Books Need Ads

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Most reading is already papered with ads intended to seduce eyeballs away from actual editorial content. Readers have learned to cope with prolific advertising--everywhere, that is, except when they settle down with a novel.

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, Ron Adner and William Vincent argue that this may change. The authors--one a business-school professor and the other a former book editor--say in-book advertising may become the new norm as cash-strapped publishers try to maintain profitability despite rock-bottom e-book prices. Cross-platform ads may be the book publishing industry's answer. What does the brave, new in-book advertising world look like? They explain here:

For consumers, the free samples of digital books now available would surely include ads. Because not every consumer who reads a sample chapter will buy the book, it's reasonable for the publisher to extract some additional value. Seeing ads in the sample may also convince a reader to pay for a premium, non-ad version of the full-length book. The old market segmentation of paperbacks and hardcovers will be replaced by ad-supported or ad-free books.

But admittedly, there will be a backlash:

Even though periodicals like the New Yorker and the Atlantic have printed ads alongside serious fiction and nonfiction since their founding, purists will surely decry ads in books. But historically, the lack of advertising in books has had less to do with the sanctity of the product and more to do with the fact that books are a lousy medium for ads.

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