Amazon soon to offer ad-supported Kindles

April 12, 2011

Starting next month Amazon will offer the Wi-Fi-only Kindle for $114 (what an odd number), which is 18% off the usual price of $139. The rub is that this cheaper model will be subsidized by ads (or, rather, "special offers and sponsored screensavers").

It's hard to see why anyone would go for this. The savings aren't terribly significant--just $25--and it seems to me the annoyance factor potentially could be pretty high. (It appears the ads will run only on the screensaver and at the bottom of the home screen, which means the reading experience won't be interrupted. See examples here.) My guess is that many will buy this model by mistake, or not fully understanding what it is, and the whole experience will leave a bad taste in their mouths. Perhaps Amazon should offer the option to turn off the ads for $25.

One wonders if the day is coming when not only the device itself is free (as some are predicting), but when the books are free too. Magazines are just vessels for advertisements, which is why I've been receiving Rolling Stone for "free" for over a decade now. (I got a lifetime subscription, including infinite address changes, for just $100.) Books however, are not.

As far as I know, books have never had ads of any sort, and I've no idea what ad/page number ratio would be required in order to make such a tradeoff financially feasible, but if it's anything less frequent than one ad for every 25 pages, I'd probably be OK with it. Is this something I want? Probably not.

I read books--LOTS of them--usually in an effort to escape into difficult concepts and research, something that could be tough if every 10 pages I'm forced to look at an ad for a Chevy truck. That said, I've become so adept at not seeing ads in every other consumption channel I find myself in each day, that I'm sure I could get used to ignoring them on the Kindle as well.

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