Home » Advertising-Promotion-Marketing, Ebooks » Eleven Wants to Revive the Practice of Adverts in Books

Eleven Wants to Revive the Practice of Adverts in Books

22 February 2016

From The Digital Reader:

A new startup is currently developing a new platform where users will be able to read for free in exchange for viewing adverts.

Dubbed Eleven, the service will be launching into beta later this year, starting with Android. It’s going to feature ads inserted at chapter breaks, and will use the funds to pay authors.

According to Eleven co-founder and CEO Glenn A McCreedy, Eleven’s “Story Driven Advertising system uses proprietary algorithms to contextually match the ads to the ebook story and the reader profile” while still preserving the reading experience. He told me by email that Eleven is “ramping up for a crowdfunding campaign to start in the March/April timeframe”, and in the mean time authors and readers are invited to sign up to be notified of the launch.

. . . .

The ad-subsidized ebook model has been tried several times over the past decade, and so far none of the efforts can be called a roaring success.

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader and thanks to SMH for the tip.

Advertising-Promotion-Marketing, Ebooks

59 Comments to “Eleven Wants to Revive the Practice of Adverts in Books”

  1. If you’re looking to read a short history of ads in ebooks (about 650 words), be sure to head over and read the rest of the post.

  2. No, thanks.

    I’d pay money to not have to see ads.

    Oh, right. That’s called ‘buying a book.’

  3. Tear you out of a good story every chapter? With an ad of something you’re not interested in hearing about because you were in the middle of reading?

    And they wonder why I don’t watch TV …

    Sorry, if I want to ‘read for free’ there’s the library or the internet.

    “According to Eleven co-founder and CEO Glenn A McCreedy, Eleven’s “Story Driven Advertising system uses proprietary algorithms to contextually match the ads to the ebook story and the reader profile” while still preserving the reading experience.”

    Yeah, that’s been tried before too — and if the big guys can’t do it I don’t see these guys pulling that rabbit out of their hat.

  4. I have an old (really old) Signet paperback of RAH, The Green Hills of Earth. On the back cover, the top third is taken up with two clips from the Chicago Sun Times and the New York Time praising RAH; the middle third is a short bio of RAH that mentions four other of his books available from Signet; and the bottom third is a contrasting color advert for Katherine Anne Porter, Ship of Fools.

    The happy thing about self-publishing is that the only things advertised in my books are my books.

  5. I remember the days of cardstock color ad inserts for Kool cigarettes and such in paperback novels.

    It was rather like discovering galoshes in one’s clam chowder as you read along.

  6. I paid more for a Kindle without “special offers” and use an ad-blocker.

    I’ll pay for books without ads, thanks.

  7. First off, this is stupid.

    Second, I did like having ads for the author’s other books, or for similar books by other authors… at the end of the book. Because that was when I was ready for another book.

    Third, it was kinda cool to have card ad inserts for Harlequin books or similar, especially the ones where you could get a free book to start you out. I never saw those ads until about ten years later, in used books, but they did provide some value. I just don’t know how people managed to tear them out without hurting the book.

  8. I’m not quite as bothered by this as other commenters.

    On the other hand, rather than advertising, I like the idea of books having patrons or sponsors. I’m not sure I see a role in it for Digital Reader, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the idea.

    I believe it’s been done a few times, but would need to do some fact checking. One thing I wonder is if it can be done without violating distributor terms of service agreements….

    But to flesh out the idea: perhaps as a result of crowdfunding, you post a sponsor mention on your copyright or acknowledgment page and a banner ad at the end of the book.

    Just thinking outloud – not trying to change everyone to my way of thinking.

    • At the end? Sure. Every chapter?

      ‘ … As he fell he managed to get off one shot — the bullet

      Sorry for the caps, but far too many ads makers only do the ‘in your face so you can’t not see it’ type ads …

      • I get your point and that of Karen Myers (below). But I’m used to recording video programming and fast-scrolling through the commercials when I go back to watch. I wish the ads weren’t there but the marginal cost of watching the content I want is free this way….

        Like you, I’d rather have my reader’s complete and undivided attention. but… for me, it comes down to the deal. The deal for the author and the deal for the reader.

        Different strokes for different folks.

        • I wish them (and you if you do dive in) luck, but the way I stopped watching TV was by mutting the too loud ad and turning back to the ‘computer/book/whatever else I was doing’ and glancing over every now and then to see if the show was back on. Far too often I had gotten interested enough about the ‘something else’ that I looked up to find the show was over.

          This will be the same thing, at each ad the reader thinks ‘is the story really worth finding the end of this ad to continue?’ If you’ve already ‘hooked’ the reader it shouldn’t be a problem, but if the ad kicks them out of the story before they’re hooked you may have lost them.

          Then there’s the question of how/if the writer gets paid. Did the reader actually read the book? Did they see/read any of the ads? (Or will the reader have to take a quiz at the end proving they read the ads?)

          “All in all, perhaps the only successful example of ad-subsidized ebooks would be Amazon, which is using adverts to subsidize the cost of Kindle ereaders and Fire tablets.

          That’s not a ringing endorsement for the practice of subsiding the price of the content, however, and the history of adverts in print books raises similar doubts.”

          Good luck to those willing to try it, but I wonder if they’ll lose more readers than the ads make them money …

          • I thought I was the only one reading in commercial breaks, and finding I’d missed the rest of the show 🙂
            I also have a special offers Kindle that I bought to see if I needed a Kindle, and never upgraded it. The ads are only screen savers and frankly, don’t bother me. I’ve even followed up on one book cover that interested me. But detergent and funeral plans…not so much.

            • That’s how I ended up with one, a gift with an ad when off. Funny thing is, since I mostly ‘side-load’ and have the wireless turned off, it reverts to the ‘read’ typeset default after the ads expire … 😉

  9. Ads at the end of books and periodicals have a long history (2+ centuries). They don’t bother me at the end any more than other back matter does.

    At chapter ends, however… Never!

  10. I think this is the future of competition for KDP, if Amazon ever starts lowering royalty rates to indie authors.

    I don’t mind ads in books. When I was a teen living in America I used to have a Harlequin book subscription by mail. Each book was stuffed with ad card pages. I usually ended up buying stuff in the ads!

  11. This is what Konrath’s been predicting would eventually happen to the market. As we move to digital, people expect to have things for “free.” Advertisements in books may be the only way (at some point) that writers will still be able to make money from their work.

    I don’t like ads, hate them in fact (and got Dish’s Hopper so that I can skip all of them), but I routinely watch ads on YouTube for videos I want to watch, and those previews and commercials in movies when I go out. Or when I watch shows online I’m often stuck with commercials.

    Even if I don’t like it, and am willing to pay more not to see ads, this may be where the market is heading.

  12. This will be a big, good deal for both authors and readers if Eleven is successful at getting the word out, getting enough good content, and getting enough companies willing to advertise with them to make it lucrative for all parties.

  13. This might be a selling point. We could add to our description on distributor page for our book “ad free” and would that increase our sales?

  14. How much you want to bet Mr. Bezos has someone looking into this? Not for banner ads but for code that can link products into stories where authors are willing to play ball.

    Tim set his cat down and opened the fridge, taking out a jug of [Dairy Product] and setting it on the counter…

    The algorithms, knowing who bought the story and, therefore, what their shopping preferences are, replaces [Dairy Product] with Tuscan Milk, linking to the product’s sales page on Amazon.

    • Ooh, and imagine the impact if you’re reading fantasy, or sci-fi, or something otherwise “period”?

      Oh wow, they had those then/there, too? Go figure.

      And yet part of me wants to see characters quietly do improbable things with placed products, just to see how many people reading the book try the same thing…

  15. If the book was designed with X amount of adspace at strategic locations it could work well but if the ads were placed as an after thought it could be very distracting.

  16. This system will make more books available to more people. That’s a social good. It will increase the volume of books downloaded by consumers.

    It’s an example of the free market making things available to people who now can’t afford them. That’s not the intention, but that’s the result.

    Consumers will have a choice between the book with ads and the book without. One group of consumers will pay with money. The other will pay a transaction cost of dealing with the ads.

    God Bless Capitalism, for it brings culture to the masses.

    • “This system will make more books available to more people.”

      How do you figure? We already have free ebooks in ebookstores and on sites like PG, so the net positive of ad-encumbered books will be minimal.

    • If readers can’t afford ad-free books, how will they be able to afford whatever the advertiser is trying to sell them?

      • Same way I manage to deal with the Porsche ads. I whine and cry about injustice, beat my fists on the floor, find a safe place, and mold out my frustration with modeling clay.

    • There’s this thing called the library. I use it a lot, because I’m too poor to buy a lot of books these days. I would not trade it for f—ing ads breaking up the story ever, even if I have to wait a month for them to ship in the book I want from another city’s library.

      • Sure. Few products appeal to everyone. A market that offers a variety of ways to acquire and consume a product provides the greatest aggregate social satisfaction.

        Don’t like books with ads? Ignore them.

        Like books without ads? Buy them.

        Don’t like what I like? Go for it.

        God Bless a well stocked market, for it keeps consumers happy.

        • My issue with the whole concept is it’s detrimental to the reading experience. It’s yet another chipping away at the reader’s attention. The reason reading an ebook is immersive and frictionless compared to other electronic media is because there’s no other content demanding the reader’s attention at the same time.

          I use reading apps to read most blogs these days (except ones like PV blessedly free of intrusive content and hidden malware) because it strips ads (and feel no guilt about this), and found I can retain what I read much better when my attention is undivided. Our attention is more valuable than whatever pittance the advertizing agencies have assigned in it, and few people realize it.

          Those ads would be detrimental to your books. What happens when that ad-filled ebook starts getting bad reviews because of the poor quality of the ads? Or when a reader picks it up, already valuing it less because it was free and full of ads, and goes, “Meh, I couldn’t get into it,” because the ad was placed at just the wrong time.

          It’s a stupid idea, man. There’s already better ways to get free books out there.

          • Detrimental to whose reading experience? I don’t have standing to tell everyone else about their personal reading experience. Each individual is the ultimate authority on his own personal reading experience.

            When someone tells me an eReader is detrimental to his reading experience, I have no option. He’s right. It’s his experience. He’s the authority, not me.

            But when he tells me about my reading experience, he has no standing. I am the ultimate authority on my experience.

            Immersive and frictionless? I don’t care. I wrote half my book standing on the floor of a commodities trading floor, and I read many more. Different things work for different people.

            I don’t know what happens when someone criticizes a book in a review for its ads. I presume each author and publisher will deal with that as they choose.

            If a reader can’t get into a book because of ads, I presume he will stop reading. I suspect a significant subset of those people will simply buy books without ads.

            There are zillions of consumers. Those who don’t like ads will buy books without ads. Those who don’t care about ads will get books with ads. Each consumer will decide for himself. Nobody speaks for all.

            God Bless the free market, for more variety yields more utility

      • Lots of people here complaining about ads “jumping in” and interrupting the story. If the sample ad in the article is indicative, then it seems to be a quarter-page banner ad at the top of the chapter heading.

        Obviously there are questions about implementation, but this isn’t one of those unskippable 30 second videos that you’ve already seen a hundred or so times.

  17. I could see this working technically in two ways.

    1. The e-book is like a web page or video games and can only be read with an active web connection. Just as your computer serves context-targeted advertising to you now across all web pages using cookies, etc. your novel will have tightly targeted ads. The ads can also do real-time placement for tv shows, events, sales, etc.

    2. The e-book is a product that can be read without an active web connection, but when ordered the ads are selected uniquely for the reader based on the reader’s profile in the provider’s database. Say, all of one’s Amazon purchases, or, the dossier Facebook keeps on everybody. Then the text is delivered with individually targeted ad content.

    3. Ad space is purchased in the book based on genre demographics as it is currently done for print and broadcast media.

    1. And 2. Aren’t mutually exclusive, your ebook could just behave differently depending on whether or not you left your connection open. Advertisers would prefer to serve to more tightly targeted ads based on time, user profile, and even the user behavior while in the act of reading. Ads could be adjusted for readings speed; pupil dilation (the selfie camera on your phone or tablet can read the reader’s expression and gaze behavior). Heck, now that I think about it, location-specific ads could be served by using your device’s gps or wifi triangulation.

    Of course advertisers and the providers of the service will want to incentivize keeping the web connection on and the reader consenting to being monitored…

    Oooh, nightmare fuel: ads could take the form of textual inserts in the story, like product placement in tv shows and movies…

    In Soviet Russia, your book reads you!

  18. and some business thoughts… There are a lot of patents in this area. I see that Eleven is crowd-funding this, which makes no sense at all. Why would anybody crowd-fund such a business? What benefit is it to the crowd-founders? They don’t get a share in the business. So this screams “we don’t have a clue really to how the world works” to me. Which makes me wonder if they’ve done their IP homework. Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Google… There’s a lot of companies in this space.

    • I wonder about the micro-economics.

      Say I have an ebook available for $2.99. For easy math I make a royalty of $2.00 per sale. There are 40 chapters. For ad revenue to balance royalties if I offer the book for free with ads would require 5¢ per impression. That’s 35x Google Adwords’ cost per impression, 260x Facebook’s cost per impression, and 500x Linkedin’s cost per impression. Compared to traditional media it’s 10x more expensive than radio or newspapers, 8x more expensive than cable TV or magazines, and 5x as expensive as broadcast TV. No one is going to pay those rates.

      If instead we bring the cost per impression in line with other single-viewer per impression advertising like Google or Facebook, my payment per book sold drops from $2 to <1¢ to 6¢. The numbers are so far apart I have difficulty seeing a happy medium, except for books which are already free.

      Cost per impression of various media from Profitworks

      • Yes, your numbers point out why “get paid to watch ads” services (example:Jingit) are struggling. eMegabook’s original concept was to enroll cable companies into offering ebooks through their “tv anywhere” apps (got that? Putting books into your tv…). Then video ads would be served through the books. This would be a way to capture the book reading time of your cable customers who are not watching tv.

        It’s a clever reversal, but has problems. For one thing, the tv show providers are not going to want the cable service promoting a medium that takes people away from watching tv — even if it is neutral to the advertisers. For another, can you imagine 20 minutes of tv ads out of every hour spent actually trying to read a book? That’s an episode of Black Mirror right there… In the dystopian future in which only a few people read…

        There’s also mention of running special promotions to the readers in the eMegabooks pitch to cable companies.. A big thing right now in the tv industry is “making tv more interactive” and “capturing the second screen.” Younger viewers watch tv with a phone or tablet and dont pay attention to commercials. Viggle is an example of a phone app that is supposed to be run while watching tv with trivia contests, bulletin boards, points for watching shows to get prizes. Well, the amount of tv you’d have to watch to get a $5 gift card is just ridiculous.

        If the numbers worked out it would all be fun. Who doesn’t like free stuff? But the numbers aren’t there. Mobile apps (mostly games) work on the “cheap or free for most players” because they have additional content for which a small percentage of players are willing to pay a lot of money.

      • For ad revenue to balance royalties if I offer the book for free with ads would require 5¢ per impression.

        There is no reason to expect them to balance.

        But,the general model can be adjusted in a number of ways.

        Books with ads might have a reduced price.

        Ads targeted at high income consumers with a specific interest might cost more than a general ad.

        Ads that precede Amazon purchase of the subject item within 7 days of viewing might pay a bonus.

        Ads that include a link to Amazon pages might be treated like Amazon associates.

        For Amazon, with its deep databases on individual consumers, we might see a whole range of prices for ad views.

        • Sure, they don’t need to balance, but the numbers are so far apart I don’t see the middle ground.

          There does need to be an offset for a publisher to take reduced royalties via reduced cover price. Either increased sales volume or ad revenue.

          The advertiser needs to consider return on investment and efficacy of the ads. An ad in a book will be seen by far fewer people than an ad on a sales page for a book. Also whoever runs the ad service will be taking a cut.

          I simply cannot see a price structure that would satisfy both publishers and advertisers. Except possibly for free books. But if a publisher is offering a free book as an entry point to a series or an author, would they want ads to be part of the experience when what they are trying to sell is the author?

          I think this is an idea that fails in the details. But my personal inability to understand something does not matter. When Glenn A McCreedy becomes a millionaire off of it, I will be proved wrong. I’ve been wrong about a great many things before.

  19. im intrigued now. These guys are setting off my Fishy Alarm. For one thing, their web page doesn’t tell you who they are. It name drops authors, but who are the founders, and in what jurisdiction is their company? It looks like they are trying to get around Agency Pricing by being a “private club”, but if that didnt work for Amazon with Prime membership, why would it work for Eleven?

    “For the newest books, the ones no one can get for free or via subscription on any site, Eleven gets you insider pricing. By being a monthly subscriber to Eleven Gold you pay less for ebooks you buy than any other outlet online. We can only offer these prices because you are part of a membership club. Prices this low cannot be offered to the public. You save 30% or more off the lowest published public price. Just a few purchases and you’ll make back your monthly subscription fee, and still get to read amazing ebooks for free from our massive catalog of advertising-supported books.”

  20. Yep, and he’s already been looking for venture capital for four years.


    He seems to have come from the cable tv industry and video production side and now has a small ebook publishing company in Arizona. It looks like the original concept was to put tv ads into books. “TV Anywhere” isn’t working very well for the cable industry (the implementation is very poor; user has to download an app for every network).

  21. Ten years ago, people swore they’d never read an ebook. I don’t hear that so often today. People said cable channels would kill network television that had ads, but network TV is still around and many cable channels also have ads. People said they’d never carry around a portable phone, then that they’d never trust all their personal information to a phone, and now they say it’s okay if the FBI has access to all phones. People do a lot of things they once said they’d never do.

    I constantly hear writers complain about few choices, or fears of monopoly, or what happens when a certain subscription service gradually lowers payouts to painful levels.

    I’m a believer. It’s not going to be 2016 forever.

    (Disclosure: I am a participant and minor shareholder in Eleven.)

  22. “It is outrageously selfish to destroy the pleasure of thousands, for the sake of a chance of additional gain. And it is an atrocious piece of vulgarity to flaunt the names of quack nostrums, and of the coarse stimulants of sots, among the beautiful scenes of nature. The pleasure of such places depends upon their freedom from the associations of every day concerns and troubles and weaknesses. A lovely nook of forest scenery, or a grand rock, like a beautiful woman, depends for much of its attractiveness upon the attendant sense of freedom from whatever is low; upon a sense of purity and of romance. And it is about as nauseous to find “Bitters” or “Worm Syrup” daubed upon the landscape, as it would be upon the lady’s brow.”

    – P. T. Barnum. “The Humbugs of the World”

    • How did he know eBooks were coming to destroy the pleasure of thousands who immersed themselves in the heft, aroma, and texture of a well made hardback??

      • You’re barking up the wrong tree. That has nothing to do with the format (I even said I enjoy ebooks), it has to do with the interruption of the reading experience.

        • Many told us they couldn’t immerse in eBooks like they could in paper. Were they wrong? Are they still wrong about their own personal experience?

          Who can interpret our personal experiences for us? Who can assign us proper tastes and preferences. Who can tell us we are wrong about what we experience?

          • Wish I could find the science article I read a month ago about the latest studies disproving how format affects people’s attention less than how many distractions are on the screen.

            P. T. Barnum, the man who pretty much invented advertising, was saying that context is important to how well people will recieve ads. People hate being rudely interrupted. This is no less true now than it was then. Online advertisers have already poisoned the well with this kind of bs, which is why their crying foul over ad blockers has garnered little sympathy. I don’t see people being more accepting of it while reading a novel, but less, since it’s generally a more immersive type of reading than your typical web content.

            Now, if you’re talking about non-fiction ebooks, like diet books, an advertiser might benefit if it’s pedaling dieting aides and other crap. But in a novel? That’s already proven unpopular. Note the word “revive” in the article’s title.

            • We don’t really multitask, we’ve just taught ourselves a bit of ‘muscle memory’ here and there, which is why a guy can walk and chew gum at the same time — but if you throw in a pretty girl walking by he’ll walk into a signpost or open manhole cover.

              So less distractions means you can better pay attention to something — like enjoying a good book in whatever format.

              P. T. Barnum was a genus and had an idea how far to go before he started p****** off the public, today’s ad men/women either have not a clue or don’t care.

              An ad for a cars part place around a blog about fixing up your car makes sense, but what the heck would be a proper ad for a story? Rubbers for romances? X-ray glasses for sci-fi?

            • People hate being rudely interrupted. This is no less true now than it was then.

              Think that might depend on the individual and the alternative cost of a book without ads?

              A rude interruption for one is just a knuckle swipe for another. For example, low brows like me don’t care about ads in books. We even welcome them if they are accurately targeted. Maybe we even deviate from the uninterrupted immersion model. Maybe we’re doing it all wrong?

  23. On a scale of one to ten, Eleven is a zero.

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