Just a few days after I argued that books should remain advertisement free, a new survey by start-up eBook publishing service eBook Plus indicates in-book advertising for eBooks may be inevitable. The survey queried 5,000 people from the US and UK about their preferred mix of eBook pricing and in-book advertising and the results suggest that around 50% of readers are willing to accept advertising in eBooks in exchange for free content. But how will in-book advertising affect the reading experience and the relationship between author and readers?
To begin with, here are the results of the survey, as reported by Digital Bookworld:
The survey showed that, in the USA, readers’ preferences are:
– 45.7% prefer free ebooks with advertising (at least 15 seconds) at the beginning of the chapters;
– 20.8% prefer to pay 99 cents for an ebook without advertising;
– 9.1% would pay up to 2.99 dollars for a version without advertising.
– 10.3% would pay up to 19.90 dollars for a version without advertising;
– 14.1% prefer to download a pirate version;
In the United Kingdom, the numbers are similar:
– 51.9% prefer free ebooks, with up to 15 seconds of advertising at the beginning of the chapters;
– 15.2% would pay up to 99 cents;
– 12.5% would pay up to 2.99 dollars;
– 9.4% say they would pay up to 19.90 dollars for an ebook without advertising.
– 11% prefer the illegal version;
In a way the numbers are not particularly surprising, as Leo Mark, CEO and founder of eBook Plus, points out, “people are used to free content on the internet, most of it being accompanied by ads”. And it shouldn’t be too surprising that the majority of consumers would be in favour of free content. But what exactly would in-book advertising look like and, beyond allowing readers to source eBooks for free, how will it benefit authors and publishers? The eBook Plus model is still in Beta testing and hasn’t launched any books yet but it offers three distinct types of in-book advertising:
- A 15-second video or full page ad at the beginning of each chapter
- Bookmark or ‘page marker’ ads – shown every time a reader stops and returns to the book
- In line ads – ads can be added underneath illustrations, graphics and photo content within the book
The ads themselves are charged on a per click and per view rate and the author receives 70% of the advertising revenue raised by their book. The author or publisher is also given control under the eBook Plus system to determine pricing and the use of ads in their eBooks. This means that an author may make their book free of charge and rely completely on the ad revenue, charge full price with no ads or charge a discounted rate with a few ads. This flexibility should allow authors and publishers to experiment and find the sweet spot for their books. It will certainly be very interesting to watch the results over time and see whether authors and publishers find it profitable enough to pursue more widely.
There are a still a few issues about in-book advertising that concern me, however. I discussed in my previous post that the ad-free status of books was a point of difference worth holding onto, but there are some technical reasons why authors and publishers should be wary of letting ads intrude into books.
Writers of fiction, for example, work extremely hard to create immersive worlds for their readers and to pull them through the story with page-turning content that makes it impossible to put the book down. After carefully constructing cliff-hangers and hooks to seduce the reader into ‘”just one more chapter” before they turn the light out, inserting ads that force them to pause for 15 seconds in between chapters seems counterproductive. It threatens to break the spell so carefully woven by the author and could diminish the reading experience overall. It would be interesting to see a study measuring reader satisfaction of a book with and without advertising to see whether it actually does make a difference, not only on the reading experience but also on crucial word-of-mouth referrals.
Then there is the compromising effect advertising revenue can have on the content of the book and the writing process itself. If books are written with advertising revenue in mind, rather than sales, will this lead authors to adopt more marketing friendly structures? Will the James Patterson short chapter format gain favour for the increased number of ad-breaks it allows? Will product placement and key words start to compromise the integrity of non-fiction? Sometimes the problem with letting the market decide is that the biggest winner is marketing itself.
We’ve seen the response from readers but what do writer’s and publishers think? If you have or are are considering publishing an eBook I’d like to hear your opinion on in-book advertising: