On Monday, Amazon announced that it would begin selling its Kindle e-reader device at a $25 discount. The new pricing comes with a catch– the newly discounted device, given an Orwellian name like “Kindle with Special Offers” loads your Kindle with ads that replace the current author portrait screen savers and run in the Kindle home screen. For now, Amazon promises that ads will not be placed within e-books, though one wonders for how long such a promise will be kept.
In the past two weeks, we have seen two other ad-related blowups– first, the fight over the fifth season of Mad Men had at least something to do with the network’s desire to see more produce placement in the show (a show about the 1960s no less) and second, the lawsuit over Time Warner Cable’s allowing customers to stream their cable channels to an iPad tablet (which almost certainly has something to do with lost ad revenue for content providers). For someone who loves books and loves reading, it is distressing to see the ad wars carry over into books. When I read, I want as few distractions as possible and I specifically don’t want a reminder that there is some other non-book thing which I should be wanting to buy at this very moment.
My wife can tell you that I love A1 Steak Sauce. Indeed, I put A1 on many things that are not steak or even meat, including french fries, tater tots, and even the occasional baked potato. I sometimes joke with my wife that to me, these things are mere “A1 Delivery Vehicles.” The point is that I don’t want my books, TV shows, movies, theater, etc. to merely become “Ad Delivery Vehicles.” But it looks like we are increasingly entering a world in which nothing is worth doing for itself, but only as a means for rabid capitalists to point us towards some other commodity, which practically makes Mad Men a vehicle for prophecy itself.