Saturday, August 21, 2010

Commercials in Books

Not long ago, the buzz was about books that had sponsors. The writer would feature, say, a brand of car or vodka or something, in the book. That was a carry-over from products that got featured in movies, like having a character obviously driving a Camaro, or in television, like all the judges on American Idol drinking Coke. Writers, for a short while wrote books specifically for sponsors.

But that’s not what we’re talking about today when we say “commercials in books.” Now it’s…commercials…in books. The Wall Street Journal has an interesting article about this.

Maybe you won’t see them in print books. The WSJ tells you why:
But historically, the lack of advertising in books has had less to do with the sanctity of the product and more to do with the fact that books are a lousy medium for ads. Ads depend on volume and timeliness to work, and books don't provide an opportunity for either.
E-books, however, are a different matter.
Google has taken the first steps in this direction. Its Google Books archive—a collection of over 10 million scanned books from the world's largest libraries—displays advertisements next to search results. It's a small step to imagine Google including advertisements within books, especially since its 2008 settlement over copyright violations with the Authors Guild. For its part, Amazon filed a patent for advertisements on its Kindle device last year. And Apple has recently entered the advertising game with its iAd platform for mobile devices.
Right now on a lot of e-books you can read sample chapters for free. In the near future, that “free” may come with a commercial. Having commercials in books will also bring in a whole slew of new problems.
Ad agencies will be involved in creating a standard form for digital ads. Technology companies will be crucial to implementation. A new set of contracts will have to be created to manage these new costs, revenue sources and control rights.
Link over and read the full article. It’s interesting, not just for this, but also for its timeline of the eReader.

As an author, would you mind having commercials embedded in your e-book? Or would it depend on your cut of what the company paid to advertise?


  1. I have noticed the ads in the sidebar of Google Books, but don't pay attention to it and never click on the links. Also, I stay away from blogs with lots of ads and giveaways.

    Cold As Heaven

  2. I think its going to be unavoidable. It will always be about the money. Publishing can be a lucrative industry with the right initiatives and foresight. E-books can revolutionise how we educate and relax. E-books that earn frequent flyer points, phone credit, travel and entertainment discounts. The future looks bright if we let it.

  3. I can understand the ads being with the 'free' chapters you can read but to have ads in the e-books you buy would be bad. I knew I loved print books for a reason. :)

    Thoughts in Progress

  4. I think it's a bad thing for print books. While readers may decide they want print books because of the lack of such commercials, publishers and writers may like e-books because of the added revenue.

  5. Remember when publishers used to put little ads in the back of books for their other, similar authors and a little order form to send in to buy them? That's my limit for advertising in books.

    As far as eReaders - people have become good at ignoring ads on screens, I find it hard to believe it will be worthwhile.

    I frankly hate the idea completely.

  6. Oy! I hate this idea completely too - placing ads leads to advertisers eventually having a SAY about what is in the books. If I write a book that is less than complimentary to the conventional status of commerce who is to say that it won't be pulled or I'll be asked to hold back certain sentiments - a nightmare! I hate it. To me the gift of the story teller is that they are telling me their story without filters - without veils of commerce. No. Yuck.

  7. I just read a really interesting article on this, which I agree with. A writer I know points out that ads in books could get REALLY complicated, just like product placement in movies is complicated.

    Because of that, it's important to place ads in the same category as subrights and pay the author accordingly.

    Here's the link:

  8. Ads and commercials appear before movies and on DVDs. I don't like it, but I can see it coming.

  9. They're also in movies, Alex. If someone is drinking a Coke or driving a Chevy, that's an ad. The company paid to have their product appear.

    Thanks for the link, Miriam.

  10. Seems kind of like we're going back to the days of Lucy and Ricky stopping their show and discussing their favourite laundry soap with the audience! :)

  11. Interesting! I would have thought the "sanctity of the product" would be the reason for no ads in books. I'm kind of surprised that publishers and editors are going to stand for commercials in books, but this move makes sense given that books don't seem to be as profitable anymore. Not enough people buy them!

  12. Pay me enough and you can do anything you want.... wait. I really didn't mean that. LOL

    Seriously, I'm not sure if this is a good idea or not. On one hand generating some revenue with some ads is not such a bad thing, as long as the advertisers do not interfere with editorial content. On the other hand, books have always been exempt from that kind of profiteering. Maybe that is something worth preserving.

  13. I hesitate to answer, but yes if the advertisements were for the Discovery Channel or the Science Channel. There would be some redeeming value here.

    Stephen Tremp

  14. As long as they don't move or make noise, and the author gets a cut, I could care less. Alas, they will probably be just like web adds, which means stupid animation and flashing banners. I would HATE reading an ebook containing those types of ads.


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