Ebook pricing is about to become a great deal more interesting, if Microsoft has its way. The Windows developer has just had its patent for contextual advertising in ebooks granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office. So users won’t only be served up targetted ads – they’ll be based on the subject of the book being read.
According to the patent, promotions can be generated on the spot or remain static. At this point in time, the company doesn’t own an ebook reader application (the Microsoft Reader app will be shuttered later this month), although Redmond could be looking at the possibility of marrying the ad concept with its Surface device, which is due on sale in October.
Microsoft's not alone
Microsoft isn’t the only company to be investigating alternative ways of monetising ebooks. Back in April, Yahoo filed two patents with the USPTO on the subject of advertising in ebooks. The patent discussed offering varying levels of advertising depending on the level of discount that consumers might be willing to take.
Sales of ebooks are on the up, so it’s hardly surprising that some of the tech industry’s biggest hitters are seeking alternative forms of revenue from the medium. Amazon recently reported that Kindle ebook sales overtook its online print sales for the first time – and it wasn’t by a close margin, either. For every 100 print books peddled, Amazon sold 114 Kindle titles.
An Amazon-inspired approach
Amazon’s Kindle is what likely started the ebook advertising trend in the first place. Early last year, it offered the fourth-generation device at a cut price: consumers who were willing to endure ad placement on the main menu and idle screen could benefit from a $25 discount. The offer brought the device down to $114, but it was only available in the US.
We tried in vain to seek comment from ebook publishers and hardware reader manufacturers concerning Microsoft’s move into the sector, but have heard little back. HarperCollins did divulge that conversations were underway on the subject of contextual advertising, but refused to elaborate any further.