Cover your eyes book purists, because pretty soon, there will be ads in your novels—at least if you’re using an e-reader. That’s the case a Houghton Mifflin editor and a business professor make in today’s Wall Street Journal, calling the move "inevitable." The flagging industry needs the money, they argue, and the only reason publishers aren't selling ads already is that "books are a lousy medium for ads.”
But with eBooks' rising popularity, that's not true anymore. Since Kindles, Nooks, and iPads connect to the Internet, new ads can be continuously downloaded and slotted in. Already Google’s taken a baby step, displaying ads in Google Books search results, while Amazon has filed a patent for Kindle ads. In the brave new ad-driven world they imagine, books will be judged not just by copy sales, but also by the time readers spend with them. Ironically, 21st-century tech may send us back to the 18th-century tactic of paying per word.