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Advertisements: A new eBook pricing strategy [Guest Post]

The following is a guest post by Richard Denoncourt.

If you could save six dollars on an eBook, but it meant flipping past a few advertisements during your reading experience, would you do it?

What if the advertisements were only at the beginning and end of the book, to keep the actual reading experience untainted?

What if they weren’t?

The question of putting advertisements into eBooks has been asked before, but not nearly as often as it should.

photo by uncafelitoalasonceLook at Facebook and Google.

At one point, over a billion dollars of Facebook’s worth came from ad revenues. Google generated more than six times that figure from ads alone.

Now, with tablets and color eReaders, clickable ads can be a reality in electronic books–and a major potential source of income resulting in cheaper eBooks for you, the reader, and larger advances and royalties for your pal, the writer, so she can keep typing away.

No one’s suggesting putting ads for carpet cleaners and insurance into The Great Gatsby, of course. But would you mind if the eBook version of Stephen King’s next novel came with an ad for James Cameron’s upcoming film? How about an ad for Netflix? Goodreads?

What if the next 50 Shades came with ads for lingerie?

Advertisements have become a standard part of the media experience

Advertisements are a part of our lives and have been since most of us were kids. We tolerate them in magazines, newspapers, and along our highways.

Everywhere except in books.

Books, according to the masses, are sacred. Untouchable. But are they really that sacred?

That’s what everyone thought about paper books, until the eBook changed the marketplace completely. Now, reading a book on your tablet or your phone is no big thing. Even kids are doing it! (Ever hear of Wattpad?)

And what’s more sacred than the idea of writers getting paid extra so they can create more of the stories we’ve come to crave? Why should writers and publishers ignore a whole world of revenue that has helped every other format in the entertainment industry thrive?

Heck, even the new Kindle Fire is going to display advertisements. Jeff Bezos saw the opportunity, and he went for it.

But I don’t care about Jeff or TV or what anyone else thinks is sacred. I care about underpaid writers making more money, and readers having access to cheaper books.

Speaking of cheaper books, this one will really make you think…

What if Amazon, B&N and iTunes, and all the other major retailers, gave you a choice when it came to buying your favorite author’s latest book?

What if you could pay $2.99 for the eBook version of Stephen King or Suzanne Collins’s latest novel WITH advertisements, or $9.99 for the eBook WITHOUT advertisements?

It’s a difference of $6, and we’ll assume there are only two ads: one at the very beginning, before the Table of Contents, and one at the very end, before the author bio.

Would you pay $2.99 or $9.99? With or without ads? Why? And do you think ads in eBooks will ever happen?

Should it?

Richard Denoncourt is the author of supernatural and dystopian thrillers (and a YA fantasy novel for teens). Check out his blog, Self Land Stories, and say hi to him on Twitter @richdenoncourt.


  • Janice Lane Palko

    I’m the editor of a local magazine as well as a writer who has just released her first novel. After assuming the position of editor after writing for the publication for several years, I learned the hard truth–unless there is advertising, there is no vehicle for the articles in the magazine no matter how eloquently they are written. While I would write my novels without any recompense because I love writing, the reason most of us are concerned with building platforms, marketing, etc. is because we would like to share and be paid for our hard work. I would have no problem with several advertisements in an e-book. They are already all over web pages, and I think people have the ability to tune them out if they don’t wont to see them. If by accepting advertising, we wouldn’t have to devote so much time to social media and marketing, we might be able to devote more time to what we love doing–writing.

    • Richard Denoncourt

      Janice, thanks for your feedback. I totally agree, especially with your last point about how advertising could help us spend less time using social media to promote. It’s a great point. Until advertising in ebooks becomes a reality, what do you think is the best way to market a novel?

  • Tracy_R_Atkins

    There is a slippery slope when it comes to advertising. It always starts small, but next thing you know, it is everywhere and you get frustrated with it.

    That said, it could work for books. I have a feeling that it will be least bothersome and most viewed in-between chapter breaks. Inline adds, with the text, pop-ups or timed
    interruptions will just KILL a book.

    But, since the chapter end and beginning are natural breaks, people won’t be so put-off. TV already divides shows into segments with natural segues into commercials.

    • Richard Denoncourt

      Ads after chapter breaks (or Parts) could definitely work, though some books have short chapters and it might be too much to have to see an advertisement every 5 minutes. You’re right that it’s a slippery slope. It would have to be done with care, and of course the author should have a say in how many ads his or her book would carry.

  • This is a great idea, for both authors and readers. Never thought of it! It could certainly be done tastefully without causing much disruption to the book.

  • This is very interesting! I could see it happening, after all, Advertising usually makes its way into most things.

    It will be fought in the beginning, but slowly, over time, will become standard. After all, most people will allow it so long as it means a cheaper product.

    Interesting thoughts

    Matthew (Turndog Millionaire)

  • If you think about it, author’s are already advertising by placing a list of their work, sometimes at the front, sometimes at the end of their books. I do not see it being a major step to add additional advertisements or even hyperlinks to whatever product might be pushed. I can see it being a bit annoying if to by-pass the ad. it required the reader to do more than simply turn the page.

  • Louisa

    Magazine writers get paid, thanks to ads … Maybe it is time to change the way we think about books. Being “sacred” hasn’t helped bookstores survive! Great post and discussion!

  • td whittle

    No, I would not buy books with advertising. Yes, I would pay more for those without. I have ad-block software set up on my browsers so that I have to look at fewer of them. I was willing to pay more for a Kindle with no ad feature. I show up at movies late to avoid the ads. They are everywhere, and it’s too too too much. Also, it’s just crass and cheap to put them in books, whether ebooks or print. Can’t we have ANY space in our lives (besides our own closets) where ads are not in our faces?

  • Diana Shallard

    In-book advertising does seem to be the wave of the future. If you look at pessimistically, ads are everywhere, and this is one more example. But if you look at the positive side, I see ads offering discounts to readers and revenue to writers. In contrast to the ads being in the intro or end of an eBook, I see them being used more discreetly – similar to the blogs that hold hyperlinks – where a few words might jump out here and there, but it would be up to the reader to decide if they want to click on the ad. Currently, when I watch online videos, I’m annoyed by the :15 – :30 videos for products I don’t care about. I’d much rather see a page with a few underlined words that I may or may not want to click on. The next generation will likely accept such a look as standard just as we all accept ads in magazines, on radio and on TV. Avoiding ads on such media requires paid-for technology, e.g. a DVR, Pandora or an “ad-free” eBook. And yes, there will be some who will choose to pay a premium to avoid the ads and others who accept the “free” version instead.

  • Mr Uku

    This isn’t a new idea, it’s been mooted before and rejected by readers. Advertisements are already in too many places and would totally ruin a book with interruptions no reader wants.
    Publishers need to forget ideas like this and simply price e-books properly. Nobody expects them to be free all the time or priced at less than £1 but equally, there’s no excuse for the high prices some publishers seem to want. Price your e-books sensibly and we won’t ever need to hear about advertising in books ever again.

  • I took a discount when I bought my Kindle to accept a small banner ad at the bottom of the main screen and a during sleep mode. I don’t find them unobtrusive, and since they are eBook related, relevant. If the ads were only at the front and back of an eBook, I could live with that. I understand advertisings place in our world. However, if they showed up in the middle: No. Way.