Rare Book Monthly

Articles - August - 2009 Issue

Advertising is Coming to Your Books Soon, Like It or Not

Hanningzhou

Named patent applicant Hanning Zhou of Amazon (from IFP Group website).


By Michael Stillman

It's coming to a Kindle near you, and it's as ugly as it is inevitable. Remember when the value of subscription television channels was that you didn't have to watch advertising? The advertising-free virtual book may soon be as rare as the advertising-free premium television channel. It should be no surprise that what long ago happened to newspapers, more recently premium TV channels and even our schools, will one day soon happen to books. Like germs, pollution, and bad taste, advertising quickly seeps into every open pore of society. Advertising abhors a vacuum.

Two recent patent applications credited to Hanning Zhou, a manager for the Amazon Print-on-Demand Group, reveals what may be the company's plan for downloaded and print-on-demand books. One pertains to books downloaded to a displaying device, such as a computer terminal or Amazon's Kindle book reader, the other to print-on-demand books. Here is the "abstract" (summary) for the electronic reader:

"A method of providing fixed computer-displayable content in response to a consumer request for content is presented. Upon obtaining a digital image corresponding to the requested content, an advertisement is selected. The advertisement is to be included in an on-demand electronic content corresponding to the requested content. The advertisement is included with the digital image corresponding to the requested content. A fixed computer-displayable content corresponding to the requested content is generated. The fixed computer-displayable content is then provided to the consumer."

So, let's say a consumer requests some "content," for example, a book. Based on the request, an advertisement is selected along with the content. The advertisement is then inserted within the content, which is then sent to the consumer. In other words, your book downloaded to your Kindle contains specifically selected advertisements. With the second patent, the same is done to your print-on-demand copy. The genius of this, as opposed to the old advertisements that used to be bound in to the back of books, is that it can be placed anywhere within the text, and can be updated and changed whenever Amazon wishes.

For example, suppose you download a copy of Valentine Davies' Miracle on 34th Street. At the appropriate point, Amazon simply inserts an advertisement for Macy's. Perhaps Macy's targets its advertising to the Christmas season, with a heading like "The Miracle Lives on at Macy's." Makes you sick to your stomach, no? But, this is 100% inevitable so get used to it. Of course, Gimbels could have outbid Macy's for the space in your e-book, but that won't happen because Gimbels is no more. However, Wal Mart might want to take advantage of the opportunity by running an advertisement on "The Miracle of Low Prices" or some such ad saying that you can save money by buying at Wal Mart instead of Macy's. Of course, this may run contrary to the spirit of Miracle on 34th Street, but as we all know, that story was always fiction.

Of course, claims will be made that adding advertising will keep prices down. Sure it will keep prices down, just like it has kept the price of cable TV down. Books are priced according to what retailers believe will bring in the most amount of money, and no number of ads will change that fact. Authors and publishers will demand their cut of advertising revenue from books still under copyright, which may help them but not consumers. As readers we will have to get used to the ads, at least until that second inevitable day, when someone invents a TiVo for Kindles.

Here is a link to the application for this e-book patent.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> SMITH, CHRISTOPHER WEBB. 1793-1871. <i>Indian Ornithology.</i> [Patna, India]: 1828. $50,000 to $80,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> DUPRÉ, LOUIS. 1789-1837. <i>Voyage à Athènes et à Constantinople, ou Collection de portraits, vues et costumes grecs et ottomans.</i> Paris: Dondey-Dupré, 1825. $60,000 to $90,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> ADAMS, JOHN. Autograph Letter Signed ("J Adams"), [to Dr. Perkins?] while recovering from his small pox inoculation, [late-April, 1764]. $30,000 to $50,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> AUSTEN, JANE. Autograph Letter Signed ("J. Austen"), to her sister Cassandra, 4 pp, "Thursday – after dinner," [September 16, 1813,] Henrietta St. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> AUDUBON, JOHN JAMES. 1785-1851. <i>The Birds of America, from Drawings Made in the United States and Their Territories.</i> New York & Philadelphia: J.J. Audubon & J.B. Chevalier, 1840-1844. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> DODWELL, EDWARD. 1767-1832. <i>Views in Greece.</i> London: Rodwell and Martin, 1821. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> JAMES, JESSE. Autograph Letter Signed ("Jesse W. James"), to Mr. Flood demanding Flood retract spurious accusations, 3 pp, June 5, 1875. $200,000 to $300,000.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Textile of the Great White Fleet, with portraits of Theodore Roosevelt, Rear Admiral Robley D. Evans & successor Charles Stillman Sperry, 1908. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> William J. Stone, <i>Declaration of Independence,</i> Force printing, 1833. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Shugart family papers including documentation of the Underground Railroad, 63 items, 1838-81. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Records of the Dickinson & Shrewsbury salt works, over 2000 items, with extensive slave labor correspondence, legal records & receipts, bulk 1820-1865. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Gloria Steinem, typescript for her speech <i>Living the Revolution,</i> with related letters and documents, 1941-77. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> <i>Liberty Triumphant or the Downfall of Oppression,</i> depicting the aftermath of the Boston Tea Party, c. 1774. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Juan Eusebio Nieremberg, <i>Historia naturae, maxime peregrinae, libris XVI distincta,</i> Antwerp, 1635. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Antonio de Mayorga, manuscript map of Mexico City, 1779. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Thomas L. McKenney & James Hall, <i>History of the Indian Tribes of North America,</i> first edition, 3 volumes, Philadelphia, 1842-44. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Samuel Walker, diary of the entire first cruise of the USS Kineo, a gunboat on the Mississippi, 1854-69. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 26:</b> Scrapbook on early Stanford football, with letters from Walter Camp, 1893-95 & 1931. $8,000 to $12,000.
  • <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Roberts, David. Twenty Lithographs of the Holy Land, 19th Century. $2,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Declaration by the Reps. of the United Colonies of N.A. 1775. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Composer Jerome Kern personal Letters, Albums and Other. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Paine, Thomas. <i>Common Sense,</i> London 1776. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Stowe, Harriet Beecher. <i>Uncle Tom’s Cabin,</i> Cleveland 1852. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Hobbes, Thomas. <i>Leviathan,</i> 3rd edition, London 1651. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Anno Regni Georgii III. Intolerable Acts and other Bills, 1774. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Wilberforce, William. An Abstract of the Evidence, 5 Letters, and two books. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Nightingale, Florence. Notes on Nursing and Signed Letters, ca. 1860 $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Tolstov, Leo. <i>War and Peace,</i> 5 volumes, 1886. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Dickinson, John. Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania, 1768. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Lark Mason Associates, Aug 8-27:</b> Twain, Mark. <i>Tom Sawyer,</i> 1877 [and] <i>Huckleberry Finn,</i> 1885. $4,000 to $6,000.

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