The Seven Words That Will Kill Books

The infographic posted over here has been popping up in my Twitterstream for a while but it’s only today that I finally looked at it.

And here are the seven deadly words that will kill books:


Because ads aren’t going to stop at the platform level. I’m convinced that Amazon’s final goal is to make all books free with ads inserted in them. That will be an absolute disaster for books and destroy the independence of writing and book culture.

Here is Rod Serling, best known as the creator of The Twilight Zone:

The early years of television were filled with growing pains, one of which was the ubiquitous nature of sponsors as editors and censors. Serling was often forced to change his scripts after corporate sponsors had read them and found something they felt was too controversial. Sponsors wanted no associations with anything that might make them look bad to buyers, so references to many modern social issues were omitted, as were references to anything that might compete commercially with any given sponsor. For instance, the line “Got a match?” was deleted because one of the sponsors for Requiem For A Heavyweight was Ronson lighters.

Boldfaced emphasis added by me.

If that still doesn’t turn on the light in your brain, here’s more:

Tired of seeing his scripts butchered in manners that removed any political statements, ethnic identities, and even the Chrysler Building being removed from a script sponsored by Ford

Boldfaced emphasis added by me. That is the devastating power of ad sponsorship. Your work gets vetted by a sponsor’s legal and marketing department. People who have no damn business passing judgment on anything outside of law and moving products.

And they change things. Because lawyers are basically cowards and marketeers are basically pimps who see everyone else as whores.

When it comes to non-fiction, say, who’s going to advertise in a book revealing war atrocities our troops committed in foreign lands? Nobody.

When it comes to fiction, who’s going to advertise in a James Patterson book in which a character has a live snake inserted up their anus? You think PETA? You think anybody?

The entire purpose for writing a book will change.

Instead of it being a transaction between writer and reader — with, ideally, no interference from middlemen such as Amazon, Apple, etc (which is in itself a tank of steaming malodorous bullshit, as we’ve seen both Amazon and Apple pull books for sale) — the snouts of sponsors will have to be wooed with books that appeal to their limited sense of smell.

The endgame will be: What can’t get ads won’t get published.

Books will degrade into pabulum that say nothing but which make advertisers happy.

And what happens when the whores of books — who will be eager to insert American Idol-like levels of product placement — have their sponsors change? You bought an edition where the main character is drinking Coke. Someone else several years later has an edition where the protagonist drinks Pepsi like a fiend. Do you really want such tampering in books? That would be 1984 come to life (see what Harlequin did on its own, without any outside pressure!).

There is only one reason Amazon has turned to publishing. It’s not because Jeff Bezos loves books. Bezos loves money. And by having its own imprints, its own books, Amazon can use those as the beachhead for free ad-supported books.

And once Amazon does it, everyone else will jump in that Magic Christian pool of shit

… to grab for the floating dollars.

They’re getting it ready for you.


  1. CJJ9 February, 2012

    Gee thanks Nate. Like I wasn’t depressed enough after the Publisher/ALA meeting.

  2. Robert Nagle9 February, 2012

    Well, it’s true that advertising will be one revenue option (especially with periodicals — and really they aren’t THAT different from ebooks), but the economies of ebooks are so small that it really doesn’t make sense to seek additional revenues — especially when consumer reaction would likely be negative. More likely is for advertising to support the price of devices, and even indirect kinds (such as customized search engines and maybe ebook ads on the bookshelf page). On the other hand, I could see companies underwriting authors they like. (i.e., the DOD or Northrup could underwrite spy-thriller novels, a condom manufacturer could underwrite an erotica novel. I just don’t see this sponsorship as being a significant market force. I don’t think wowio really did all that well with their ad-supported ebooks, though I’m glad they tried. Amazon might use the Kindle library checkouts to pimp premium Amazon services, but I really don’t see that as unusual.

    The bigger problem might be ebooks that are promotional vehicles for video games or movies or kids’ TV shows (Blues Clues, etc). But then again, that has always been done, so that’s nothing special. Also, I’ve noticed that lots of web services are giving away free ebooks in order to sell services later. But I don’t think there’s an editorial problem here.

    What you describe is a bigger problems for Hollywood, but that involves different factors. First, the budgets are bigger (and directors can swap equipment for product placement) and there can be kiddie product tie ins for superhero stuff.

  3. Colleen a.k.a. @BookDesignGirl9 February, 2012

    I had the same reaction – saw that sentence and just rolled my eyes. It’s hard enough to get the actual content of an eBook not to break on all these different eReading platforms.

  4. Common Sense9 February, 2012

    A bit too much hysteria in this post.

    Sure, this may come to pass for some authors/publishers/distributors, but thanks to the Internet, we’re no longer stuck with any of them. That bandwagon would present the perfect opportunity for someone or some company to step in to provide ebooks with no advertising.

    Just like Amazon saw with the Kindle w/Special Offers deal, some people will welcome the ads and some won’t. Some will change their mind and decide to pay a little bit for no ads.

    There will be room in the market for both ad-supported and ad-free.

    (There’s nothing wrong with Jeff Bezos “loving money”. That’s what makes the market go ’round and provides the goods and services that we all love to consume. The more money Amazon makes, the more products and services they can provide to their customers).

    1. CJJ9 February, 2012

      ….unless a monopoly is successful. Then we have to take whats offered or do without.

    2. CJJ9 February, 2012

      “(There’s nothing wrong with Jeff Bezos “loving money”. That’s what makes the market go ’round and provides the goods and services that we all love to consume. The more money Amazon makes, the more products and services they can provide to their customers)”

      …..unless the monopoly is successful. Then we have to take what’s offered or do without.

  5. DebbyS9 February, 2012

    Love The Magic Christian! (Peter Sellers, Ringo Star, huge guest cast, 1965ish). When I read “are e-readers the next big ad platform?” I immediately was glad my two readers don’t have wifi and ads won’t just turn up on them. I’ve also scanned a lot of my own books, so no ads there. I’ve bought a few ebooks and downloaded a lot of free ones (via Amazon), so I see now the topic is that ads may turn up in ebooks, paying for the book… but also potentially allowing advertisers to step into the editing process. I don’t like that idea, either. Advertisers have had way too much influence on culture in the last 5 decades or so already.

  6. the rodent9 February, 2012

    Unfortunately, you’re probably on the right track, prediction-wise. E-books will become just like TV and movies, with “placements” everywhere, and little moving ads to distract people from actually attempting to read. (This is why I refuse to update my Kobo Touch, now running the last ad-free version of their software…)

  7. Brian Kavanagh10 February, 2012

    Soooo? Does this mean readers will favour paper books – with no ads?

  8. […] Gah, I don’t even want to think about ads in ebooks… […]

  9. Name (required)14 February, 2012

    > When it comes to fiction, who’s going to advertise in
    > a James Patterson book in which a character has a live
    > snake inserted up their anus? You think PETA?
    > You think anybody?
    Kink dot com? 😉
    They even might create special sub-site featuring snakes.


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