November 22, 2017

Ereader Worries?

Ereader advocates often point out how the technology enhances the reading experience—the fact that hundreds of ebooks can be permanently loaded and carried around on an iPad, for example—but detractors have lately gotten some new ammunition.

A recent Wall Street Journal article, for example, mentions a company called Wowio, which has struck deals with several firms to provide advertisements inside ebooks themselves. One of these companies is Rosetta Books, which publishes ebook versions of several novels by the late Kurt Vonnegut. One wonders what the author of Breakfast of Champions—its very title a sly dig at an advertising slogan for Wheaties breakfast cereal—would think about ads appearing in his books.

It seems likely, however, that the ads would turn off many readers. Some people still read for escape, and might balk at being pitched while reading their favorite detective novel. With print books, this hasn’t been a concern since at least the 1970s (when ads in paperbacks were briefly and unpopularly tried by a few publishers).

The tech-related concerns don’t stop at ads. NPR aired a report earlier this month about the ways that ebook vendors, including Amazon, Google, and Apple, can track the buying and reading behavior of its customers—and could, in theory, even track users’ locations via their ereaders. Some find these things off-putting; others see them as harmless marketing tools.

How will ereader users react? We may know soon enough, as many people found ereaders under their Christmas trees this past weekend. Indeed, Amazon announced this week that the Kindle had become its best-selling product ever (edging out Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows).

David Rapp About David Rapp

David Rapp (drapp@mediasourceinc.com) was formerly Associate Editor, LJ.

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