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Old 08-10-2007, 09:08 AM   #1
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A Good Analogy

There have been many discussions on this forum regarding proper marketing and pricing of e-books and competition with paper books; has anyone mentioned the similarity that exists between television and e-books? Before TV, people paid to watch movies in movie theatres. When TV came along, this same business model would not work to generate income for several reasons- people wanted to watch TV in their homes, the screens were too small for display to a crowd in a theatre, etc. Businesses managed to design a valid business model for TV- that allowed the broadcasters, as well as entertainers and TV manufacturers to receive income.

I think something like this will happen with e-books; hardware ebook manufacturers as well as authors will be able to generate income from e-books. I am not so sure that the traditional publisher will retain their importance, but definitely some sort of filtering mechanism will need to be in place so that we are not inundated with garbage (although traditional publishers have inundatted us with reams of garbage- consider authors like Harold Robbins).

I don't care for the Public Lending Right system, like Canada and the UK have, where authors are paid for borrowings of their work. Because I see a potential for abuse (schemes to have people borrow the book many times to increase author payments- similar happened with L. Ron Hubbard's book- the Scientologists would buy and return these books en masses. Made the books "bestsellers" I believe). Also, why should I, the person who ultimately funds this scheme, pay an author for a crappy book? I borrow books all the time that are crappy- and read maybe 20 pages before returning mostly unread. Would libraries allow the reader to deny payment for crappy books?
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Old 08-10-2007, 11:39 AM   #2
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You're right, I also expect publishers to figure out how to profit from e-books soon. And your analogy to movies and TV is apropos, because I expect the solution to e-book profitability will be the same thing that made TV profitable, namely, advertisements.

The interesting thing about how well TV ads worked, was that the shows never had a direct link to the products they sold... an advertiser attached their ads to a show, hoping to sell a lot of soap, but without much (or any) direct proof that their soap buyers were buying because they'd seen the ad on that particular show. In other words, the advertiser was really only paying for the priviledge of getting their ad to be seen by the most people, whether the product sold or not. But this nebulous system seemed to be good enough for TV, and it became a standard system.

With e-books, the same strategy could be taken. If the method is good enough for TV, it should be good enough for e-books. All it will take for advertisers to sign on is the guarantee that their ads will be seen by a significant number of the people they want to sell to, which will probably be technophiles, e-book readers, and those who obviously show an interest in whatever subject is featured in the e-book or e-mag they bought.
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Old 08-10-2007, 11:53 AM   #3
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good analoy.

in the early days of tv the movie studios would have nothing to do with them. refused to provide product. only after tv knocked their socks off did they clammer to start producing shows for tv.
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Old 08-10-2007, 12:04 PM   #4
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That scenario would be mirrored by a major publisher selling their product through a separate but established e-book publisher, who would in turn sell ads to offset cost of the product. It's very workable as a system.
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Old 08-10-2007, 12:08 PM   #5
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I've seen dead tree books with adverts in them for things other then other books. If ebooks have adverts, without the prices going down, then we need to riot.
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Old 08-10-2007, 12:13 PM   #6
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I have to wonder, though, if TV is the right analogy. It's interesting and is relevant, But the TV model is already being disussed as passed it's time, and cable/direct distribution of content (dvds, broadband movies, social networks, etc). Microsoft wants to control your content through your PC, with hardware supported DRM. So I wonder, is the current TV really a good pattern for the future of books?
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Old 08-10-2007, 12:21 PM   #7
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Broadcast TV may be in the process of being replaced by satellite and cable, but the program/advertiser link is as strong as ever (and more pervasive, as evidenced by the annoying ads that are now projected along the bottom of the screen during programs). It's just going through a restructuring to deal with new elements like Tivo.

DVDs, broadband streaming, etc, are using the same basic selling methods, attaching ads to something you download, stream or buy, and in many cases making sure the content can't be viewed unless you sit through their ads. So the method is firmly entrenched, and jumping mediums as fast as a mosquito full of Barry Bonds' blood.

Jon, you're right: I'd expect e-book ads to contribute to a lower cost of e-book, the same way it did for commercial VHS movies, for example. If not, and riot ensues, I'll bring the Molotov cocktails.
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Old 08-10-2007, 12:28 PM   #8
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Advertisement support is what Wowio is using. Their books are free. The number of commercial titles is still somewhat limited, and some of what they have is stuff I've never heard of (I think they are the original publisher), but they do have some mainstream stuff published elsewhere. I think it's a worthwhile experiment. I just wish they had a format other than PDF -- it reads ok on the iLiad, but I think it's of limited use generally.
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Old 08-10-2007, 04:18 PM   #9
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Here's another reason why advertising subsidizing e-books is good: Ads depend on more people seeing them.

E-books already are renowned for the fact that they can be shared, even pirated. That means more and more people who can see the e-book. But to an advertiser, that's a good thing... more people will see their ads! Sharing and pirating will actually be doing advertisers a favor! So advertisers can put an ad in an e-book, and expect more viewings than the number of people who actually buy a title, depending on the popularity (and availability) of the e-book.

This can also aid format standardization, because any advertiser is going to want to advertise in an e-book whose format is read by the most people.

It would be hoped that the ads would not be so annoying as some TV ads... maybe no worse than a banner ad on the beginning or end of every chapter would be acceptable to most readers, though clustering them in front or in back would, I'm sure, be preferable.
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Old 08-10-2007, 05:03 PM   #10
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The interesting thing about how well TV ads worked, was that the shows never had a direct link to the products they sold...
Well, in the very early days, shows had single sponsors, so TV shows could have the name of a cigarette company or oil company in the actual title, and the stars of the show would do commercials in the course of an episode. Today you get product placement, sometimes far from subtle. Every episode of Kyle XY has ads for Sour Patch Kids, and one or more of the show's characters will mention the candy by name in every episode.
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Old 08-10-2007, 05:11 PM   #11
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Every episode of Kyle XY has ads for Sour Patch Kids, and one or more of the show's characters will mention the candy by name in every episode.
Of all things...

But yes, we've talked about product placement in these forums before... like James Bond so obviously drinking Smirnoff vodka and driving Aston Martins. We've even joked about writers like me doing the same things in our stories for an advertiser (I honestly don't remember saying if I'd actually do it, but I suppose for the right amount of money... ).

Bottom line is, if the advertiser is willing to pay for it... and the author is willing to do it... why not?
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Old 08-11-2007, 08:43 AM   #12
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And if the reader is not willing to read it then doing it won't work.
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Old 08-11-2007, 09:55 AM   #13
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And if the reader is not willing to read it then doing it won't work.
Think about it: You sit through previews before a movie. You sit through commercials before a TV show. You sit through advertisements before you can watch most DVDs. You sit through ads before watching a lot of streamed content on the internet (especially network material). And in exchange, you could be getting the book for free.

You already put up with something you're not interested in, to get to the content. I don't expect e-book ads to be any different, and if it became the norm, after awhile, you wouldn't think twice about ignoring and/or just forwarding past them, just as you do at movies, TV shows, DVDs and streamed content.

I'm not saying "I love ads." But let's face it: There may be no better revenue model to support e-books.

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Old 08-11-2007, 10:49 AM   #14
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Ads may be coming for many kinds of books. Textbooks have had a lot of ad talk aroudn them, for example. And I don't really mind the ads in magazines, even as extreme as they are, on every other page. (But those subscription insert cards are another matter - very annoying, but they still use them because they are so successful.)

In a paperback book, we already see related book ads in the front and back. I could probably get used to ignoring an ad every 20 pages or so, if the text wasn't wrapped around it, or maybe even better if it was two facing page that could be turned past, so I don't have to see it while I'm reading. The point of a novel for me is to escape and enjoy. I don't want to read a page about a murder and have to see a funeral home ad on the opposing page. Fortunately ebooks might ease that situation, but eventually someone will create technology that keeps the ad on your screen.

So, what I'm saying, is that it could be good in principle. However in practice, I think it will get pushed too far, and it will be bad for readers because it will be pushed in our faces to the point where it's annoying because a bit of annoyance gets tolerated, and generates more revenue.

On the one hand, that does offer a niche opportunity for a kind and gentler publisher to go easy on the ads and make the reading experience pleasant.

But on the other hand, the big selling artists will end up with really intrusive ads because they know that they can get away with it -- people want so much to read that particular book that they well put up with all kinds of interference.
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Old 08-11-2007, 12:25 PM   #15
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All that will happen is people will buy books in a format they know they can strip out the adverts and do so. Then the adverts will no longer be an issue overall.

That or people won't buy the books.
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