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Readfy to Launch Ad-Subsidized eBook Service Next Year

I’ve logo-readfy[1]never thought ads in ebooks would make a viable business model, but sometime next year that idea is going to be put to the test. A new startup in Germany is building an ad-supported platform, and they plan to launch in the middle of 2014.

Readfy, which is affiliated with the Dusseldorf-based 1stMover startup incubator, was founded in July 2013 by Felix Bauchspiess. The startup had been in stealth mode until earlier this week when Bauchspiess was interviewed by a German tech blog.

According to, Readfy is going to launch in a more open beta test next year with 25,000 titles. Bauchspiess wants Readfy to offer a Spotify for ebooks that is free for the end user, and not supported by directly charging users for access (a la Netflix). The goal is to let users read as much as they want and pay publishers from the ad revenues.

Readfy is currently testing their platform with a small, closed beta. They’re working on both the ad network component as well as social reading apps for Android, iPhone, and iPad. They launch in Germany next year, and they are exploring options for an international expansion at a later date.

Will they succeed? We’ll have to wait and see because at this point there is little data to argue either way.What little info I have comes from app creators, most of whom say that ad revenues are not a sustainable business model. And Amazon, which has been selling their hardware with an ad-supported option since mid-2011, has never shared their figures.

And when it comes to ebooks, this model is not new; Bookboon has been publishing free ebooks since 2011. Of course, that firm doesn’t have to pay anyone other than their authors, so they have a slight advantage over Readfy. Also, Bookboon has never revealed their revenue figures (or how much they are paying authors), so they are not exactly a strong argument in favor of an ad-supported business model.

If nothing else Readfy is going to be facing 3 problems that Bookboon, with their  internally generated ebooks, manages to avoid. Readfy has to bring in the right amount of users, advertisers, and content, and each one of those could doom this effort if they’re not meticulous.

Edit: And as a reader reminded me in the comments, Readfy is also going to have to compete with existing free ebooks, including both public domain as well as new titles sold at no cost.  There’s more free reading material than anyone can read in a lifetime, and that raises questions as to whether there is really a need for ad-subsidized ebooks.


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Ray November 28, 2013 um 10:00 pm

Where are the ads? Do they appear between the pages of the book? Or sth will pop up when I am reading? If it is anything that disturbs my reading, then I don’t think it is for me.

Nate Hoffelder November 28, 2013 um 10:15 pm

The article didn’t say.

Gof November 28, 2013 um 11:44 pm

Based on my experience downloading many Bookboon eBooks in PDF, the ads will be inserted between the pages.

Ray November 29, 2013 um 3:40 am

It is more acceptable if it is in the first few pages and the last few pages, so that they won’t disturb reading. Anyway, maybe this will become a trend later (just like TV program that we watch on TV, with commercials every 15 minutes). Maybe in the future, many eb00ks will have ads inside and we can choose to download them without any charge, but we have to read the ads.

Destination Infinity November 29, 2013 um 1:14 am

"most of whom say that ad revenues are not a sustainable business model"

– Ads are an incremental revenue model. They cannot be the primary revenue generator.

Greg M. November 29, 2013 um 2:03 pm

This kind of scheme pops up every year if or so. My response is always the same: I’m not going for ad supported ebooks – not for free ebooks, not for discounted ebooks – I will not accept ads in ebooks. I do not accept Amazon’s Kindles Special Offers either.

OK, I’m just one person and maybe there are enough readers out there who will accept ads for lower prices, but I have to doubt if the numbers will add up.

Also, I’m at a stage in my career and life where the cost of the ebook is not a major worry. Sure I’d rather pay less when I can, but the overall trade off isn’t worth it to put up with ads. The people who would go for the ad supported books are more likely to have cost concerns and less disposable income to spend on the stuff they see in the ads. The admen will not pay out unless they see a growth in sales from ads.

So does anybody think the numbers can play out? Are readers with cost concerns a viable market to pitch to?

Nate Hoffelder November 29, 2013 um 3:48 pm

Considering how many free ebooks I can put my hands on without trying to hard, I think cost-conscious readers got it covered.

Readfy's Ad-Subsidized eBook Service Launches in a Limited Beta – The Digital Reader September 29, 2014 um 12:54 pm

[…] ago by Felix Bauchspiess, Ryan David Mullins, and Frank Großklaus. It first came to my attention last November, but has been operating in stealth mode both before and […]

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