Ad-Supported Kindle: Why stop there?

Jared Newman
14 April, 2011
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Who does Amazon think it’s fooling with a meager US$25 discount on an ad-supported Kindle? Ad-supported e-books are where it’s really at.

The US$114 Kindle with Special Offers ships May 3, and limits ads to the device’s screensaver and main menu. Amazon has no plans to stuff ads inside e-books, says Amazon vice president of Kindle content Russ Grandinetti. Grandinetti told Business Insider that the company is “pretty skeptical” that ad-supported e-books are something people would want.

Am I the only one who thinks this is too bad? If e-books could be had for cheap—or even free—in exchange for the occasional ad, I’d download them by the dozen.

In theory, the nice thing about e-books is that you can build a huge library in a portable package. But if each e-book costs about the same as its dead-tree counterpart, then you’re really just paying an extra US $114+ for the convenience. It’s no more conducive to building up a library in terms of cost, just space.

Ad-supported e-books could change all of this.

Publishers could work with advertisers to set a fair price on eyeballs, and then use the Kindle’s web connectivity to adjust ads in real time. Ad support could also be added to the Kindle platform on phones and tablets. And instead of starting from scratch with a special “ad-supported Kindle,” ad-supported e-books would be able to take advantage of the already-established Kindle market.

Ad-supported e-books would also keep users in control. Grandinetti told Business Insider that the Kindle strives to “disappear” while you’re reading, and that ads in e-books would create a jarring experience. But I think users can decide whether that’s an important factor while reading. Sure, I may not want to see an ad for a fishing expedition in the middle of Moby Dick, but I’ve got no problem learning about an upcoming Harry Potter movie while reading J.K. Rowling’s latest book. The Kindle with Special Offers forces you to look at an ad every time you grab the device. Unless you want to look like a cheapskate, giving this e-reader as a gift is out of the question.

People who want nothing to do with ads, of course, would still be able to purchase ad-less books for the same dead-tree book price they’re purchasing them for now.

So I hope Amazon will reconsider its unwillingness to place ads in e-books. The Kindle with Special Offers is a clever manoeuvre that gives Amazon one more advantage over the competition, but it doesn’t go far enough.


2 people were compelled to have their say. We encourage you to do the same..

  1. Tim.E-H says:

    I don’t understand why we pay dead-tree prices for e-books in the first place. There are no manufacturing or transport costs, only commissions and minor administrative overheads (compared to physical books). Is it more than just exorbitant profit-seeking and artificially propping hard-copy sales?

    I’m totally opposed to ads within books. Books are one of the few places one can truly escape and enter another world. Maybe I’m too old-school, but no thanks!

  2. tom says:

    couldn’t agree more, we are swamped with ads everywhere, at every turn, trying to create desires for things we don’t really need. Let’s leave books, including e-books, as one of the few places of refuge that let’s us devote our entire attention to the words / content / ideas.

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