Ever since ebooks began growing in popularity, companies selling ebooks have come and gone. I find it difficult to keep track of the many companies providing innovative ways to sell ebooks. Services from adding music tracks, to the ebook to pay-as-you read, to pay-what-you-want, to offering free ebooks that come with advertisements embedded in the ebook are just a few examples.
Advertisements in print books have come and gone. However, the idea of using them in digital books has hung around for a few years. Although, the idea appears to have met with little success.
In 2012, a company called eBookPlus offered free ebooks to readers. The catch was that these ebooks contained advertisements. The company claimed that a survey they conducted of 5,000 people in the United States revealed that 45.7% of readers would prefer free ebooks with advertising (in the form of a 15-second pre-roll at the beginning of chapters). Sadly, the company was unable to make the model successful, as they are no longer in business. Whether their demise came about from lack of advertisers for the books or lack of readers willing to sit through the ads, I don’t know.
Currently, two other small companies are trying the advertisements in ebooks idea.
• Readfy, a German company, offers free access to 50,000 ebooks published by German publishers via their app. Readfy’s ebooks contain mobile ads. Banner ads occupy the upper edge of the screen, and Readfy also inserts ads at the chapter breaks.
• Bookboon, another company based in Europe offers more than 800 academic textbooks free on their website. These free textbooks are financed by brand ads in the books.
Now a company in the United States has decided to try the idea again. Eleven will launch later this year. The company is offering readers free access to thousands of ebooks in exchange for ads placed at the beginning of each chapter. They will also offer a way for readers to pay the author at the end of the book if they like what they read (much like Poland’s’ OpenBooks.com).
Interestingly, Eleven will not just be offering ad-supported free ebooks. With the history of lack of success of other companies trying this, Eleven will also offer a paid subscription plan where users will not have to view ads.
Eleven is encouraging authors to publish their books to the Eleven site. They understand that authors looking to expand their audience can use this free method, while still earning a little money from royalties from the advertisement revenue. Readers get the chance to find new authors at no financial risk.
What do you think of this idea? Would you allow ads to be placed in your ebook in exchange for users reading the ebook for free as a strategy to expand your readership?
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