AD building - Straws pulled at random

OK, thanks to Steve Gibson tweeting an article in ReadWriteWeb, my weekend is ruined. A Wall Street Journal editorial claims that according to a business professor and a former book editor (Ron Adner and William Vincent), ads in E-books are the next big thing.

Sacrilege, right? Ads in books were never done, according to the editorial, because “there is no guarantee of when or whether the book will sell”. But with E-books we can have more timely and more reader-focused ads. Fantastic! Right?

I don’t think so, Skippy.

If I buy a book, I pay anywhere from $10 to over $100 (depending on quality of book, both physically and content-wise). Putting ads in a book that I’m already paying for is comparable to putting an ad in the middle of the movie that I just bought on DVD. Or an ad in the middle of that new CD. They’re annoying, because they distract from the story, music, or other activity I’m engaging in.

One argument used why ads in E-books may succeed is that tech giants like Google are already adding ads to content. But you cannot compare free content (search results) with paid content (books). What works on one platform will not work on another. We live in a world where people pay $0.99 or $1.99 to download an application to their smartphone, just to have no ads. So now we’re going to create a model where I pay for the content and are exposed to ads?

The article in ReadWriteWeb also states that E-books are not a possession, since you cannot share them with friends, or that the seller can make the book disappear from your library. Give me a break.

First of all, the only time E-books cannot be shared with friends is if the book has DRM and has a flag set that specifically prevents that from happening. Apple’s iTunes has DRMed songs that can be copied, but have your signature in them - so mass distribution is not a good idea. On top of that, there are plenty of DRM-free publishers out there. They allow you to share a book - without any technical barriers. Second of all, the seller that did make a book disappear (Amazon and the books “1984” and “Animal Farm”) received a storm of critique, no matter how legally justified and compelling the removal was. They vowed never to delete a purchased book again.

Ads in E-books? I think it’s an extremely bad idea. It’s an old media idea, where you try to get as much money out of a product, instead of trying to make a product that is actually appealing to the customer. Go read “What Would Google Do?” by Jeff Jarvis for some tips on that idea. And no, I didn’t get any money for that “ad”.