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In-Book Ads Coming to the Amazon Kindle?

Amazon's just filed a number of patents that point to the inevitable but perhaps undesirable expansion of advertising onto its much-vaunted Kindle e-reader. If it happens, would you tolerate in-book or in-magazine embedded ads?

Amazon Kindle

The patents are titled "On-Demand Generating E-Book Content with Advertising" and "Incorporating Advertising in On-Demand Generated Content," and they're designed in part to tackle that irritating little problem that "out of print or rare books ... typically do not include advertisements" and their content is thus fixed, and not at all "adapted to modern marketing." I don't know about you, but I don't recall seeing any advertising in books now, other than fluff for other publications by the same author, so Amazon's words confuse me.

What the patents set out is that downloaded text content for the Kindle could be spotted with contextually-sensitive advertisements: Mention of a restaurant on a particular page could result in a dynamic-embed for a nearby restaurant to the user on the opposing page. It kind of makes sense as a more dynamic version of the way typical magazines work—after all, when you buy an interior decor magazine, you expect to find ads for furniture or sleek kitchen equipment, not for the latest computer games. And, since the Kindle is beginning to host blog content as well, this scheme begins to look like Amazon's version of Google AdSense.

But it's the possible extension of this idea to book texts that gets uncomfortable. Would you be happy reading a copy of The Hobbit, only to find an embedded ad for pedicure treatments on certain pages? The framework for this to happen isn't clear from the patent, though it would be reasonable to expect Amazon to start by offering the ads in books with discounted prices. Or the ads could appear in texts by self-published authors who need to fund their work but don't have the backing of a traditional publisher. That would be a sensible way for Amazon to get the public accepting the idea, and it would be a great sales hook for Amazon to entice advertisers into the scheme in the first place.

But it's also easy to imagine Amazon extending the program by requiring you to pay extra for a title in order to opt-out of embedded ads. Although that's not implicit in the patent, its almost intimated by the type of marketingspeak Amazon's using, and the fact that it's just another company eager to get its hands on your spending money. Let's hope it never happens...but the patent does make one thing clear: Advertising is going to expand into another corner of our future-tech world.


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