not boosting them enough already.

  23. So long as I can opt out, I don’t have a problem with it. If folks want to deal with certain things like commercials or the lack of various features in order to save themselves some money, that’s fine. Just look at the price/features difference between eReaders. It’s a bit like terrestrial v. satellite radio. Deal with commercials and listen to your tunes for free, or pay a subscription and have a commercial-free tune experience.

  24. “I recently bought a $139 Kindle without Special Offers & Sponsored Screensavers and now I feel gypped.”

    Wait, you think the gypsies stole your $25? Casual racism used as a way to express your sense of entitlement doesn’t help your point much.

    If we’re going to actually debate the issue, I agree with you that this is the natural progression of Amazon’s strategy, but that has nothing to do with ebooks and everything to do with the kindle as a locked down platform for selling DRM’d text files. What Amazon is doing is using their exclusive control of your kindle to collect information about you and sell that to advertisers as who want to targeted you.

    /This has nothing to do with subsidizing content/

    As others have mentioned in previous comments, there is no rational relationship between the current price of ebooks and the costs of either production or distribution. As such there is no reason to believe that the participation of advertisers will change this relationship, nor is there evidence to support your statement that it “will put more content in front of more people than could have been reached without advertising.” If the prices for eBooks moves to their marginal costs of production and distribution, i.e. 0, I don’t think we will find it difficult to distribute them to as many eyes as want to read.

    Amazon makes a platform that people use for an intimate personal activity, reading. Advertisers want information about what you do while you are engaged in that activity. Amazon wants to sell them that information. The sugar they are using to convince people that it is OK to start selling information about what has traditionally been considered a very personal activity is $25.

  25. Howard said:
    “Customers need to send the signal that they simply won’t accept advertising and will continue to move toward well written eBooks that are priced in the well documented zone of 2 – 5 dollars.”

    No. Self published authors are not the Jesus Christ of the Cheap Man. They are not going to “pick up the slack” every time Kindle consumers don’t want to pay for anything. Those authors have to eat and make a living off their hard work, too.

    My point? Those $2 to $5 ebooks will more than likely have ads, too, so that their authors can actually make some decent wages. Earning $2 for a book (self published or not) is not a decent wage at all: it’s a joke.

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