Amazon takes one more step toward in-book advertisements for the Kindle

Amazon recently filed a handful of patents that could allow the company to sell advertising on its Kindle reader. Already, many bibliophiles have expressed dismay at the plan.

Advertisements embedded in the text of your favorite book? It's enough to make a purist squirm.

But as Fast Company and others have noted, Amazon appears to be weighing the idea. The evidence comes in a pair of applications recently filed with the US Patent and Trademark Office, including one for "providing fixed computer-displayable content in response to a consumer request for content." (Translation from the geek: Amazon wants to patent a way to embed content – or, in this case, adverts – onto a website or mobile device such as a Kindle DX.)

The applications, titled "On-Demand Generating E-Book Content with Advertising," and "Incorporating Advertising in On-Demand Generated Content," both list Hanning Zhou, the director of Amazon's Print-on-Demand Group, as an inventor.

In May of this year, Cinthia Portugal, a spokeswoman for Amazon, told Bloomberg News that the Kindle DX would not initially carry ads. But the patent applications show that the company seems to be edging closer to some sort of in-book advertising program.

Here, for example, is a passage picked out from the files by the folks over at Slashdot: "For instance, if a restaurant is described on page 12, [then the advertising page], either on page 11 or page 13, may include advertisements about restaurants, wine, food, etc., which are related to restaurants and dining."

Clutter or convenience?

The news has agitated many bibliophiles, who worry that their reading experience could become quickly contaminated by a flood of advertising copy. Consider this scenario, for instance: You're reading "A Moveable Feast," by Ernest Hemingway, which takes place in Paris. When you get to a page describing an interaction between F. Scott Fitzgerald and Hemingway in a crowded Paris café, an ad pops up: "Would you like to see a café near you?"

Still, there are plenty of bloggers urging calm. On the website of Revolution magazine, Elizabeth Clifford-Marsh notes that, "According to the patent, ads will be served on an opt-in basis, but it is unclear whether Amazon interprets opt-in as a specific request or the simple act of downloading content." Others have pointed out that it's unlikely Amazon would insert advertisements in their ebooks. After all, a consumer has already paid for that content. Why would he or she want to deal with additional in-book clutter?

Over at CrunchGear, Devin Coldewey writes that in-book advertising could actually make things better for the reader. It might lower the costs, for instance, of newspapers, magazine, and books:

An abundance of free or reduced-price content would widen the appeal of the [Kindle] — I imagine many people are put [off] by the idea that they are not getting their money’s worth. As offensive as the idea of inserting ads into a book is to me (and surely to the average reader), it’s almost certainly part of a value proposition which increases the utility of these expensive little buggers.


Would you put up with embedded advertising in your ebook? Talk to us here, or at @CSMHorizonsBlog.

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