Hey! I’m Reading Here!

There’s a lot of talk about ebooks being the next frontier for advertisers. Today’s piece by Emily Steel in the Wall Street Journal has ruffled some feathers, including Jason Bennett’s on MOBYLIVES.

This summer I mentioned to some friends that I was programming BNC Technology Forum 2011. (Yes, I know, I’m probably their most boring friend.) I was mentioning that I felt it was important to include a session on digital marketing, and two of my friends immediately perked up. One works in PR and the other works in online advertising, and both had the same thought: they were salivating at the idea of advertising in books. Their enthusiasm was equally matched by my repulsion.

The thought of an ad page being tucked into the next print biography I read is extremely off-putting. And the idea of an ad popping up in my ebook thriller is just as souring, if not more so.

When most people read a book they are looking for one thing above all others: an uninterrupted narrative. Reading books is the most immersive form of reading, and when you start tucking ads into a book you disturb the narrative. We need to respect the experience being absorbed in a book for books to have a future.

Prioritizing uninterrupted narrative raises two questions:

1. Will product placement work instead of traditional ads? Possibly. Brands already make occasional casual appearances in books now. The right amount of subtlety could do the trick and leave the reader unaware. If a hyperlink is too obvious—and I think it is—then there would be no way to measure conversion for your advertisers. Product placement is something Publishing Perspectives was also discussing just a few months ago because of another Wall Street Journal piece. (No, the Wall Street Journal did not pay me for product placement in this blog post.)

2. What is the future of enhanced books? Multimedia enhancements also interrupt the narrative flow. I’m not one for clicking on a link to a video when I’m immersed in a book. Can I really be the only one? I’d love to get my hands on some app and enhancement metrics one of these days to find out.

What do you think: Will uninterrupted narrative fall by the wayside in 2011 or will we see readers fight for it?