New Business Model? Advertising in Books

September 2, 2010
As we all probably already figured out, the publishing business model is in trouble.  With the rising popularity of eBooks as eReaders drop in price what profit is there in retail book selling?
Learning their lesson well from the faux pas of the music industry, the publishing world does not want to force consumers to buy the products they want to sell.  Rather they would like to supply the products consumers want to buy.  By no means will printed books go away anytime soon, but the industry has to look into the future and, frankly, face the inevitable.
Book sales have steadily decreased for about a decade while production costs have risen steadily, since for many books both a physical and a digital edition must be produced (even though I don’t understand why, at this age every book is digital first).  As the music industry found out that at $0.99 song is less profitable than forcing you to buy a $20 CD, book publishers are also learning that a $9.99 eBook is less profitable than their $25 hardcover sibling.
Personally, I have no issue with them making less, no-one is entitled to my money.
Yes, Virginia – advertisements in books are here.  Whether the ads will be the annoying leaflets falling out of magazines, or an ad popping up on your favorite eReader before, after, or while reading your favorite book.
One wonders why books haven’t had ads before.  Magazines have advertised alongside serious non-fiction articles, so I’m sure our argument of “sanctity of the book” is quite frivolous when it comes to the death toll in Iraq being reported next to the latest sale at the local car dealership.
But we know why, don’t we?
Books are lousy medium for ads.  Advertisers want to be in-front of a targeted audience, not just anybody.  When they buy space in the Wall Street Journal they know who reads the paper, but they don’t know who is reading the hardcover copy of “Mockingjay” – whether it’s a 15 year old boy or a 35 year old mother of three.
That matters!
If you know anything about the movie / TV business, you know about an industry within the industry called “product placement”.  What that means is simple, companies pay large amounts so fictional characters in movies and TV will use their real life products.
Want to advertise your new car?
Who’s better to drive it than James Bond.
There are no coincidences, which is why, unless a company pays, you will see only made up brands, but if they shell out some bucks – you would have to pay close attention to when the show ends and a commercial begins.
Can this happen in books?
Sure it can!.
You probably didn’t even notice, did you?
Granted, Larsson most likely didn’t write it on purpose but…there it is!
Physical books cannot possibly compete with the rest of print media for advertising dollars – but eBooks can. Google Books is already putting ads next to their search results. Barnes & Noble is running a brilliant advertising promotion where they give the first book of a series as their weekly “freebie”.  Amazon has patented advertisements on the Kindle and Apple already has an iAd platform for mobile devices.
Not that iCan afford their any of their iProducts.
Target audience can also be reached by giving away free chapters, which are available on many eBooks.  After all, I will not bother reading a sample chapter of a book I’m not interested in, but if it was a book I was on the fence about buying, reading a sample chapter will most likely drive me to purchase the book.
New Business Model? Advertising in Books
The logistics of advertisements in books are astounding and might redefine how we measure the success of a book.  As oppose to units sold, with eBooks you can now measure units read vs. units finished vs. units downloaded.  As an advertiser, the numbers of units read means that my product was promoted and could even be taken a step further, when you clicked on a link in the ad, and your favorite eReader opened up its browser and took you to my website.
I think this might be a positive aspect of the issue.  After all, a book downloaded a million times buy only read 100,000 times will have less value than a book downloaded 500,000 but read 200,000 from beginning to end. Books which are left unread, because of quality or simply bad marketing, will be less profitable to the publishers.
However, what kind of advertisements would be accepted?
Will President Bush have to worry about the placing an ad in his memoir?
Will health food gurus have to worry about a fast food chain advertising their “healthy” choices in their new book (health being a relative term when it comes to fast food)?
Advertising in books will most likely redefine the relationship between authors, publishers, agents, ad agencies and even technology companies.  And you thought that the stunt Wiley pulled a few weeks ago will redefine the industry?
Just my thoughts.  What are yours?
Do you have any reservations about advertising in books? eBooks?
Do you see this as an industry changer?
Will we start seeing eBooks offered for a premium price in order to read without ads?

Zohar – Man of La Book

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