Amazon Intros Ad-Supported Kindles

Well, it was always going to happen – and I’m not surprised Amazon did it first. Since ebooks first launched people have been predicting that ads would be unceremoniously inserted into their reading material. They were right. The question is – are we bothered? As the focus on books, particularly ebooks, has become more and more about price, readers may well welcome the opportunity to decrease the price of both the books they buy and the devices they read them on.

First the facts. The Amazon offering, with the Orwellian name of Kindle With Special Offers, will be sold from May 3 for $114. This new Kindle is essentially a six-inch WiFi only Kindle with special software, without which it usually sells for $139. The ads it will load up, as shown in the image above, will be restricted to the screensaver (which only pops up when the device is turned off or goes to sleep), and in a discreet (it is to be hoped) banner along the bottom of the home screen. Ads will not be served up within books, so the reading experience is preserved. According to Russ Grandinetti, the vice president of Kindle content, the company has no plans to launch ads within books, and told Business Insider that the company is sceptical that ad-supported ebooks are something customers would be interested in buying. Amazon will be promoting some of its own deals using the advertising, as well as ads from early sponsors such as General Motors, Procter & Gamble and Visa.

So now to the questions. Is a $25 saving really enough to opt in for these ads? Personally, I don’t think it’s enough for me to risk having my reading experience compromised. Make the Kindle under $100, though, and you might have yourself a deal. But perhaps that is Amazon’s ultimate goal, and it is merely waiting to see how successful these ads are before dropping the price further (or waiting until the release of a new model of Kindle to drop their prices further). There is also a chance that Amazon is looking to sell advertising on the Kindle apps for other devices such as iPhones, Android smartphones and iPads.

Another question: why is Amazon ruling out the possibility of ad-supported ebooks? Although I’m not personally interested in subsidised pricing, it seems like an option some people would be willing to take advantage of. Price is fast becoming the hot button issue for all books, but especially for ebooks. If you could get free or very cheap books with the occasional discreet advertisement – so long as the option was there for to buy the full priced book – I really don’t see the issue. For some books, especially reference titles that contain info I’m used to seeing on the internet (supported with ads), I wouldn’t mind getting cheaper prices and seeing a few ads. What do you think of advertising in ebooks? Would you ever opt for ads to get cheaper books or a cheaper reading device? Do you think advertising and books can ever go together – or does it somehow spoil the whole enterprise? Sound off in the comments and let me know what you think.

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Joel Naoum

Joel Naoum is a Sydney-based book editor, publisher, blogger and writer. He is passionate about the possibilities of social media and digital publishing opens up for authors, publishers, booksellers and the whole book industry.

9 thoughts on “Amazon Intros Ad-Supported Kindles”

  1. Most book already do have ads in them, at the end. There’s often a few pages advertising other books by the same author or the publisher’s new releases, which I may read if I enjoyed the book I just finished. But I would pay the full price to have an ad-free reading experience if Amazon are pushing Olay eye cream and unrelated shit like that on the Kindle whenever I turn it off. And ad ‘banners’ are one of the most annoying things ever.

  2. Personally I would pay the full price, but I know a lot of people who would be happy with a free/cheap book with discreet banners. I think this actually links in quite well for ebooks, particularly those running on tablet devices such as the iPad, as many of the apps on these already offer a free/cheap version with ads. In many ways a lot of people reading on these devices are already desensitised to these ads so I see no reason why they wouldn’t be accepted in ebooks.

  3. I can’t say I like the idea and I don’t trust “no plans to ever do…” experience teaches this is all too often a preliminary to the ‘whatever’ eventuating (sometimes blamed on demand, perhaps due to the controversy generated by them introducing the idea as a negative in the first place). Ok, call me cynical. Leah’s probably right but I find reading books on the iPad a major pain as it is (though I DO love my ereader) and I think ads would make the iPad experience too frustrating for me. Otoh, as I’m ancient I’ll be at the small end of the consumer curve and maybe younger readers will find ads less of a teeth-gnashing experience. Thanks for the news. I may grizzle, but I love to hear what’s new.

  4. Sorry, I know I’ve had my say but …. It’s been rumoured that search engines may soon be able to tailor/filter responses for individuals by recognizing previous choices. Maybe the ads will adopt this so that the system will learn NOT to offer Luke Olay and will offer ads for things the ereader user actually looks at. A good thing or a scary thing?

    1. A scary thing, I reckon. But I see your point, Celia. “No plans to ever do” often end up as done. Though I think Amazon are very careful not to tread all over sacred institutions, and reading is definitely one of them. Will keep you posted.

  5. I’ve often wondered why there isn’t more advertising in print books. Surely there’s money to be made there? There are ads in every other area of our lives, a few ads at the beginning or end of a book wouldn’t bother me in the slightest. I’d be delighted if the kindle came down to under a hundred dollars with a few easily ignorable ads, sounds like a winner for all.

  6. Joel, just read about the Fellowship and can’t see another way to contact you. Congratulations, this is so exciting and I’m really looking forward to all the articles you’ll be writing for us!!!! But also, it’s just plain great for you. Nice when your hard work, talent and energy is appreciated, even better when it’s global acknowledgement.

  7. Thanks, Celia! It’s very exciting stuff. Can’t wait to see what’s happening out there. And will definitely post up here as I learn.

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