In a move that seems destined to put consumer and corporate noses out of joint WOWIO Inc, a provider of digital media content and eBooks (wowio.com) announced on Friday that they have received a Notice of Allowance from the US Patent and Trademark Office for a broad patent application, filed in 2006, covering a variety of methods for delivering ads in eBooks, including contextual ads based on the personal information or demographic criteria of the reader. A Notice of Allowance effectively means that the patent has been approved, and will be issued once the required fee has been paid.
Consumer advocates will undoubtedly have concerns over the idea of ads popping up as people settle into the 'page turning' moments of their favorite novel, but only time will tell what readers themselves will make of it - would you be willing to save a few dollars, or perhaps even get a free book, in return for having commercial breaks in your reading material?
Of course, ads in books are not a new concept - I remember reading paperbacks as a child, way back in the 70s that had ads in the back pages for another book, or to join a book club or some such. But a couple of pages in the back of a paperback is quite a different matter to inserting unavoidable and, perhaps, unpredictable, breaks in an ebook.
I think it's inevitable that advertising in ebooks will come in some shape or form, but I'm also certain that Friday's announcement will have triggered a massive flurry of corporate legal activity as the likes of Google and Amazon, not to mention the book publishers themselves, try to understand how on earth such a relatively small and unknown company could have pipped them to the post in such a critical area, and what they can do about it!