Friday, April 18, 2003

It's an Ad, Ad, Ad, Ad World XXVI
Jason Kottke shared some thoughts yesterday on whether advertising in books would make books cost less to readers -- and the publishing industry more cost-effective. His vision entails books being broken up with ads every 3-4 pages, much like in magazines, but I don't think that this is the correct model. I've long wondered why more book publishers don't include adverts in the backs of books, much like book ads in literary and cultural journals. Many small publishers already do this, including ads for their back catalog -- and perhaps other related or like-minded publishers. If you're a press that has a sensibility that people can trust -- a la, "I'll buy anything that Publisher X publishes." -- this is a good way to cross-promote your books within the books themselves. Like tucking a record label's mail-order catalog into every CD.

But Kottke's got me wondering. What if the ads weren't relegated to the back of the book like the above model -- or even school yearbooks? What if there were ads sprinkled throughout the book? I don't think his proposal of every 3-4 pages is workable. Even if books would cost substantially less because you're getting ads with your read, I think this is too intrusive and interrupting. That said, if there was an ad or two or three at chapter breaks, I don't think it'd interrupt the flow of the read much at all. My guess is that all of us tend to pause and assess what we've read at chapter breaks. I'd also wager that we read books by chapter. Chapter breaks are where we take our breaks, tucking in the ol' bookmark and putting the book down to return to later. So ads at chapter breaks might be quite feasible. They'd have a better chance of being seen, not being ghettoized to the back, and they wouldn't infringe on the reading experience as much as ads punctuating chapters might.

That said, ads are sold because of the demographics of the readers. Are books so targeted that book ads could be sold on reader profiles like magazine ads are?

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