In part 1 of this three part look at Amazon's strategy through patent filings, I mentioned the personalized libraries concept, in which people buying books and other media would also get electronic versions that would form a personal database of electronic versions they could search. I looked at one patent brought up by Laurie Sullivan at MediaPost News, and the fuller implications of that patent combined with another recently granted to Amazon. In part 2, we look at a possibility of advertising on the Kindle, as Sullivan noted, though as yet I can't find evidence in the patent database to support her. [NB: Check the update at the end of the story, as I did turn up some references.]
She mentions two patents:
The patents clearly note that Amazon would insert advertisements throughout the ebooks, from the beginning to the end, between chapters or following every 10 pages, as well as in the margins. A cross-reference feature would add annotations, supplemental reference materials, and illustrations, as well as the ability to print on-demand paper copies in PDF and other format files. Kindle relies on Sprint to download content to the reader.But there is one problem -- I've been searching six ways from Sunday and have not been able to turn up either a patent or a patent application that seems to correspond to what Sullivan suggests. Given that in the previous post I mentioned finding her interpretation of another patent to be 180 degrees backward from what it seemed to describe (though the ultimate implications of running across the document were intriguing), I can't automatically buy into the conclusions.
If true, those conclusions might explain why Amazon has been willing to build e-book traffic with significantly lower prices than paper goods, even though the marginal cost difference is maybe a couple of dollars in total. Should Amazon be able to sell ads, presumably keeping all the revenue and not sharing it with publishers, it would have to keep prices low while not losing significant margin. However, that solution would leave its publishing and writing partners in a pickle, because they would have to be satisfied with the greatly reduced revenue and profit from the lower prices and higher cuts that Amazon takes of them without having any sort of supplement. But you have to wonder whether people buying e-book titles for almost $10 are going to welcome seeing ads.
I currently have an email in to Sullivan asking for the specific patent numbers so I can confirm her conclusions. It could be that I'm either searching incorrectly, or that the USPTO database is less than accurate in its query returns. (For example, I found one patent searching on a mentioned inventor's name that did not appear to show up when looking for Amazon as the assignee.) I'll report back as things develop.
[UPDATE: Well, that was quick. It seems that the advertising story started not with MediaPost, but with someone else. I'm not sure who first ran the story, but The Register had links to the patents. At question are two applications, not patents: numbers 20090171751 and 20090171750. Always happy to give credit where credit is truly due. Interestingly, Amazon is mentioned nowhere on the patents, which is a bit odd. However, if you search for the inventors names and their mentioned location of Seattle, you find that they are at Amazon. So, was the company trying to do this under the radar by keeping its name off the application and using Atlanta-based patent lawyers to do the filing rather than one of the west coast-based firms they have favored in the past?]
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